UIC earns Tree Campus Higher Education recognition

UIC’s Arthington Mall features 24 mature honeylocust trees.

The University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) was honored with 2020 Tree Campus Higher Education recognition by the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to effective urban forest management.

“Tree Campuses and their students set examples for not only their student bodies but the surrounding communities showcasing how trees create a healthier environment,” said Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Because of UIC’s participation, air will be purer, water cleaner and students and faculty will be surrounded by the shade and beauty trees provide.”

The Tree Campus Higher Education program honors colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals. UIC achieved the title for the 10th straight year by meeting Tree Campus Higher Education’s five standards, which include maintaining a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and student service-learning project. Currently, there are 403 campuses across the United States with this recognition.

However, in 2020, the Arbor Day observance requirement was waived due to safety concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. The campus largely operated remotely in 2020 with few people coming to campus.

“UIC students and employees will be happy to find that their favorite trees, gardens, and green spaces have been very well cared for in their absence,” said Roberta Mason-Gamer, UIC’s Tree Campus chair and professor of biological sciences. “I hope that upon returning to campus, people will make a point to walk or sit outside, to notice and enjoy the benefits of our growing urban forest.”

Together, Tree Campus Higher Education colleges and universities invested more than $51 million in campus forest management last year. UIC has concentrated all efforts on proper tree maintenance to ensure the longevity of its mature tree population. The Arthington Mall renovation project on the west side of campus installed multiple rain gardens to help alleviate stormwater runoff in the area.

“Twenty-four mature honeylocust trees influence the entire microclimate and aesthetic of the space,” said Carly Provost-Rizor, superintendent of grounds. 

However, construction of the site presented complications, and it was decided to take an aggressively proactive approach to tree care. The trees were pruned to remove up to 25% of the canopy, focusing on dead, broken, diseased, and interfering branches. 

“This diverts the trees’ energy from the canopy into root regrowth.  Since pruning and project completion, the trees remain in good health and will become more resilient to storm damage, branch failure and disease,” Provost-Rizor said.

Investing in the long-term maintenance of UIC’s trees will help not only with the aesthetics of the campus but will also help UIC’s Climate Commitment of becoming a biodiverse and resilient campus. Maintaining the longevity of UIC’s mature tree population will help reduce stormwater runoff, remove air pollution, reduce the urban heat island effect, and create a sense of community — all of which help UIC become a resilient campus.

More information about the program is available at go.uic.edu/trees and treecampushighered.org

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