Tollway trees for public good

Updated 6/12/2018 12:03 PM

Trees are essential for a beautiful, livable environment and for human well-being. Yet the tree canopy has declined in quantity and quality across the seven-county Chicago region. Simply put, Chicago and the suburbs need more trees -- and more tree champions.

That is why The Morton Arboretum commends the Illinois Tollway for its decision to plant 58,000 trees along the 294-mile roadway system for the myriad benefits they provide to the region. As a partner in this project, we have shared our expertise in tree science and conservation to help the Tollway choose and cultivate trees that are suitable for planting along the roadway used by millions of people.

Further, this partnership provides a means for learning. Trees are living things, and their health matters. Roadside conditions present serious challenges to trees, including compacted soil and other stresses. The Arboretum will conduct scientific tree research at three sites along I-355 to advance knowledge about tree planting and care that will serve the Tollway, as well as other transportation providers and landowners.

It will take concerted effort to increase and improve the tree canopy in the Chicago region. Innovative initiatives by landowners such as the Tollway will be key to achieving goals. We view this partnership as a good model for nonprofit organizations like the Arboretum to work in concert with entities like municipalities, government agencies or businesses in Illinois and elsewhere.

Transportation corridors constitute approximately 13 percent of land use in the Chicago area, offering significant opportunities to plant more trees and make a vital difference. Planting trees is an investment for the future. It is my hope that years from now, as a result of actions taken today, current and future generations will see major roads lined with thriving trees that contribute to a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world.

Gerard T. Donnelly, President and CEO, Morton Arboretum


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