Forest Preserves of Cook County Set a New Course

January 30, 2014

On January 24, Forest Preserves of Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle formally accepted the Next Century Conservation Plan for the Forest Preserves of Cook County created by a commission of business and civic leaders. Openlands and Metropolis Strategies provided staff leadership and direction for the commission. Openlands board member Wendy Paulson served as one of the commission's co-chairs.

This ambitious plan lays out a set of bold actions to make Cook County a national leader in urban conservation. It highlights the preserves as one of the region’s greatest assets for the environment, the economy, and quality of life, but suggests that its fragile native ecosystems are at risk. The plan calls for the County to make a massive commitment to restoration, expand protected lands by at least 30%, and to make the preserves more accessible to the diverse people of Cook County.

Praising the plan, the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board wrote, “In short, it’s all about reclaiming the legacy of protecting land in a natural state. It’s exactly what the forest preserves have needed for years...The district should continue to pursue land donations, partnerships with groups such as Openlands and other tactics to meet its goals.”

As she accepted the plan, President Preckwinkle highlighted her commitment to expand the preserves, create a permanent Conservation Corps, and engage more volunteers. On February 18, she will introduce the plan to the Board of Commissioners of the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

The audience for the January 24 launch included members of the conservation groups that advised the Next Century Plan Commission, and representatives of health care, child welfare, social service, economic development, and educational institutions that provided expertise and input.

The plan was created by a blue-ribbon commission of local leaders appointed by Preckwinkle in 2013 as part of the Forest Preserves’ centennial anniversary celebration. The commission was co-chaired by John McCarter, Wendy Paulson, Arthur R. Velasquez, and  Dr. Eric E. Whitaker.

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