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Woodland Stewardship Program

Help restore woodlands

Interested in learning more about the maintenance and restoration of natural areas and woodland habitats in Northern Illinois? Active management and restoration of woodlands to promote ecosystem function and biodiversity is a crucial part of preserving our natural areas for future generations. Through classroom study and practical field experience at the Arboretum, the Woodland Stewardship Program (WSP) will give you the essential knowledge and practical experience necessary to be a thoughtful caretaker, either as a Woodland Steward or as a Steward Supervisor.

If you care about woodlands and want to help them in a meaningful, hands-on way, become a Woodland Steward. Enroll in The Woodland Stewardship Program.

Stewards are volunteers who help keep woodlands and other natural communities healthy. They learn about natural systems so that they can work independently under the guidance of a natural areas manager.

The Woodland Stewardship Program is open to anyone involved or interested in the stewardship of our natural heritage, regardless of prior experience.

Current classes

Take action to conserve the natural wonders of Illinois. Plan, carry out, and lead natural areas conservation efforts in woodlands, wetlands, and prairie. View all current classess and find out more about registration and availability. LEARN MORE



Enrich your world and take action to conserve the natural wonders of Illinois! The Woodland Stewardship Program has two levels of certification: Steward and Steward Supervisor.  Stewards work independently managing natural areas, while Steward Supervisors lead others through the process, after completing additional training. Three core classes, one biodiversity elective, and thirty hours of volunteer work in the Arboretum’s natural areas are required for certification as a Steward. An additional two courses and organization of a reviewed workday are required for certification as a Steward Supervisor.

During classroom study and field experience, you will:

  • Learn practical skills and techniques for habitat management and restoration.
  • Be part of ecological restoration in action.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of the natural habitats of northern Illinois.
  • Interact with others interested in conservation.



Offered through The Morton Arboretum's Education Program, the WSP teaches  practical skills you can put to use in the field. The program generally takes one year to complete. You will…

  • Understand the natural communities of Northern Illinois
  • Learn how to manage, conserve and restore natural communities
  • Improve your communication and teamwork skills
  • Lead others
  • Work alongside other people who care about woodlands, too
  • Take action to preserve woodlands, prairies, and wetlands!


  • Commitment. We want people who are willing to act as a steward of natural communities within the Arboretum or other local preserves.
  • Physical ability. Stewardship activities are physically demanding.  You must be in good health, willing to work outdoors in all weather conditions, and comfortable walking over uneven terrain, bending, lifting, and pulling.
  • A Cooperative Attitude. We need people who will cooperate with Arboretum personnel, other stewards, and visitors of the Arboretum.
  • No previous experience or knowledge is required.


Program Outline

Students receive a broad overview of ideas and practices that will help them participate in ecological restoration activities. Courses are led by teachers experienced in the fields of natural areas management and conservation. All courses require time outside of class for reading and work assignments. Major concepts include:

  • Principles of ecology, conservation, and restoration
  • Plant identification
  • Techniques to manage pests and invasive species
  • Strategies and techniques for management of local ecosystems
  • Practical approaches for organizing natural areas management

The WSP has two levels of certification:

Level 1. Steward: Work independently to help manage and conserve woodlands, prairies and wetlands at the Arboretum or in the region.

Level 2. Steward Supervisor: Lead others in managing natural areas through additional training.

To maintain Steward or Steward Supervisor status, stewards must complete 30 hours of volunteer service per calendar year in natural areas management or education at The Morton Arboretum or at another approved local natural area.


Stewardship Activities

While you are participating in the program, stewards agree to become Arboretum volunteers and put your newly acquired knowledge to use in our natural areas. You can participate in a variety of meaningful projects, meet like-minded people who share your concern for our woodlands, and enjoy opportunities to learn in the field from Arboretum experts. Opportunities at The Morton Arboretum vary and are available seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. - sunset. Potential projects include:

  • Scouting for and controlling invasive species
  • Collecting seeds from native plants
  • Planting native plants
  • Leading volunteer work groups or education groups in restoration projects

Apply Now!

There is no charge to enroll in the Woodland Stewardship Program, but there are fees for each class in the program.

Step 1: Become an Arboretum Volunteer and select OUTDOORS: Natural Resource Areas on the Volunteer Application. LEARN MORE>

Step 2: Register for classes. While there is no charge to enroll in the Woodland Stewardship Program, there are fees for all classes. LEARN MORE>



Arboretum members must present their Membership Card at the entry gate with each visit.