Krish and Raghav Kumar, BTP volunteers, professionally photographed by Phil Formby for WT's Tree Equity.

Urban Forest Volunteers

Do you already know about us?

BTP, made up of urban forest volunteers, are a fully constituted Community Interest Company. We organise and oversee the Urban Forestry Volunteer Scheme in the city. It was originally set up as part of the Tree Council’s Tree Warden Scheme by Birmingham City Council’s Tree Officers in 2016, and is now one of the largest of its kind in the UK.

Our volunteers being interviewed by Woodland Trust

Volunteer Categories

Two urban forest volunteers, smiling whilst measuring the height of a tree.

People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons. For some it offers the chance to give something back to their community or make a difference to the people around them. For others it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge.

We don’t charge a membership fee for any categories, but we do distinguish between our volunteers and paid staff to provide support services. Broadly, there are two categories of BTP membership:

Street tree surveying in Nechells, 07/04/24

> Contracted staff 
> Contractors on an occasional basis
> Freelance consultants on retainer

> Occasional or part-time volunteers
> Urban Forest Volunteer
> Specialist Urban Forest Volunteer

Occasional Volunteer

This category doesn’t have specific requirements, and is suitable for those who attend occasional events like our training or planting, to further a specific goal.

Registration is required when attending a BTP event, but wouldn’t trigger the General Data Protection Regulation.

Volunteer planting: man's legs in red tousers on the left with a wheelbarrow, man of the right in all green mulching the base of the newly-planted tree.

This category also includes corporate volunteers attending and supporting events, as part of a social inclusion arrangement with their employers.

Urban Forest Volunteer

The range of urban forest volunteer activities includes:

Championing trees in your local community

Providing early warning of threats, disease, decay, or vandalism

Meeting with like-minded people for training and field trips

Managing and developing the friends’ tree trails

Recommending trees for protection under Tree Preservation Orders to your local authority

Planting and caring for trees

Assisting in the management of local parks and woods

Working with local groups and schools

Developing imaginative initiatives, such as tree adoption, encouraging the community to value trees

Undertaking street tree surveys, to determine how well newly-planted trees are doing in the city

See the blog reel below, from Shade of the Canopy, to get an idea of what our trustees, staff, and urban forest volunteers have been up to:

  • Bartley Green Street Tree Survey
    Nina Griffiths was out with her team of tree surveyors on Tuesday 18th June, where there were five interactions with Bartley Green residents, talking about our survey and what we do at Birmingham TreePeople! 29 trees were surveyed in the… Read more: Bartley Green Street Tree Survey
  • Tree People Network Day
    What would a green network of tree people around our city look like? On the 12th June 2024, many tree people from organisations all over the country came to find out. Trees for Cities, in partnership with us at Birmingham… Read more: Tree People Network Day
  • UK Tree Cities Forum
    The first UK Tree Cities Forum took place on the 11th June 2024 in the University of Birmingham’s The Exchange, seeing a menagerie of expert speakers take to the podium to discuss The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United… Read more: UK Tree Cities Forum

Requirements of an Urban Forest Volunteer

For us to register you as one of our Volunteers, you must have attended an induction session run by BTP. We have to store your contact details for our insurance purposes, that’s why enrollment form (below) agreement must be filled in and signed. You’ll be asked to attend a minimum of one BTP training session every 6 months, and support at least one organised tree event every 12 months.

The Do’s and Don’ts

Always remember: whilst all volunteers are valued volunteers, Urban Forest Volunteers are not (in most cases) qualified tree experts, and do not have special authority or jurisdiction. Please see the drop-down below on how to stay safe:

Appendix: Keeping Yourself Safe

As an urban forest volunteer, you should NEVER: 
• Enter private land without the owner’s agreement, even if this is to carry out simple tree maintenance activities such as removing tree ties or carrying out hedgerow or tree surveys.
• Advise whether a tree is safe: if it falls you would be liable, and you are not insured for this. This is the role of a professional arborist/tree officer.
• Undertake practical work without appropriate training and permissions or outside your physical ability.
• Attempt to handle tree disputes yourself or antagonise situations, trees can be an emotive subject and there are many reasons why people may not like trees just as there are many reasons why Tree Wardens love trees! Remember this is the local community in which you live so act reasonably and be willing to listen and compromise. If in doubt, refer to your local authority Tree Officer.
• Carry out chemical weed control without having completed the certificated training.
• Use a chainsaw without having completed the certificated training or without insurance.
• Carry out work on trees that could result in the disturbance of or destruction of wildlife during their breeding/nesting season.
• Bring your Volunteer Network, Birmingham TreePeople, into disrepute.

The Role of a Volunteer

The Volunteer Scheme gives people who feel that trees matter an opportunity to champion their local trees and woods, by carrying out or encouraging practical projects and involving their neighbours, as a central part of the scheme.

Urban forest volunteers work closely with local authority officers and conservation bodies, who are fundamental to the scheme’s success. This can include coordinating local events, offering practical advice, and providing training.

Specialist Urban Forest Volunteer

The requirements for Specialist are the same as for urban forest volunteer with additional training. The range of Urban Forest Specialist activities might include:

Working with your tree officer to provide comment on applications for works to trees subject to a Tree Preservation Order or in Conservation Areas

Surveying trees and gathering information about them

Setting up tree nurseries using seeds collected locally

Any other qualified-level work beyond basic

Leading guided tree walks and giving talks to local groups

Structural pruning of newly planted trees and young tree maintenance tasks, like stake/tie removal, mulching, watering, etc.

Liaising with your Tree Officer about proposed developments that impact trees and monitoring development sites to ensure the tree protection measures are adhered to

Urban Forest Volunteer Training

The training requirements are delivered by BTP, and are included as modules in our monthly training.

BTP provides a paid L2 Arboriculture course that further builds on the free training. If volunteers would like to go the extra mile.

Six recipients holding their L2 Arboriculture awards

It is hoped volunteers in this category would seek to get involved with the BTP committee. Follow this link to read more about the first graduation of Level 2 Arb students with BTP.

Convinced? Sign up below, or download the form here:

Urban Forest Volunteer Application Form

If you’d like to become a volunteer, please complete this form.

Please provide your email address as the primary form of contact.
Please write your mobile or home phone number.
Please tell us your age or indicate a range.
Please specify your sex/gender and how you identify.
Please specify your ethnicity and/or nationality.
Please choose one or more from the following options (hold down control to multi-select).
Please write your relevant experience and qualifications here. If not, please write N/A.
Please tell us why you’re joining BTP as an urban forest volunteer. If you have a reason not listed, please write it in the additional comments box.
We will have insurance to cover you when you are taking part in BTP activities, but if you have any key health issues or disability we should be aware of, please write them below. If not, please write N/A.
Please provide us with contact name we can get in touch with in case of an emergency.
Please provide us with contact number we can get in touch with in case of an emergency.
Please let us know how you found BTP, whether it’s through social media, from a friend, our website, flyers, or something else (please specify).
If you have anything else you’d like to say/ask, like additional interests or activities not previously listed, please let us know here.
BTP collects information about our urban forest volunteers, so we can add you to our mailing list to contact you about training, events, and our newsletters. It also means we can ensure your safety during volunteer activities. This information is stored securely by the BTP Committee Secretary, and the privacy policy statement can be found below. When you terminate your volunteer status, all information held will be destroyed securely. If you agree to these terms, please write your full name in the box below.

Please see below our privacy policy statement, explaining why and how we store and use the information we gather from our urban forest volunteers.