Director of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative

Posted Dec 18, 2023 Lisle, Illinois

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Expires Feb 29, 2024


The Morton Arboretum is a world-renowned tree-focused botanical garden located just outside of Chicago in Lisle, Illinois. The Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI) is the Arboretum’s flagship urban and community forestry program, designed to energize and catalyze tree advocacy, build community capacity, and improve the health, diversity, and equitable distribution of the urban forest in the Chicago region and across the state of Illinois. Reporting to the Vice President of Science and Conservation, the Director of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative will lead all activities of the CRTI program, overseeing a staff of 12 or more, including the administration of $23 million in federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to improve the tree canopy in disadvantaged communities throughout Illinois. As CRTI celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2024, this is an exciting opportunity for a confident and innovative leader to oversee this pivotal time, bringing together diverse stakeholders to create a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world where people and trees thrive together.

Position Summary: Responsible for the overall management of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI), the Arboretum’s urban and community forestry program, which is a collaborative effort bringing together leading organizations to work toward improving the urban forest throughout the Chicago region and the state of Illinois. Provide strategic leadership, alongside the Vice President of Science and Conservation, to execute the Arboretum’s urban and community forestry goals, in alignment with the CRTI Master Plan. Lead and support community engagement and government relations with strategic networks, stakeholders, and partners at local, regional, and national levels. Create and revise CRTI work group objectives, develop guidelines, and build capacity for urban forestry in the region. Solicit and secure funding to support CRTI activities. Work to engage individual and community action on public and private lands to inspire people to value trees; increase the health, diversity, and equitable distribution of the Chicago region’s tree canopy; reduce threats to trees; and enhance oak ecosystems.

Essential Functions:

Envision and lead a strategic program of activities, events and projects for the CRTI and its partners and stakeholders in urban and community forestry across the Chicago region.

Build and maintain strong relationships with key partners at the local, regional, and national levels for the purpose of supporting and participating in activities of CRTI.

Advance the Arboretum’s community outreach and engagement goals through collaborative development of community partnerships with Learning and Engagement, Marketing and Communications, Center for Tree Science, and other teams as appropriate.

Oversee subaward and pass-through funding programs that leverage local, state, and federal funding opportunities, ensuring the highest level of compliance, reporting, and impact.

Provide oversight and guidance to the CRTI Work Groups to implement actions to achieve goals. Track Work Group progress, and report outcomes.

In partnership with Marketing and Communications, develop communication pathways to priority audiences to build awareness of and affinity for trees, strengthen community partnerships, and translate urban forestry science to practical action, in alignment with Arboretum communication priorities.

In partnership with the Development department, identify and prioritize activities for funding in alignment with Arboretum annual and long-term planning goals. Write grant proposals to support activities and functions of CRTI.

Serve as a primary liaison between CRTI partners and contracted services for urban tree data and oak ecosystem recovery.

Represent the Arboretum and the Chicago region at conferences, national forums, networking events, and in media appearances.

In partnership with Arboretum leadership, develop and support government relationships with local, state, and federal elected officials in support of the Arboretum’s urban forestry priorities.

Demonstrate alignment with the Arboretum’s employee core values to be inclusive, take ownership, work together, keep learning, and make the Arboretum exceptional.

Other duties as assigned.

Supervisory Responsibilities:

Serve in a supervisory capacity of one or more employees, providing leadership guidance and communicating the organization’s goals. This includes:

Hiring, training, coaching and developing team members, by providing recognition and feedback, and evaluating performance

Ensuring that team members adhere to the Arboretum’s policies and procedures, and maintaining a safe and compliant work environment

Building and maintaining positive working relationships with team members, colleagues, and other partners to foster a collaborative and supportive work environment

Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree required, Master’s degree preferred in the areas of urban forestry, arboriculture, forestry, horticulture, or natural resource management. 7+ years experience in urban and community forestry, community organizing, municipal government, or political advocacy required. Supervisory experience building productive, positive teams required. Certified arborist (or ability and willingness to become certified) required. Experience working with forestry, urban planning, environment, and/or sustainability policy and legislation, and experience working with lobbyists, preferred. Experience writing grants and soliciting funds required. Excellent communication and writing skills along with a proven record of public presentation activities required. Must possess a valid driver’s license, which is subject to insurability and an annual Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) report. Proficiency with Microsoft Office and Google applications beneficial.

Success Factors: Ability to network and interact courteously, sensitively, attentively, and effectively with a diverse variety of political and public audiences, as well as broadcast and print media. Ability to discuss and present controversial topics and facilitate debates, and align diverse audiences with many different (occasionally competing) interests. Keen interest in the integrity, health, and equitable distribution of the urban forest. Ability to assimilate and translate into common language a considerable body of tree science and related information, including research findings. Active listener with the ability to navigate and foster positive team dynamics.

Physical Demands and Work Environment: The physical demands and work environment characteristics described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform these essential functions.
Physical Demands: Requires some physical activity: limited lifting and carrying (up to 40 lbs.), traversing over uneven terrain. Ability to undertake local, regional, national travel, including driving to a range of locations across the 7-county Chicago region.

Work Environment: Work is performed primarily indoors, with some outdoor environments for community outreach and engagement events.

Equipment: General office equipment. Occasional use of tree planting and pruning equipment (shovel, pruners, rake).

Schedule: Work requires occasional weekend and evening hours, and some regional and national travel.

For full consideration, please include a resume and cover letter with the application.

The Morton Arboretum is a champion for diversity, supporting a culture of inclusion that attracts, inspires, and engages people to achieve success. The Arboretum is committed to hire and develop employees based on job-related qualifications irrespective of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, or veteran status. To increase diversity in professions related to the public garden realm, we encourage applications from underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities, and veterans.

The Morton Arboretum is dedicated to complying with our obligations as an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. All applicants are guaranteed equal consideration for employment.


The Morton Arboretum


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