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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Join the Campaign for Conservation as an Openlands TreeKeeper

Aug 26, 2013 11:06AM ● By Daniella Pereira

Photo by Openlands

The conservation nonprofit Openlands maintains a comprehensive tree care program working with volunteers in the Chicago region, and is part of a national larger strategy of growing a constituency to make healthy public green space a priority for the region. What makes TreeKeepers unique is that their certified stewards adopt and care for trees and green space for the long term. It is not until trees age that their full environmental, social and economic benefits are realized. The focus on tree protection and continued maintenance has made TreeKeepers a successful and well-recognized program since 1991.

Individuals may become certified to take care of trees from 9 a.m. to noon for eight Saturdays, beginning September 14, at the fall TreeKeepers course at the Morton Arboretum, in Lisle, Illinois. A second course will be held from 9:30a.m. to 12:30p.m. on the same dates at the Levy Senior Center, in Evanston.

The benefits of becoming an Openlands TreeKeeper include becoming certified to work on planting, pruning and maintaining trees; learning tree identification; working with fellow volunteers on public lands throughout Chicagoland; organizing work days in the community; getting fresh air and exercise; becoming part of the environmental network in the neighborhood; and gaining the resources to advocate for trees and the environment locally.

Lessons are taught by nationally and world-renowned experts focused on managing and reducing the threats to forest health. Curriculum includes tree benefits, tree physiology, soils, impacts to trees (construction, disease, insect), tree morphology, tree identification, pruning, tree selection, planting and mulching, composting and invasive species. To become certified, TreeKeepers must pass field tests and a written exam, along with dedicating 24 volunteer hours during their first year.

TreeKeepers volunteer in a variety of situations, from street tree maintenance and care to woodland stewardship. More than 1,500 trained volunteers provide “eyes and ears on the ground” year-round in neighborhoods all over the city to spot improper planting, vandalism, insect infestation and other problems. These passionate ambassadors help educate their neighbors and their local public officials about the importance of trees for the greater good.

Cost: $128(Lisle)/$120 (Evanston) member, $150 nonmember. Two locations: Morton Arboretum, 4100 Rte. 53, Lisle; OR Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave., Evanston. Scholarships are available; call or email to inquire. For more information and to register, call 630-719-2468 or visit (Evanston) or

Daniella Pereira is a regional forester with Openlands TreeKeepers.