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CRTI Urban Forestry Awards

CRTI recognizes public and private organizations and individuals who have gone above and beyond this past year on behalf of our regional forest and the residents who live here. We are asking for your assistance to nominate an organization and/or individual who can be used as an example for others to aspire to. 

Please nominate an organization, individual, or even your own organization or yourself (no need to be shy!). You may make multiple nominations.

Nominations can be made year-round!

If there are any questions, please contact Melissa (


Congratulations to the 2020 CRTI Urban Forestry Award Winners!

1. The Partnership Award celebrates groups working collaboratively to solve a forestry problem (e.g. need for next generation of arborists, low canopy in priority area, reuse of urban wood).

2020 Winner: Go Green Deerfield, Deerfield Park District, and the Deerfield Sustainability Coalition. Go Green Deerfield created a #TreeCanopyChallenge for Deerfield residents to plant 2 trees per yard (aprox 12,000 trees) by 2025 They collaborated with the Deerfield Park District and Sustainability Commission to plant trees in our community, showcased native trees on a Sustainable Yard Tour, and educated residents about native trees and removing invasives like Buckthorn. They are working with the Deerfield Park District to increase our canopy by adding native Trees and have worked with the Village of Deerfield to promote the cost share parkway tree program. They also provided a free arborist-led tree walk and work3ed with the Park District to distribute tree whips to residents. 2020 slowed their progress, but they still managed to build relationships with various local entities and hosted a virtual native yard walk reaching with over 200 residents.


2. The Community Stewardship Awardfor management of natural areas.

2020 Winner: Paula Kosinfor her Master Naturalist Tree Tagging Project. Paula distributed info packets (a flyer explaining the project with some tree fun facts; the "Under the Canopy" brochures/posters, a Healthy Hedges brochure on invasive shrubs, and a map of the Arboretum)  to every townhouse (104) in her community. She then spent two weeks tieing a tag to every tree, obtaining the species from an online map on the Downers Grove village website identifying all 23,000 parkway trees and labeling their fall color with duct tape and markers. In the process, she engaged more than 10 neighbors about the value of trees. She also provided an educational tree talk and an interactive experience with the tags for a group of children. 


3. The Forestry Outreach Awardcelebrates partners who work across the region to engage residents and land managers in forestry matters.

2020 WinnerThe City of Highwoodfor their efforts communicating with residents and inspiring them to value and plant trees. In partnership with CRTI, Community Development Analyst for the City of Highwood, Dustin Anand, went above and beyond to find locations on public and private property for 150 trees and helped coordinate virtual tree planting training so residents could lead the planting of their own trees for safe, well-spaced planting events across 2020 and 2021.



4. The Youth Engagement Awardcelebrates partners who make great strides in inspiring the next generation.

2020 Winner: Chicago Voyagers, for empowering at-risk youth through outdoor experiential adventures that foster healthy relationships and responsible behavior. Chicago Voyagers believe in the potential of all teens regardless of race, socio-economic status, gender, ability, creed, or sexual orientation and aspire to support our youth in overcoming societal injustices that lead to differences in opportunity. Despite a complicated year, they still managed to provide programming and opportunities for their students.


5. The Public Natural Areas Award celebrates stewardship and advocacy for natural areas on private property.

2020 winner: The Forest Preserves of Cook County’s (FPCC) Tree Protection and Preservation Specifications Manual guides land use and management decisions that take the preservation, protection, and maintenance of trees into consideration. The Manuel builds on the FPCC’s existing Tree Mitigation Plan, intended to deter use of forest preserve lands by outside entities through a fee-based system used to compensate for trees removed for construction. The Manual ensures that land use requests, both internal and external, consider the short- and long-term impacts on trees and improves the protection and preservation methods and specifications used during construction to avoid damaging trees. By following this Manual, the FPCC will increase the survivability of protected trees, avoid damage to trees that are proposed to be preserved on a site (including mechanical damage, grading and soil compaction), and improve the coordination of construction projects to minimize conflicts with trees and new buildings, paths, driveways, roads or utilities during the design stage. The Manual helps advance the FPCC’s Natural and Cultural Resource Master Plan, Next Century Conservation Plan, and Sustainability and Climate Resiliency Plan. All of these plans seek to ensure that the FPCC’s natural resources will continue to thrive for generations and that communities will value the economic benefits that these lands provide, including the ecosystem services trees provide such as cleaning the air, soil erosion control, and reducing the impacts of flooding.


