Openlands Celebrates 10,000 Trees Planted in the Chicago Region, Marking a Milestone in Community Urban Forestry 


 The organization received a $3 million grant from the US Forest Service to expand its community forestry initiatives

 Aztec dancers from the Huehuecoyotl group paying tribute to Mother Earth in the vibrant Little Village community. Photo credit: Monica Jirak, Openlands

Huan Song, Director of Communications

Yamys Urbano Valencia, Bilingual PR and Communications Specialist
(415) 712-5427

CHICAGO (April 30, 2023) Openlands, recognized as one of the country’s foremost metropolitan conservation organizations, proudly marks a historic milestone: decades of impactful community engagement in urban forestry. Through its pioneering programs such as TreeKeepers®TreePlanters Grant, and Arborist Registration Apprenticeship, Openlands has established itself as a trailblazer in fostering environmental stewardship and empowering individuals to advocate for the urban forest.

The highlight of this achievement is the recent celebration of planting the 10,000th tree. On this occasion, Openlands planted and gifted a Northern Catalpa tree (Catalpa speciosa) to Malinalli Garden located in Little Village, southwest Chicago, a priority area for Openlands. This significant milestone underscores the organization’s unwavering commitment to expanding the tree canopy in Chicago and nurturing a vibrant community that sustains it.

The Catalpa tree is a hearty variety, chosen to make it through Chicago’s harshest conditions. Photo credit: Eduardo Cornejo

In recognition of its impactful work, Openlands is pleased to announce that it has received a $3 million dollar grant from the US Forest Service to further its efforts in communities like Little Village, where the tree canopy faces significant challenges and struggles with air quality and summer heat. Tree-lined streets are a straightforward measure to employ nature as a solution.  Openlands extends its gratitude to the Forest Service for their trust and support in advancing tree conservation initiatives that also will enable the organization to expand its community forestry initiatives, including the TreeKeepers and TreePlanters Grant.

“This milestone reflects our dedication to environmental conservation and community empowerment,” stated Michael Davidson, CEO and President of Openlands. “As we plant our 10,000th tree, it symbolizes more than just a physical entity; it represents habitat for wildlife, wonder for youth, and inspiration for all. This tree, and indeed the entirety of our tree canopy, is a testament to our collective efforts in fortifying urban resilience and fostering a sustainable future.”

Michael Davidson, CEO and President at Openlands, Garien Gatewood, Deputy Mayor of Community Safety, the city’s First Lady Stacie Johnson, Alexa Rice, Board Member, and Hannane Hanafi, Co-director of Yollocalli Arts, assembling to place the plaque identifying the 10,000th tree planted by Openlands. Photo Credit: Eduardo Cornejo

Openlands’ journey has showcased the profound impact of trees, uniting neighbors to enhance their quality of life and fortify urban resilience. The organization has celebrated the synergy of community collaboration, environmental education, and stewardship, catalyzing enduring and sustainable change in Chicago.

Trees play a crucial role in combating climate change, reducing heat island effects, mitigating stormwater runoff, and improving air quality. Unfortunately, Chicago has experienced a net loss of trees since 2010, underscoring the urgency of Openlands’ mission. Openlands’ approach to urban forestry revolves around community involvement.

“These trees and the collaborative, pragmatic spirit they embody allow Openlands to continue to bring about meaningful changes to all levels of our urban forest in our region. We’ve prioritized and championed planting trees in under-canopied neighborhoods, persistently supported the formation of the now established Urban Forestry Advisory Board to bring our city up to speed with our peers, and developed Illinois first Department of Labor Apprenticeship in tree care, ensuring a diverse and skilled workforce for our current and future forest” said Michael Dugan, Director of Forestry.

The organization partners with local groups to plant diverse tree species through its TreePlanters grant, engages hundreds of volunteers annually through its TreeKeepers program to care for trees, and advocates for science-based policies to protect the existing urban forest. Moreover, Openlands is committed to fostering a diverse and sustainable green workforce by creating pathways for careers in arboriculture through its Arborist Registered Apprenticeship (ARA) program.

The event showcased the strength of collaborative efforts, drawing attendance from distinguished political figures within the city, including the city’s first lady, Stacie Johnson, Department of Environment Commissioner and Chief Sustainability Officer Angela Tovar, and Garien Gatewood, Deputy Mayor of Community Safety.

“We are proud to collaborate with Openlands in building stronger communities and investing in our tree canopy,” stated Garien Gatewood. “Together, we are weaving together nature and heritage, ensuring equitable access to beautiful natural spaces for all residents. In Chicago, nature is one of the ultimate healers. Being outside is always fun. We love to hear kids running and playing and if that’s not a true sign of safety, what is?” asked Gatewood.

As Openlands celebrates this significant milestone, the organization remains committed to its mission of preserving and expanding the urban tree canopy, empowering communities, and creating a sustainable green workforce for the future.


About Openlands 

Founded in 1963, Openlands protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives. As Chicago’s regional land trust, Openlands connects and energizes the region through strategic collaboration and local partnerships. We work closely with government agencies and policymakers to develop new environmental conservation plans and practices created with all individuals in mind. From establishing city parks and trails to stewarding large-scale landscapes and waters in Northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region, Openlands is committed to advancing nature-based solutions to mitigate the threats of biodiversity loss and climate change and create access to nature for all. For more information, please visit 

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