What We Do


Trees

Trees

Overview

Urban forests include all city trees: street trees, trees in parks and preserves, and trees on private property. Beyond providing shade and beauty, the urban forest cleans air, captures and cleans water, supports biodiversity, and conserves energy.

 

The map above displays trees planted throughout Chicago via collaborations with Openlands and various partners.  

There are many facets to urban health and wellness. Research shows that trees and green spaces can play a critical role in promoting three of these: environmental health, societal health and wellness, and economic prosperity.

TREES CLEAN OUR AIR AND CAPTURE WATER BY SIMPLY BEING A TREE

  • Trees pull in greenhouse gases through their leaves and intercept particulate matter reducing asthma triggers. Maintaining healthy trees will maintain current pollution removal levels; establishing more trees will only improve our air.
  • A mature tree is green infrastructure and can store 50 to 100 gallons of water during large storms increasing the resiliency of the city by reducing flooding in our homes and neighborhoods and reducing discharge into our rivers and Lake Michigan.

TREES THAT ARE CARED FOR COOL AND SHADE OUR CITIES

  • Trees lower surface and air temperatures by providing shade and air cooling. As the number of trees in an area increase, overall coolinggoes up, mitigating the urban heat effect and reducing human health risks.
  • Strategically placed trees save up to 56% on annual air-conditioning costs and reduce energy pollution. 

HEALTHY URBAN FORESTS SERVE AS INDICATORS OF LOCAL ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH

  • Urban forests help create and enhance animal and plant habitats and can act as “reservoirs” for endangered species.
  • Chicago’s urban forest provides a critical stop over and corridor for many species of migrating birds to and from the south.

Since 1963, Openlands has worked to protect the natural areas in and around Chicago that balance and enrich our lives. And since 1991, we have worked with volunteer TreeKeepers to plant and care for thousands of trees in parks, street parkways, forest preserves, schoolyards, and vacant lots throughout the region. Openlands works hand-in-hand with local governments and the public to provide opportunities for long-term tree care through environmental stewardship, civic engagement, and community building. This is a good start—but we have a long way to go to counteract the devastating loss of area trees to neglect, disease, storms, and pests, specifically the emerald ash borer beetle.

Chicago loses as many as 10,000 trees a year from its boulevards, parkways, and other public lands. With the current infestation of the emerald ash borer beetle, Chicago is losing an additional half million ash trees on public land alone. The tree canopy that shades city sidewalks, parks, and playgrounds and mitigates the impact of human health and environmental hazards is being lost without realizing the full consequences. In order to reach what would be an ideal treecanopy goal for a metropolitan area of our stature and region, additional help is needed.

Trees are essential to maintaining healthy, livable communities.

The simple act of planting a tree is a powerful act; it can be a catalyst that inspires action to improve our environment and brings people together to enhance the vitality and beauty of our city. Preserving these community assets, though, requires constant attention, persistence, and investment.

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


Support for Openlands' Urban Forestry Program is generously provided by The Boeing Company and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

In-kind support provided by

Bartlett       

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