HOW WE HELP

Trees provide us with great benefits: clean air, energy cost savings, stormwater mitigation, and improved aesthetics just to name a few. However, if not managed properly they can wind up costing us more than the benefits they provide. They can also pose a substantial risk to people and property.

Our mission is to help municipal foresters, parks professionals, and public lands agencies maximize the benefits and minimize costs and potential losses. At Great Lakes Urban Forestry Management, we are experts at assisting you in maximizing your forestry operations’ efficiency and keeping your community safe and protected.

Call us at 630.762.2400 for a free consultation and needs assessment.

Our team of Certified Arborists and Urban Forestry Management Professionals can help you with the following:

about us

Our goal is to make your life easier. Whether we are helping you implement new technology into your operation, providing expert consultative advice, providing the manpower to inventory your trees, assets, or serving as your trusted, outsourced forestry management department, there are many reasons to work with Great Lakes Urban Forestry Management. Take a look at what differentiates our services:

EXPERIENCE

Great Lakes Urban Forestry Management has assembled a team of local arborists like no other. We are industry leaders in managing large tree populations, having worked with over 30 municipalities, 40 park districts, and hundreds of Homeowners Associations. Our experts will consult with you on how best to protect your valuable forestry assets and community. Meet our expert staff.

MODERN TECHNOLOGY

We are committed to using the most modern methodologies and techniques to provide our clients with the best solutions. We keep up with technological advancements in arboricultural practices, as well as those in data management.

RESPONSIVENESS

At Great Lakes Urban Forestry Management, we can work with our clients as much or as little as needed. Our firm is nimble, offering custom solutions and quick turnaround service to our clients. We can handle a project, serve as an extension of your team, or even manage your team.

“Going the Extra Mile”

Perhaps one of our most important core values is our relentless work ethic. We are known for often rendering more and better service than we are contracted to do. We pledge to over-deliver and aim to surpass our client’s expectations on every project no matter how big or small. We are always here to help and with team members throughout the Great Lakes region we can respond quickly to your needs.

A Strong History, A Great History

Great Lakes Urban Forestry Management was born in 2010 in the western suburbs of Chicago, originally as a Division of Graf Tree Care. The Natural Resources Management & GIS Division was founded by Phil Graf and Steve Lane, who had the vision of helping their municipal and park district clients manage their large tree populations and mitigate the effects of the Emerald Ash Borer. GIS-based Tree Inventory and Reforestation Planning were two of the early services we performed for public lands entities across northeast Illinois.

By 2013, Master Arborist Zac King and Leslie Delles joined the team, and our four-person Division became a powerhouse in collecting tree data, completing over 30 municipal street tree inventories and 40 park districts in the following years.

Seasoned veteran Jim Semelka, was brought on in 2016 as a Municipal Forestry Consultant. Jim’s 40+ years experience in urban forestry has made him invaluable with our clients. He steps in to fill the role of contract City Forester in several Chicago area communities.

After breaking into Northwest Indiana in 2017 and performing several large scale municipal street tree inventories in the Great Lakes region, Graf Tree Care’s Natural Resources Management & GIS Division was officially launched as its own new Company, Great Lakes Urban Forestry Management on January 1, 2020. Headquartered in Michigan City, Indiana, our expert team is positioned to work with clients in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin quickly, flexibly, and with specialized local knowledge.

PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS

  • International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) – Chapters: Illinois Arborist Association (IAA), Indiana Arborist Association (IAA), Arboriculture Society of Michigan (ASM)
  • Midwest Institute of Park Executives (MIPE)
  • Illinois Parks and Recreation Association (IPRA)
  • Illinois GIS Association (ILGISA)
  • American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA)
  • Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA)
  • Illinois Assoc. of Environmental Professionals (IAEP)

OUR SERVICES

GIS-Based Tree Inventory

GIS-Based Tree Inventory

We believe that in order to best manage any asset, you must first need to know exactly what you have. Our data collection team is trained to efficiently collect accurate data on thousands of trees. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), we create custom data schemas and format them into whatever format best fits your data management needs. From this data, we can help create priority tree removal lists, build cyclical pruning programs, identify potential high-risk trees, and craft tree planting plans. We can work with your existing system or recommend the best one to save you time and money.

Tree Planting Planning

Tree Planting Planning

Whether you are in need of a large-scale Reforestation plan to replace hundreds of street trees, or are planting ten trees in a neighborhood park, we can evaluate these planting sites and best match specific tree species to those sites. We can provide custom RFPs for your bidding process, and digital GIS maps for the tree planting crews. Proper tree planting planning can increase the long-term survivability of trees, and greatly increase the value of your urban forest.

Tree Risk Management

Tree Risk Management

In terms of liability and responsibility, having a Tree Risk Policy is paramount in today’s world. Our experienced staff can create a custom Risk Management Policy and Procedure for your organization, as well as perform a Tree Risk Audit of your tree population to help identify and mitigate any existing tree risk. All to minimize the potential for damage, injury, and associated litigation. Audits include GPS location and identification of any high-risk trees, to prioritize their mitigation.

Using industry best management practices as well as technology, such as sonic tomography, resistance drilling, and aerial drone assessment, our forestry management experts can perform a thorough risk assessment on any high value trees in your municipality which need detailed analysis. This advanced decay detection will aid in making proactive decisions about the trees, as well as provide evidence in court in the case of any litigation.

Tree Appraisal and Expert Witness

Tree Appraisal and Expert Witness

If tree loss occurs that requires an appraisal value for insurance or courtroom purposes, our experienced foresters can assist you in establishing a fair appraisal value for your trees. As objective, unbiassed consultants, we are always prepared to stand by our work throughout any legal process, including deposition and courtroom appearances. You can count on us to have your back with expert consultations.

