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Press Release: The Morton Arboretum Chicago Region Trees Initiative names new director

Zach Wirtz has been named director of The Morton Arboretum’s Chicago Region Trees Initiative, assuming the role on April 1, 2024

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LISLE, Ill. (March 25, 2024)—Zach Wirtz has been named director of The Morton Arboretum’s Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI), assuming the role on April 1, 2024. Wirtz succeeds Lydia Scott, who led CRTI for the past 10 years and retired in late 2023.

CRTI is The Morton Arboretum’s urban and community forestry program, working to improve the quality of people’s lives by supporting the health, diversity, and equitable distribution of trees as well as the quality of life in the Chicago region and throughout Illinois.

He will be overseeing programs, including the administration of $23 million in Inflation Reduction Act funding to support disadvantaged communities throughout Illinois to increase equitable access to trees and bolster resilience to climate change across urban and rural areas of the state.

“Zach has been leading and developing innovative programs such as the Chicago Region Carbon Program, capacity building and training for public landowners, and a tree care ordinance builder and advocacy hub,” said Murphy Westwood, Ph.D., the Arboretum’s vice president of science and conservation. “He has built a strong, inclusive, productive team that is effectively collaborating with hundreds of local community partners in the Chicago region and statewide.”

Wirtz joined CRTI in March 2021 as community coordinator and was elevated the same year to community manager. In his previous role for the Texas Trees Foundation, he worked with the City of Dallas to develop their first Urban Forest Master Plan.

Wirtz holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Urban Forestry, Arborist Certification through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification.