Trees are one of the best nature-based solutions for the Chicago region to tackle climate change – reducing local heat island effects, controlling stormwater, and improving air quality for all residents. There are over 3.5 million trees in the City of Chicago and over 150 million regionally, which clean our air, capture carbon, and build community. Mature trees offer exponentially greater benefits than small trees and that our program offers necessary and helpful tree maintenance to help get City trees to maturity. In addition, trees are proven to improve community well-being, safety, and economic health.
But in many communities, our tree canopy—the percentage of the ground shaded by tree branches and leaves—is far below what we need to have a climate resilient metropolis. As the Sun-Times Reports, “Since 2010, due to disease and other factors, Chicago has lost an average of 10,000 more trees than it has planted every year. That’s 200 fewer trees in each of the city’s 50 wards on average each year. The city now has a tree canopy that covers just 19% of its land. The metropolitan area has a canopy of 15.5%. By comparison, New York has 21% coverage and Los Angeles has 25%. “
Communities with the greatest and most diverse citizen participation are often resilient and strong. Engaging citizens to address environmental issues is essential for educated decision-making. Openlands’ approach to caring for and understanding the Urban Forest gives communities resources for involvement in animating civil discourse and action. An approach that is rooted in our mission of connecting people to nature, we work with communities to plant diverse tree species in their neighborhoods, train hundreds of people each year to care for the tree canopy in their parks and on their blocks, and advocate for science-based policies and strategies to protect the existing urban forest for generations to come.
There are many ways to care for the trees with Openlands, including adopting a tree to care for.