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Partnership Initiatives

The listing below of Partnership Initiatives is comprised of past and present IDNR Urban and Community Forestry Program partnerships throughout the state These partnerships include: 1)  program outreach throughout the state where the state program funding was used to contractually provide services to Illinois' Urban and Community Forestry constituents (municipal forestry programs, tree-related organizations, and citizens); 2) contracts where IDNR Urban and Community Program funding is used to sponsor educational outreach and/or funds have been provided to gain assistance for the program outreach; 3) programs and events where IDNR Urban and Community Forestry staff participate substantially on a committee where there is a direct link to IDNR program outreach. or 4) partnerships where substantial mutual support and outcomes and services to communities is provided by IDNR and the partner such as a Tornado Re-leaf effort. 

Arbor Day Foundation The Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) is a national 501(c)3 not-for-profit conservation and education organization founded in 1972.  ADF's mission is: "We inspiring people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees".  ADF has been a proud supporter of Celebrating Arbor Day and through their efforts all 50 states and other countries now celebrate Arbor Day - the tree planters' holiday. The Arbor Day Foundation has grown to become the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees with over one million members, supporters and valued partners.  The IDNR - Urban and Community Forestry program is one of those partners.

The Arbor Day Foundation has partnered with the National Association of State Foresters and the State Urban and Community Forestry Programs to administer the Tree City USA Program for 40 years.  The Tree City USA program was established in 1976 during the Dutch Elm Disease era in an effort to help communities establish local urban/community forestry programs. Urbana, IL was one of the first 42 communities in the nation to gain Tree City USA recognition that year.  ADF also  administer the TCU GROWTH Award, Tree Campus USA and Tree Line USA. These national recognition and technical assistance programs are administered at the state level by ADF's state partners the State UCF Programs. Together the Arbor Day Foundation's programs and the State Urban and Community Forestry Programs partner to build a stronger and healthier municipal forest.

Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts 

IDNR Urban and Community Forestry has set on the Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation District's (formerly Natural Resources Conservation Services) Urban Manual Committee for nearly two decades to ensure that tree information is integrated into the electronic manual and field guide.  There are several  standards  and specifications relating to trees in the Urban Manual: 

Illinois Arborist Association 

 The Illinois Arborist Association has a long standing history of partnering with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Urban and Community Forestry Program.  Together they have provided technical assistance and outreach through sponsorship of the IAA annual conference educational sessions, statewide training events. IAA has assisted with the logistics of the TCU Conference and Award Ceremony.  IDNR UCF has provided input as an ad hoc on the IAA Board.  IAA serves municipal foresters, utility arborist and commercial arborist throughout Illinois.   The Illinois Arborist Association’s (IAA) mission is to “Foster interest, establish standards, exchange professional ideas and pursue scientific research in arboriculture”. IAA keeps abreast of the latest information and trends that face the arboriculture industry in the state of Illinois.  They offer a Certified Arborist Program, Advanced Qualification Program and partner with other organizations like TCIA and the DNR to help offer programs like Electrical Hazard Awareness Accreditation and Tree City USA in an effort to keep their members current, safe and professional by helping set the standard for Arboriculture excellence!

Illinois Forestry Development Council – Urban and Community Forestry Committee

The Urban and Community Forestry Committee serves the Illinois Forestry Development Council (IFDC). The IFDC is a legislatively mandated council that is charged with the study and evaluation of the forests resources and forest industry of Illinois.

The Urban and Community Forestry Committee of the Forestry Development Council focuses on determining the:
1) Magnitude, nature, extent, and ownership of Illinois’s forest resources,
2) Uses, benefits, and ecosystem services our forest resource provides,
3) Economic development, increasing employment, and management opportunities relating to the forest/wood products industry,
4) Staffing and funding needs for state-wide forestry programs and support,
5) Forestry education and outreach programs, and
6) Soil, water, and wildlife habitat benefits of forestry practices.

The Urban and Community Forestry Committee provides the Council with input into the dialogue concerning trees in Illinois municipal and public lands.   The Urban and Community Forestry Addendum was created by the committee and has been added to the Illinois Forestry Action Plan.  The committee works off a Plan of Action

List of current committee members and their affiliation.

Northern Illinois Partnerships - Morton Arboretum  

Throughout the decades the Morton Arboretum has been a partner with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in various capacities.  They have hosted the TCU for the Department of Natural Resources Annual Tree City USA Conference in the 1990's . Funding and support was provided for research and community outreach projects.  The most recent contract was with The Morton Arboretum’s Community Trees Program. This program was designed to  helps communities, public and private landowners, land managers, tree professionals, and groups interested in trees to effectively manage and care for our urban and community forest. Our urban and community forest is not just the trees found in our nature preserves and parks, but also the trees along streets, outside office buildings, within homeowners associations, and even in private yards.

