Connecting people in the region to nature where they live

Founded in 1963 as a program of the Welfare Council of Metropolitan Chicago, Openlands is one of the oldest metropolitan conservation organizations in the nation and the only such group with a regional scope. Openlands has helped protect more than 55,000 acres of land for public parks and forest preserves, wildlife refuges, land and water greenway corridors, urban farms, and community gardens.


Openlands protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives.


Openlands’ vision for the region is a landscape that includes a vast network of land and water trails, tree-lined streets, and intimate public gardens within easy reach of every city dweller. It also includes parks and preserves big enough to provide natural habitat and to give visitors a sense of the vast prairies, woodlands, and wetlands that were here before the cities. In sum, Openlands believes that protected open space is critical for the quality of life of our region.

Openlands History

Since our founding in 1963, Openlands has remained committed to urban conservation in the greater Chicago region. Openlands’ emphasis on people, places, and policy is the framework and driving factor of the organization.


Job descriptions, internships, and application instructions are posted on this page as they become available.

2018-2022 Strategic Plan

In 2017 Openlands completed a strategic plan to guide our work in communities and across our region. Learn more about the steps we’re taking to implement our ambitious new plan.

Accountability & Impact

Openlands is a registered 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization. We are grateful to the many donors, partners, and supporters of Openlands’ mission.