TreeKeepers Lead Extensive Inventory Project on Chicago’s Urban Forest

Impact Story 2



City of Chicago, Cook County, IL

Planning and policymaking for systemic change  

Igniting advocacy momentum 

The Openlands TreeKeepers program, established in 1991, has trained over 2,000 volunteers to grow and care for Chicago’s urban forest. In 2023, TreeKeepers expanded their impact by conducting extensive tree inventory efforts across the city. To date, TreeKeepers have meticulously collected data on nearly 8,000 trees.

Tree inventory work sets the foundation for urban forestry management, as it provides the information needed for thoughtful and effective care. An inventory collects information on all trees in a determined area with a specific set of data. This data generally includes information on the location of the tree, tree size and species diversity, overall health condition of the tree, and any specific follow-up needs to promote longevity. The inventory guides immediate stewardship, such as where TreeKeepers will host pruning workdays in the following seasons, and long-term management, like informing the type of species required for plant diversity and resilience or supporting grassroots campaigns to increase tree canopy in underserved communities.

Following a ward-wide inventory project by the 1st Ward TreeKeepers Chapter, TreeKeepers met with Alderman Daniel La Spata to strategically look at opportunities for tree care and future plantings within La Spata’s jurisdiction. This collaboration resulted in two ward-level stewardship days where the aldermanic office provided critically needed mulch during a very dry summer. As interest in using an inventory model to drive stewardship gains momentum, TreeKeepers are prepared to use this data to expand future ward-level advocacy.

TreeKeepers are the eyes, ears, and boots on the ground, providing hands-on tree care but also proactively planning for the future well-being and sustainability of Chicago’s urban forest.

“Climate change is upon us and a healthy tree canopy is an important nature-based solution. Inventory is fundamental to that effort and is also something anyone can do to make a difference. It’s one of my favorite TreeKeeper activities and it builds teamwork and community. When we inventory trees, we are interacting with them. We create a relationship between tree and community, a relationship that is precious and worth protecting."

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