Openlands Lakeshore Preserve Becomes Illinois Nature Preserve

May 9, 2013

On May 7, the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission (INPC) designated the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve as an Illinois Nature Preserve. This is the highest level of protection in the state and will permanently protect the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve for the benefit of all.

INPC and Openlands were both founded in 1963, a period of concentrated environmental advocacy and growth in the conservation movement. With compatible missions of assisting landowners in protecting high-quality natural areas and connecting people to nature where they live, their collective work has been well-matched from the onset. In the intervening 50 years, they have contributed expertise, protected treasured landscapes, and shared the same people who care so deeply about conservation.

The designation of the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve is long in the making. Nearly from Openlands' founding in 1963, the organization's Board of Directors recognized that Fort Sheridan was a unique opportunity to acquire land along Lake Michigan for the public’s use and enjoyment. In 1991, an Illinois Natural Areas Inventory survey found a large number of endangered and threatened species on a bluff section of Fort Sheridan, further making the case for the area's potential as an Illinois Nature Preserve. In 2004, Congress passed legislation, sponsored by then-U.S. Congressman Mark Kirk, authorizing the Navy to transfer the land at the southern end of Fort Sheridan to a nonprofit organization, which paved the way for Openlands to eventually acquire more than a mile of the site's shoreline, bluff, and ravine in 2006. This was a huge milestone in finalizing a decades-long effort to preserve Fort Sheridan's unique ecology as a nature preserve.

“We take incredible pride in having created and preserved the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, restoring it to a state that now merits nature preserve status – the highest level of protection in the state of Illinois,” Jill Allread, Openlands Board Chair and former INPC Board Chair, said.

On May 6, Openlands led a tour of the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve to the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission. This year, both organizations celebrate 50 years of conservation work.

We hope you will enjoy the Preserve's winding trails, dramatic views, and cozy ravines as spring finally unfolds.

Read more about the history of the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve site on our blog.

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