Conservation and Policy Council


The Conservation and Policy Council advises the President, Board of Commissioners and General Superintendent on specific steps to implement the Next Century Conservation Plan’s vision of a vibrant, ecologically healthy and welcoming forest preserves system.


In addition, the Council develops and annually updates a strategic plan to operationalize the Next Century Conservation Plan, as well as reviewing and making recommendations for the annual budget, conservation policies and practices and long-term strategic issues.


The current council was appointed on November 18, 2014.


Wendy Paulson (Council Chair)

Chairman, Bobolink Foundation


Expertise: Conservation, Education/Interpretation, Volunteer Management


Wendy Paulson holds numerous leadership positions within the local and international conservation communities.  She is Chairman of the Bobolink Foundation, which supports conservation efforts.  Additionally, Wendy holds or has held leadership positions with Rare, the Student Conservation Association, the National Forum on Children & Nature, the American Bird Conservancy, BirdLife International/Audubon U.S. and the Illinois, New York and National boards of the The Nature Conservancy.  Locally, Wendy served as co-chair of the Next Century Plan Commission, Director of Education at Citizens for Conservation in Barrington and is on the board of Openlands and the Field Museum’s Science Action committee.  A long-time educator, Wendy has taught public school in Boston, New York and Barrington, Illinois, as well as at the Potomac School in Virginia.  She serves as education associate at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, has written a nature activity series for children and edited a conservation newsletter for many years.  Wendy is a longtime participant in prairie and savanna restoration, and has been leading bird walks for more than thirty years.


Robert Castaneda

Executive Director, Beyond the Ball


Expertise: Outdoor Recreation, Health and Wellness


Robert Castaneda is the executive director and co-founder, along with his wife Amy, of Beyond the Ball. Beyond the Ball is a nonprofit organization that uses the power of sport to change lives, give hope, reclaim space and create a culture of opportunities for youth and families in Chicago. Based in the Little Village neighborhood, Beyond the Ball not only develops youth through sport and play, but also develops the community. The organization was chosen from among more than 400 entries from over 120 countries to be honored with the “Most Courageous Use of Sport” Award at the 2010 Beyond Sport Summit. Castaneda has shared his expertise at international events, such as One Young World in Zurich, Switzerland, and Beyond Sport United at Yankee Stadium. In 2010, the Castanedas were honored with the Private Bank Norman Bobins Leadership Award at the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards.


Michael DeSantiago

President, Primera Engineers


Expertise: Conservation; Management/Business; Working Knowledge of the CBG, Brookfield Zoo, and Other Culturally Significant Institutions


Michael DeSantiago is the President of Primera Engineers. He has more than 30 years of experience in the practice of sustainable design and energy management and has a life-long interest in conservation and sustainability. He is also a LEED Accredited Professional. In addition to designing environmentally responsible and budget-compliant solutions he is also actively engaged with local and national code-writing bodies and regularly contributes to the industry’s professional organizations. He also participates in promoting engineering as a profession to children and young adults from communities that are under-represented in the profession through his involvement with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago and several other programs. He is also a trustee of the Conservation and Education Committee and a member of the Planning and Facilities committee at the Chicago Zoological Society. He is the President of the American Council of Mechanical & Electrical engineers and has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards related to engineering design, community development, and diversity leadership.


Peter Ellis

Partner, ReedSmith LLP


Expertise: Management/Business; Working Knowledge of the CBG, Brookfield Zoo, and Other Culturally Significant Institutions


Peter Ellis is a Partner at ReedSmith LLP with a focus on business and commercial litigation with a specialty in franchising and distribution law. He has been an active member of the Board of Directors of the Chicago Botanic Garden since 2006. He has served on several committees and currently serves as Board secretary as well as a member of the Board’s Executive, Nominating and Governance, and Science and Education Committees. He is also a member of the Juvenile Justice Leadership Council, on the Board of the Harris Theater of Music and Dance, a Fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago and is actively involved with other legal and civic organizations.


Terry Guen, FASLA

President, Terry Guen Design Associates


Expertise: Conservation


Terry Guen is President and Principal at Terry Guen Design Associates, Inc.  Her Chicago based practice focuses on integrating ecological outdoor environments within public design, to create public spaces which can be publically accessible, aesthetic and environmentally successful.


