THE ILLINOIS BIG TREE REGISTER is more than just the relentless pursuit of the biggest native trees in the state. In reality, it is a forestry and natural resource awareness campaign to bring trees, nature, and people together in a fun, interactive, competitive, and exciting environment. Inspired by American Forests’ National Register of Big Trees, the Illinois Department of Conservation — now the Illinois Department of Natural Resources — initiated the Illinois Big Tree Register in 1962. Nearly 45 years later, with over 123 native trees listed on the 2007 Register, the Illinois Big Tree Program is still going strong.

In January 2006, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) transferred the administration and maintenance of the Illinois Big Tree Program to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While the university maintains the traditions set forth by the original program, it added an innovative Web site and initiated a volunteer network of citizen Big Tree inspectors who will certify the influx of new Big Tree nominations. These newly certified Big Tree inspectors will be vital to a new campaign of remeasuring and recertifying champion trees every 10 years. Beginning last fall, the University of Illinois, the Illinois Big Tree Register, and their partners launched an initiative to sponsor volunteer Big Tree inspector workshops throughout the state to promote the Illinois Big Tree Program, build a network of certified inspectors across all 102 counties, and educate the public about natural re- sources, forestry, and trees.

Also new to the Illinois Big Tree Register is a series of volunteer committees to help guide and invigorate the program in a bold new direction, along with creating new partnerships and opportunities. Please contact the Illinois Big Tree Program coordinator, Jay C. Hayek, to find out how you or your organization can become involved. To view the complete list of Illinois champion trees, or to nominate a tree for champion status, please visit the Illinois Big Tree Register’s Website.

Jay C. Hayek is an Extension forester in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He can be contacted at jhayek@uiuc.edu.