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Every story of people and trees is a tale of interdependence. People need trees (for beauty, shade, and clean air, to store water and carbon, to anchor ecosystems, and more). And trees need people (to survive threats like a changing climate, invasive plants and pests, and the loss of open land). If these tree stories have inspired you to care for our region’s trees, here are some ideas to make that next step easy. That's why we encourage all tree-lovers to support the Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI), featured below.

Learn About Trees

Why We Need Trees

Chicago’s regional forest provides critical resources that benefit us all. Trees clean our air and water. They anchor ecosystems and provide habitat for wildlife. They reduce flooding, heat, and energy consumption. They increase property values and improve our mental and physical health. They are a key component of our natural heritage.

Trees improve our quality of life. The value of the environmental and economic services trees provide to the Chicago region is estimated at $51.2 billion. 

Learn at The Morton Arboretum

You can expand your skills and knowledge at any age, any level, and any time of year with programs from The Morton Arboretum. They provide learning experiences for adults, families, children, educators, school groups, youth groups, and scouts. With subjects ranging from gardening to wellness, birding to photography—all with a focus on trees and nature—there’s always a topic to dig deeper into.

Plant Trees

The Right Tree, The Right Place

Plant a tree, and grow a new story! If you’re inspired to add a tree to your property, start with The Morton Arboretum’s Northern Illinois Tree Selector. Years of scientific research can help you find just the tree for you and just the tree to thrive at your site. Answer a few simple questions about site conditions and the qualities you want in your tree, and you’ll receive a side-by-side comparison letting you choose the best tree for your circumstances, all proven successful in Northern Illinois and hardy for USDA Zones 5 and 6.

Openlands TreePlanters Grants

Want to enrich your neighborhood? Build connections while you boost the local tree canopy. Openlands TreePlanters Grants provide new trees to communities in the City of Chicago. Communities must organize a four-hour event where neighbors can successfully learn about benefits of trees and the proper way to plant them, find places to plant between 10 and 40 trees, invite their neighbors and alderman to join them, and commit to caring for the new trees. In return, Openlands provides the trees, education, organization, supplies (like tools and mulch), and expertise.

Care for Trees

Openlands TreeKeepers

Since 1991, almost 2,000 trained Openlands TreeKeepers have volunteered throughout Chicagoland neighborhoods to keep trees healthy. They lead tree plantings and administer proper care, like reporting harmful pests. Train to be a TreeKeeper, and you’ll learn how to help keep trees green and growing. Then, you’ll volunteer in a variety of situations, from street-tree care and tree planting to hands-on woodland stewardship and advocacy.

Natural Areas Conservation Training Program

Turn your passion for the environment into action—by restoring the woodlands, wetlands, prairies, and other habitats of the Chicago region. The Natural Areas Conservation Training Program at The Morton Arboretum offers you in-depth training and certification in natural areas restoration. Through hands-on and online lessons you’ll master plant identification, fundamentals of ecological restoration, invasive species management, project leadership, and more. You’ll be ready to plan and implement restoration work at a community volunteer site, for work, or in your own backyard.

Support Trees

Chicago Region Trees Initiative

The Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI) is a collaboration of individuals and organizations working together to improve the health of the urban forest and quality of life in the Chicago region (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties). To achieve the vision of CRTI—making the Chicago region the greenest, most livable, most resilient region in North America—we must broaden the selection of trees we plant, plant those trees correctly, and care for them so they provide benefits for all. Through CRTI, you can share your time and resources to help your community be part of this vision.

Both The Morton Arboretum and Openlands are lead partners in of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative.

Help Reach the CRTI Tree Canopy Goal

The Chicago Region Trees Initiative wants to increase the region’s tree canopy by 4 percent—to 22 percent—by 2050. (The national canopy cover average for urban areas is 27 percent.) That means we will need to plant two trees for every person living in the Chicago region. (No small task!) The larger the canopy, the larger the benefits that trees can provide.

This is an opportunity to invest in our individual communities and to help areas where resources and canopy are low. Since 70 percent of the region’s trees are on private property, we will need your active support to reach this goal.

What can you do? Consider planting two trees for yourself and help someone else plant a few trees for our future! Donate to CRTI to support this work.