What We Do




Since 1991, more than 1,800 trained volunteers have provided “eyes and ears on the ground” year round in neighborhoods all over the Chicago  region to identify potential tree-related problems and lead neighbors in tree planting and tree care. Openlands TreeKeepers program teaches citizens that public trees belong to all of us and that the benefits are for the greater good. 


What do TreeKeepers do?

TreeKeepers  learn how to help keep trees green and growing. TreeKeepers volunteer in a variety of situations from street tree care and tree planting to adopting green spaces and advocacy. TreeKeepers support the work of local forestry officials and act as ambassadors for trees.


Why do TreeKeepers do this?

TreeKeepers are passionate ambassadors who help educate their neighbors as well as their public officials about the importance of trees for the greater good. 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


How do I become a TreeKeeper?

The Openlands TreeKeepers Program takes place twice a year in Chicago and once a year at both The Morton Arboretum and Lake County Forest Preserves in Ryerson Woods. The Chicago program is hosted at different locations each time to make our way around the city.


What is the TreeKeepers Program?

The TreeKeepers Program is an 8-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. The College of Education at Aurora University will also offer two undergraduate or graduate credit hours for an additional fee.


What do I need to do to become a certified TreeKeeper?

  • Attend all 8 classes (missed classes may be made up at a subsequent series)
  • Pass a written exam (60% 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 for your long-term project
  • Have fun while learning about the urban forest!


How much does the course cost and what is included in the tuition?

  • The Chicago-based course costs $128. Limited scholarships are available.
  • Included in the tuition is a one-year membership to Openlands, a TreeKeepers Program Manual, safety glasses, and upon graduation, a TreeKeepers certificate, TreeKeepers badge, and a TreeKeepers t-shirt. 


For more information, please contact trees@openlands.org.

Visit the Trees page to learn about Openlands' tree care and planting events.

Support for Openlands' TreeKeepers Program is generously provided by:

Bartlett Tree Experts

The Boeing Company

The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation

NIB Foundation

The Siragusa Foundation

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