Our trees. Our communities. Our future.
Our regional forest is a critical asset in need of protection. Trees clean our air and water, reduce flooding, improve property values, create habitat for wildlife, and provide significant social and health benefits. Trees improve our quality of life.
But trees need our help. Invasive species, including buckthorn and honeysuckle, the death of ash trees due to emerald ash borer, and the lack of funding for proper tree care and attention are having significant impacts on the health and survival of our regional forest. We need action now.
The Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI) is a unique and collaborative coordinated response to key issues facing trees. There is no other initiative in the country working at this scale and depth to restore the urban forest. Leading organizations and partners from across the seven-county Chicago metropolitan region are working together on behalf of trees. CRTI is leveraging resources—funding, knowledge, skills, and expertise—to build a healthier, more diverse regional forest.
WHAT IS CHICAGO REGION TREES INITIATIVE?
The Chicago Region Trees Initiative was established in 2013 as a collaboration of Chicago region partners working together to develop and implement a strategy that builds a healthier and more diverse urban forest by 2040. This strategy was developed based on findings from the Regional Tree Census produced in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and The Morton Arboretum. A coalition of agency, industry, and community representatives are working together to expand the understanding of the value of the region's trees and to make meaningful tree and forest improvements in the region.
The vision of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative is to ensure the following:
- The region's tree population is broadly understood and valued;
- Collaborative management opportunities are identified and enacted;
- Measurable improvements toward the health and vigor of the region's trees are accomplished; and
- Public awareness and support is established to maintain ongoing management of our urban forest to enhance forest health for the future.
PARTNERS AND WORK GROUPS
The issues identified by CRTI require considerable information gathering, analysis, and consensus to develop a strategy that is pragmatic, actionable, measurable, and supported by a broad range of forest managers. Stakeholders across the region, both in the public and private sectors, including landowners and managers, must engage and take ownership in the steps necessary to ensure a healthy forest for the region.
Ten key organizations form the leadership of CRTI: The Morton Arboretum, Openlands, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chicago Wilderness, the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association, the Cook County Forest Preserve District, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Representatives from these organizations form the Executive Advisory Council charged with steering the critical efforts of CRTI through topic-driven work groups.
Eight work groups focus their attention on research, education, and stewardship needs of the regional forest. They are identifying and tackling central issues, such as:
- Gathering forest composition data to map the regional forest for an accurate snapshot of forest structure and to identify underserved and challenged areas (Forest Composition Work Group);
- Organizing stewardship activities and forestry skill training to increase tree care capacity (Tree Stewardship and Planting Work Group);
- Collaborating with the tree industry and associations to develop an inclusive forest management strategy (Industry and Associations Work Group);
- Addressing gaps in knowledge, training, and policy regarding use of trees as green infrastructure (Trees and Green Infrastructure Work Group);
- Improving tree risk assessment training and practices (Tree Risk Assessment and Management Work Group);
- Gathering and developing resources for specific audiences to educate on the value and benefits of trees and how to care for them (Education Work Group);
- Sharing information and raising the profile of CRTI with a variety of audiences, including residents, policy makers, industry professionals, and researchers (Communications Work Group); and
- Leveraging resources—both expertise and financial (Resources Work Group).
The overarching mission of CRTI is ambitious: to make a significant, measurable improvement to the regional forest and the lives of its inhabitants by the year 2040. The broad geographic scale and depth of the work will help the Chicago region establish a healthier forest.
CRTI is setting actionable goals for canopy cover, species and age class diversity, and management expertise to create a more resilient forest. We will establish these goals using baseline data of forest composition and operational capacity of forestry programs collected by local and national forest researchers. We will compile and analyze these data, including public and private tree inventories, regional tree census results, and LIDAR imagery.
Through the work groups we will communicate these goals to partners across the region, so they can improve their portion of the regional forest using sound management techniques based on up-to-date science and data, with the support of their community. One of our projects that will help bolster community support is Oaktober- Oak Awareness Month 2015.