Northern Illinois Partnerships - Openlands

Openlands gives Chicago and northeastern Illinois citizens a chance to learn and show that they can make a meaningful difference in their neighborhood greatly increases the survival of all urban trees. Openlands provides this physical connection between our public resources, giving citizens a chance to learn and show that they can make a meaningful difference in their neighborhood greatly increases the survival of all urban trees. Openlands provides this physical connection between our public resources, trees, and engagement of citizens through education, tree planting, and care. TreeKeepers connects people to trees and engages them in conservation stewardship in the neighborhoods where they live. Certified TreeKeepers stewards adopt and care for trees and green space for their long-term lifecycle, as it is not until trees age that they deliver full environmental, social, and economic benefits. These passionate ambassadors also educate their neighbors as well as their local public officials about the importance of trees for the greater good.   Since 1991, Openlands staff and pro-bono faculty, including the Chicago region’s urban forestry experts, have taught volunteer TreeKeepers how trees overcome the challenges of an urban environment to grow and thrive in the city.  Our 1,700  volunteer TreeKeepers donate more than 20,000 hours each year to put these lessons to work – pruning, mulching, watering, and planting trees in city parks and on street parkways. Municipalities within the seven-county region are now requesting to become a TreeKeepers chapter, as they see the positive civic connection that educated stewards have on the urban forest and public land.  This combination of experience and corps of well trained volunteers has established Openlands as the go-to organization to plant and care for trees in the Chicago region.

The 2018 Saluting Branches Event will be September 19, 2018. Registration is on the Saluting Branches website.  

In 2017,  there were 2200 volunteers who participated in the 3rd Annual Saluting Branches Day of Service on September 20, 2017. It was the largest one day volunteer event in the tree industry with 467 companies and organizations giving over 17,600 hours across the country . A total of  45 National Cemeteries across the United States received over $2.2 million dollars in services from these volunteers to help provide tree care in our National Cemeteries while honoring our veterans.   Saluting Branches goal is: Arborists United for Veteran Remembrance is an opportunity for tree care professionals throughout the country to unite and do what we do best – provide exceptional tree care – to keep our veterans cemeteries safe, beautiful places for all those who visit. In Illinois, there are three cemeteries participated in the Saluting Branches event on September 20, 2017. They were: Danville National Cemetery; Rock Island National Cemetery; and Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.

PAST event videos:

 2015 1st Year Event  : Saluting Branches 2015 video

 2016 2nd Year Event  : Saluting Branches 2016 video 

 2017 3rd Year Event: Saluting Branches 2017 video

Southern  Central Illinois Partnerships  for Technical Outreach 

Throughout the years several groups, organizations and educational institutions have worked to provide technical assistance and outreach to central and southern Illinois communities.  These partners have included: University of Illinois, SWRCD, and Southern Illinois University.  These partnerships have all been contractual through the state DNR Urban and Community Forestry Program.

IDNR partners with Trees Forever to provide technical outreach to communities in Central and Southern Illinois.  One recent significant partnership is on TORNADO RE-LEAF efforts throughout the state.  Trees Forever has been instrumental in getting trees planted in Washington, IL. They have been the premier organization for these post storm initiatives.  Additionally, they have provided educational and technical outreach to communities throughout the state. Trees Forever is planting a better tomorrow by working with communities, landowners, and farmers implementing more than 220 project sites on Illinois farms, schools, parks and more.  The national non-profit works with IDNR and many other Partners to plant more trees - resulting in improved air, water and soil quality and providing more habitat for wildlife and pollinators. Trees Forever programs, including the Illinois Buffer Partnership have planted more than 926,000 trees along with native shrubs, grasses and wildflowers on nearly 4,500 acres protecting 62 miles of streams in Illinois since 2001. Other initiatives in Illinois include: assisting communities impacted by natural disasters, including the tornado-stricken town Washington where Trees Forever helped coordinate and assist volunteers in planting more than 400 trees, assisting communities in western Illinois prepare for the Emerald Ash Borer by diversifying their community forest; and training volunteers in small communities to help take care  of their community forests. Trees Forever also hosts a variety of educational events, such as workshops about edible landscapes, pollinators, tree and wildflower walks and field days featuring conservation efforts. 


The most critical partnership for Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is the USDA Forest Service. Without this partnership, the State Urban and Community Forestry Program would not exist.  The USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program provides technical and financial assistance to governments, tribes, and non-profit groups for activities that maximize the many environmental, social and economic benefits of trees and forests in communities.  Together the USDA Forest Service and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources works to  build strong healthy resilient local forests.

Annually, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources reports community accomplishments to the USDA FS through a process called Community Accomplishment Reporting System (CARS). This system is used to report the progress within the state of local municipal programs by Illinois communities and local units of government. For greater transparency, IDNR has created a CARS MAP so that interested parties can see how their community's progress was reported.  The state must assess four critical elements and criteria to a sustainable local program: professional staff, tree ordinance, management plan based on a tree inventory, and volunteer advocacy.   There is a CARS MAP INSTRUCTION MANUAL provided on the search bar of the MAP to help interpret the CARS criteria and the MAP data.  Simple searches by CARS criteria or community size are available with this tool. Contact information for questions about MAPS.

Other USDA Forest Service Initiatives include: Urban Webinar seriesUrban Forest Strike Team, Urban Forest Inventory and Analysis.