6. The Private Natural Areas Award celebrates stewardship and advocacy for natural areas on public property.

2020 winner: Steve and Kathryn Graves are true leaders in conservation. By their actions and willingness to lead by example, they have inspired a generation of private landowners to preserve and restore natural areas throughout the region. They have also been active participants in the Oak Ecosystem Recovery Plan Work Group providing important perspective to public and private landowners alike.


CRTI Golden Shovel Awards: 

2020 Forester of the Year: Robyn Flakne, Village of Glenview

As the Natural Resources Manager at the Village of Glenview, Dr. Robyn Flakne has been established an excellent municipal record in Natural Resources Management, including habitat and tree preservation. Robyn also teaches Green Infrastructure Planning and Management and Forest Resource Management at Northeastern Illinois University where she mentors countless students. She has been the Co-Chair of the CRTI Trees and Green Infrastructure Work Group for six year, working to prioritize the Illinois Urban Forest Action Plan for the Chicago Region, while addressing gaps in knowledge, training, and policy regarding use of trees as green infrastructure. Robyn is the staff liaison for the Village’s Natural Resources Commission (NRC) and supports the Village Board in planning, managing and evaluating natural areas in Glenview. Robyn was key, along with the NRC, to creating and implementing the Glenview Plan for Nature -- which is a guide map for supporting nature and trees village-wide. She also was instrumental in creating a local Heritage Tree Program. Robyn serves as Glenview’s representative to the North Branch Chicago River Watershed Workgroup, and has been involved in planning and water improvement efforts on the North Branch for all of her years working for the Village. Robyn has published a Natural Areas Bike Tour and Heritage Tree Walk that include opportunities for the public to access natural areas and trees which Robyn has been involved in building, maintaining or recognizing. Throughout her tenure Robyn has secured numerous grants to support water quality improvement, local habitat and tree planting projects. Robyn advocates for projects, secures outside funding, implements projects, and then provides outreach to the public on the benefits of each. Robyn has also taken it upon herself to install interpretive signage as many of the projects to further enhance local understanding of the natural environment. Robyn serves as the Village’s Tree Preservation Officer for private property tree permits. Robyn enforces the Village’s codes as part of the building permit process and uses this platform to advocate for projects that work around and support existing trees and habitat. She educates members of the public daily during her interactions in the village regarding trees. Robyn’s local advocacy also includes coordinating with the Friends of the Chicago River for river clean-ups, organizing walking tours, a robust internship program and on-demand presentations for the library, garden clubs, schools, and other entities. She works closely with the Glenview Park District and provides a “Tree Trot” every year during OAKtober at The Grove. Robyn supports the Village’s Tree City USA application, working with schools and clubs for our annual celebration of Arbor Day. She supports and presents public education events at the Green Table every summer at the Glenview Farmer’s Market. 

2020 Forest Advocate of the Year: Tony Dati, Village of Niles

An ISA certified arborist, Anthony Dati has been employed with the Village of Niles for almost fifteen years and has served on the Illinois Arborist Association board as Municipal Director and now Vice President. Tony has been actively involved in promoting arboriculture in conjunction with the American Public Works Association, Illinois Public Works Mutual Aid Network, CRTI, ISA, IAA, SMA, NEMF and other organizations throughout his career and provides public outreach at local schools, teaching students about the value of trees. Tony has spent his personal time placing tree tags on trees throughout the Village of Niles and in parks, where residents can easily see the value of the tree when they are enjoying its beauty and shade. An official Village Tree was planted under Tony's supervision, complete with a bench and plaque for residents to enjoy and learn more about trees. An annual Arbor Day celebration is held, which is now used to also promote the Village's status as a Tree City U.S.A. with two consecutive Growth Awards. Tony has had articles published in industry newsletters to continue his goal of educating the public and his peers. The urban canopy in Niles has diversified extensively under Tony's watch. He has also led an overhaul of operations for tree maintenance that have improved efficiency and reduced pruning budgets by more than ten percent every year. Tony has also supervised construction and operation of a community garden named "Farm on Franks" where residents can rent a plot to grow produce. This garden has also produced fresh produce for local families in need of assistance via the Niles Family Services Department. Tony has an active leadership role with the Village's Snow and Ice Control Program, which received the APWA's coveted Excellence in Snow and Ice Control Award in 2019. Reducing salt usage by approximately forty percent played a key role in obtaining the award and is another example of Tony's drive to provide long-term benefits to the community. Also a graduate of the Illinois Public Services Institute, Tony's passion, leadership, and willingness to step up to the plate to make a difference are an example we can all follow. 

See previous winners here