What We Do


Region: Chicago, Illinois


Since 1991, more than 1,500 trained volunteers have provided “eyes and ears on the ground” year round in neighborhoods all over Chicago to spot improper planting, vandalism, insect infestation, and other problems.

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

The Openlands TreeKeepers program is an 8-day course with class 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 invasive species. The College of Education at Aurora University will also offer two graduate credit hours for an additional fee.

In order to become certified, participants are required to:

  • Attend all 8 classes (missed classes may be made up at a subsequent series)
  • Pass a written exam
  • Complete practical exams on tree planting, mulching, and pruning
  • Pledge 24 volunteer hours within the year following graduation
  • Have fun while learning about the urban forest!

For more information and scholarship requests, please contact trees@openlands.org.

Visit the TreeKeepers store to get official Openlands TreeKeepers gear.

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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