The Chicago Trees Initiative is a city-wide, public-private effort to plant, care for and advocate for trees. This means many more trees will be planted in our great city, which is already known for its green urban spaces. And more important, existing trees will have better care – the best strategy for meeting our urban forest canopy goal. Every Chicago resident – and indeed, anyone who cares about trees has an important role to play. The goal invites all of us to be involved in planting and caring for trees on public and private land throughout the city.
The mission of the Chicago Trees Initiative is to improve quality of life in Chicago by increasing public awareness about the value and importance of trees. Together, we can inspire a civic and social movement that will involve all of us in improving Chicago’s urban forest. Success requires ongoing commitment from lead and partner agencies, and from other leaders including:
- Community-based and non-profit groups
- City, state and federal agencies
- Developers, architects and urban planners
- Professional organizations in the green industry
- Private-property owners
- All Chicagoans
The Chicago Trees Initiative Will:
- Plant more trees
- Improve tree maintenance and preservation
- Educate and empower urban forest stewards
- Advocate for tree funding and protection
As we work together to improve the size, health, diversity and stewardship of our urban forest, the Chicago Trees Initiative will serve as a model to other cities around the world that wish to be better stewards of their trees.
What’s a Tree Canopy?
The “tree canopy” refers to the space that is covered (literally “canopied”) by the spread or “crown” of trees. We all know that more tree canopy makes our property more valuable, and there’s a reason for that.
Trees are beneficial to us in many ways. They improve our health by cleaning the air we breathe. They cool neighborhoods and homes on hot Chicago summer days. They are very important in helping Chicago adjust to climate change, because they reduce the impact of greenhouse gases. And, they are beautiful! For all these reasons, trees make our already green city an ever more beautiful and comfortable place to live, work and visit.
Why More Trees?
We’re proud of our green spaces in urban places. Chicago’s world-famous lakefront parks, its community parks and gardens, miles of streetscapes and planted medians, the vast Cook County Forest Preserves – all of these urban spaces become green places because of trees! But it’s not easy being green: it takes generations of stewardship and continual reinvestment to sustain our urban forest.
Chicago’s tree canopy requires constant care and renewal. The Chicago Trees Initiative is part of a long-term effort. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley has made it a priority to improve and expand Chicago’s urban forest for the past 20 years.
- The Bureau of Forestry within the Department of Streets and Sanitation plants thousands of trees every year, and maintains more than a half-million trees throughout the City.
- The GreenStreets Program also plants thousands of trees each year.
- Other branches of City government plant hundreds of trees each year.
- Chicago Park District plants thousands of trees each year.
- Community groups and non-profits plant hundreds of trees each year.
- The City of Chicago loses thousands of trees each year due to severe weather and this number is increasing
- Harmful pests such as the Asian Long-horned Beetle and Emerald Ash Borer continue to reappear, despite the City’s efforts to control their spread and infestation
- Longstanding diseases such as Dutch Elm Disease and Anthracnose require ongoing tree pruning and removal to prevent further losses
- Climate Change stresses trees of all kinds, with severe weather fluctuations including extended periods of drought and extreme heat
So What is the City Doing?
- In addition to planting more trees every year, the City of Chicago and its sister agencies are constantly examining new tree-related treatments and technologies that can make our work more efficient and effective. Several comprehensive plans contain strategies that guide ongoing decision-making, including Chicago’s Urban Forest Agenda and the Chicago Climate Action Plan, which outlines how trees can mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.
- Reaching out to sister agencies, allied non-profits, community groups, and individuals to provide education on the value and importance of trees, create support and enthusiasm for the planting and preservation of trees, and ensure that adequate resources are available to sustain and expand Chicago’s urban forest.
What are Others Doing to Help?
Partners in the Chicago Trees Initiative are already at work:
- Documenting the current status of tree planting and maintenance, in order to identify areas where we need more trees and/or better care of trees
- Developing programs and plans for professionals and the public, so we can all be involved in the effort
- Providing technical expertise to guide the project and make sure we reach the goal of increasing our tree canopy
- Coordinating tree planting and maintenance activities