About the TreeKeepers Course

The TreeKeepers certification program, which Openlands began in 1991, has trained nearly 2,000 volunteers to conserve, protect, and advocate for the region’s urban forest. To become certified as a TreeKeeper, participants must complete the course requirements listed below and pledge to volunteer after graduation. Once certified, TreeKeepers can host volunteer workdays, attend advanced trainings, adopt city trees, and help maintain public parks.

Becoming a TreeKeeper can be an entry way to:

  • understand the environmental community in the region and specifically in Chicago
  • meet and connect to many of the organizations doing “green” work
  • join a well-respected, recognized, and frequently requested group of educated volunteers
  • a new career

The Openlands TreeKeepers certification program takes place three times a year in Chicago as well as in the suburbs. The Chicago program is hosted at a different location each time to make our way around the city.

Photo: Marwen

Program and Requirements

The TreeKeepers Program is an eight day course with classroom and field components. Lessons are taught by nationally and world-renowned experts focused on managing and reducing the threats to forest health. Some of the topics covered include tree biology, soils, tree identification, pruning, tree selection, planting and mulching, and pests and diseases.

To be certified as a TreeKeeper, students must complete the following requirements:

  • Attend all 8 classes (missed classes may be made up at a subsequent series)
  • Pass a written exam (70% passing)
  • Complete practical exams on tree planting, mulching, and pruning
  • Pledge 25 volunteer hours within the year following graduation
  • Adopt public trees in a park or on a parkway
  • Have fun while learning about the urban forest!

The certification course costs $128 with a limited number of scholarships available. The tuition includes a TreeKeepers Program Manual, safety glasses, and upon graduation, a TreeKeepers certificate, TreeKeepers badge, and a TreeKeepers t-shirt.


For more information or to be notified of future TreeKeepers courses, please email TreeKeepers@Openlands.org.