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Chicago Region Trees Initiative Rebuilding Devastated Urban Forest

Tree Planting at Hope D. Wall School in Aurora

Photo credit The Morton Arboretum

The Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI), a partnership of more than 200 organizations, is launching an effort to plant at least one tree in each of the 290 municipalities across the seven-county Chicago region and all 50 Chicago wards this year. The new Plant Trees for Communities initiative continues progress toward CRTI’s goal to increase our area’s tree canopy.

“Communities and individuals receive significant benefits from a healthy, expansive tree canopy, including cleaner air and water, reduced heat and flooding, and improved mental and physical health,” says CRTI Director Lydia Scott.

According to her, the Chicago region has lost millions of trees in recent years due to pests, disease, storm damage and other factors. “Trees are a crucial part of the region’s infrastructure, but many communities lack the financial and physical resources necessary to plant and care for trees over a long period of time,” she notes, adding, “That makes it difficult for trees to reach maturity, which is when they provide the most benefits possible.”

CRTI will be partnering with businesses and community groups to ensure that new trees are available to under-resourced communities. “We want to be sure that every community and ward can participate in this opportunity,” Scott says. “Equity is essential to ensuring that everyone in the region benefits from the expansion of the urban forest.”

Up to now, 77 communities and 47 Chicago wards have arranged to plant trees this year as part of the initiative. According to Scott, some communities will be planting their trees this spring, while others view this as an opportunity to gather their community together, and are planning
for fall plantings, with the hope that larger groups will once again be able to assemble.

“The most common question I get is, ‘can you get us more trees?’ I wish we had the resources to give everyone as many trees as they want,” Scott says. “We don’t want there to be any barriers to participation. If the community cannot afford a tree, we will work to find funding for them.”

In addition, residents and businesses can donate to help underfunded communities receive a tree. CRTI will provide participating communities with planting and care instructions, a tree owner’s manual, a commemorative tree tag and support services.

“Planting trees is a tangible symbol of hope that will provide a much-needed sense of unity and renewal for communities during this year and beyond,” Scott stresses.

To learn more about and donate to the Plant Trees for Communities initiative, visit