Contract City Forester

Contract City Forester

For much less cost and time commitment than hiring a full-time staff member to develop and administer a forestry program, our experienced consultants or contract foresters can step in and serve as your Municipal or Park District Forestry Professional. Our experts can help you do more, in less time, with more sophisticated tools, allowing you to do what you do best.

Our contract foresters can:

  • Monitor tree planting, pruning, and removal operations
  • Develop your urban forestry management plans
  • Conduct and create due diligence surveys
  • Update your tree inventory
  • Create documentation for forestry budget solicitation and reporting
  • Interact with community residents to discuss needs, educate, and prioritize plans
Urban Forestry Management Planning

Urban Forestry Management Planning

Every organization needs a plan. With respect to your urban forest, a tree inventory can tell you where you are, but a long-term urban forestry management plan can help you find out where you need to go. Managing your municipal, park district, or real estate development property trees is essential to not only provide value to your community in the form of much enjoyed public spaces, it’s also important to manage the health of your tree assets and protect the community from any risk liabilities.

Our team of Certified Arborists and Urban Forestry Management Professionals can help create your plan by:

  • Analyzing your tree data to create a vision for the future of the tree population
  • Performing an Urban Tree Canopy Assessment to create metrics for future goals
  • Creating & implementing tree planting, pruning, and removal operations
  • Improving natural areas management practices
  • Formalizing Tree Risk Management & Tree Assessment and other tree related ordinances
  • Creating documentation for forestry budget solicitation and reporting
  • Interacting with community residents to discuss needs, educate, and prioritize plans

And if you need help with implementation of the plan, you can rely on us.

Call us at 630.762.2400 for a free consultation and needs assessment.

OUR EXPERT STAFF

Great Lakes Urban Forestry Management has assembled a team of powerhouse arborists with strong industry experience. Our staff professionals have worked with over 30 municipalities, 40 park districts, and hundreds of Homeowners Associations. Our team waits ready to help you.

PHIL GRAF

PHIL GRAF

Principal Owner, Company Founder

As the founder of Great Lakes Urban Forestry Management and Graf Tree Care, Phil has created a multi-disciplinary approach to urban forestry. While almost 30 years in the business and recognized in the industry as an expert arborist with multiple certifications, Phil is sought after by his clients for his knowledge and professional, easy-to-work with manner. He is a frequent speaker at industry and association events, sharing his knowledge with clients and fellow industry specialists.

Years in the tree care industry:

  • 27

Education:

  • College of St. Francis (1995) Mathematics

Certifications:

  • ISA Certified Arborist (1999). Lic #IL 1553-AM
  • ISA Certified Municipal Specialist (2013)

Qualifications and Recognition:

  • ISA TRAQ Qualified (2015)
  • Midwest Institute of Park Executives
  • Associate Member of the Year (2012 & 2019)
STEVE LANE

STEVE LANE

Principal, Director of Urban Forestry Operations

Steve has been instrumental in building Great Lakes Urban Forestry Management, bringing his unique technology and arboricultural knowledge to our team. He plays a role as our innovator, always bringing new technological solutions and best practices to our company and our clients. He is an accomplished public speaker, having spoken on the global stage at the International Society of Arboriculture Annual Conference, and the ESRI User’s Conference. Steve also teaches advanced training courses for the Illinois Arborist Association.

Years in the tree care industry:

  • 15

Education:

  • University of Oregon (2004),
  • Environmental Science, Geography
  • Elmhurst College (2012) GIS Certificate

Certifications:

  • ISA Certified Arborist (2006). Lic #IL 4565 – A

Qualifications and Recognition:

  • ISA TRAQ Qualified (2015)
  • Illinois Arborist Association (IAA)
  • Commercial Chair, President Elect
Jim Semelka

Jim Semelka

Consulting Municipal Forester

Jim began his career in urban forestry in 1976 after graduating from Southern Illinois University with a degree in Forest Resource Management. After two years in private industry, Jim went to work for the forestry department in the Village of Oak Park, IL, where he worked his way up to become the Village Forester for 16 years, where he was responsible for more than 18,000 trees. Jim then spent 8 years as the Village Forester of La Grange, IL. Jim has also been very active in the industry serving as President of the Illinois Arborist Association, and the Suburban Tree Consortium, among many other professional organizations. After retiring from the public sector, Jim came to work with us in 2016.

Years in the tree care industry:

  • 44

Education:

  • Southern Illinois University (1976) Forest Resource Management

Certifications:

  • ISA Certified Arborist (1983). Lic #IL 0745-AM
  • ISA Certified Municipal Specialist (2012)

Qualifications and Recognition:

  • ISA TRAQ Qualified (2017)
  • Illinois Arborist Association Past President, and Past Municipal Chair
  • Illinois Arborist Association Special Recognition Award (2013)
  • Suburban Tree Consortium Past President
Jon Carlson

Jon Carlson

Tree Risk Management Consultant - ISA Cert #IL 1135 A

Leslie Delles

Leslie Delles

Forestry Survey Crew Leader/GIS Data Analyst - ISA Cert # IL 9199 A

Cherry Countryman

Cherry Countryman

Forestry Survey Technician

Sarah Duple

Sarah Duple

Forestry Survey Technician

Zac King

Zac King

Master Arborist ISA Cert # IL 4615 BCMA

Nate Stelter

Nate Stelter

Forestry Survey Technician - ISA Cert # IL 9762 A

Todd White

Todd White

Forestry Survey Technician - ISA Cert # IL 1244 A