Terry is Landscape Architect for Millennium Park, and 63rd Street Beach at Jackson Park, as well as local-landscape architect for Navy Pier, Maggie Daley Park, and the Lurie Garden.   Projects include public open space Master Planning and Design for the Hudson River Park, NY, NY, Charles River Basin for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (MDC), the F&G Streets Retail District, Washington, DC.

Her projects have won awards from the American Institute of Architects, Chicago Building Congress, US EPA, Midwest Construction, Friends of the Chicago River, among others.   Terry is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, served on the Next Century Plan Commission, is Expert, Member of the US Federal Advisory Council for Historic Preservation.


Sylvia M. Jenkins, Ph.D.

President, Moraine Valley Community College


Expertise:  Education/Interpretation


Dr. Sylvia M. Jenkins is the President of Moraine Valley Community College. She began her involvement with Moraine Valley Community College in library science, twice receiving Master Teacher of the Year honors for incorporating technology into her teaching. Dr. Jenkins also served as Dean of Academic Development and Learning Resources and Vice President of Academic Affairs before being elected as the College’s fifth president in 2012. She has received the Innovator of the Year Award and the Vernon O. Crawley Leadership Award from the college, and has chaired its reaccreditation Systems Portfolio team, Strategic Technology Planning team, and Diversity and Leadership task group. Dr. Jenkins has been appointed to serve on numerous boards and committees, including Congresswoman Robin Kelly’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Council, the Chicago-Cook County Workforce Investment Board, the Northeast Illinois Transit Task Force and the Cook County Forest Preserve District’s Next Century Plan Commission.


Falona Joy

President, SNP Strategies


Expertise: Cultural Resources, Management/Business, Finance


Falona Joy is the President of SNP Strategies – a consulting firm that helps to build the vitality of non-profit institutions and increase the abilities of non-profit leaders to achieve their visions. She was a Vice President of The Alford Group – a national consultancy also focused on the not-for-profit sector. Her clients have included Chicago Metropolis 2020, the Museum of Science and Industry, the DuSable Museum and many others. She was the founding Executive Director of the National Park Foundation’s African American Experience Fund (AAEF), where she developed a leadership team, grants program, and philanthropic support to help the National Park Service effectively reach diverse constituencies. Falona developed her passion for the non-profit sector when she led delegations to the United Nations in Geneva to address issues of human rights for minority populations. Falona is a board member of the Chicago History Museum, a Committee member of the African Women’s Development Fund and an Officer of the Illinois Humanities Council.


Linda Mastandrea



Expertise: Outdoor Recreation, Public Policy


Linda Mastandrea is an attorney with a practice concentrated in disability law and civil rights including the areas of employment, public accommodations, public programs and services, emergency management and disaster preparedness and education. Linda has represented the United States at two Paralympic Games, two World Championships and the Pan American Games winning 15 gold and 5 silver medals in wheelchair athletics, setting numerous national, world and Paralympic records. She co-authored “Sports and the Physically Challenged: An Encyclopedia of People, Events and Organizations.” She was the first female Paralympic athlete inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame and the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame. Linda was named one of Crain’s Chicago Business Forty Under 40 and was a recipient of the International Olympic Committee President’s Disabled Athlete Award. Linda has presented to nationwide audiences on the ADA, sports and recreation, and disability rights issues.  She serves on the AT&T Advisory Panel on Access and Aging, was appointed to the City of Chicago’s Building Board of Appeals in 2007, and currently chairs the International Paralympic Committee Legal and Ethics Committee. She is also Chairperson of Variety–the Children’s Charity of Illinois and sits on the boards of World Sport Chicago and the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.


Laurel Ross

Former Director of Urban Conservation, Field Museum


Expertise: Conservation, Ecology, Volunteer Management, Cultural Resources


Laurel Ross has served in numerous leadership positions within the conservation community of Chicago, demonstrating a tremendous commitment to conserving the native environment of Illinois. Laurel was the Director of Urban Conservation for the Field Museum from 2004 to 2014. In this role, she developed and oversaw programs that connected people to nature through environmental education, habitat restoration and collaboration between related environmental and cultural organizations. She has also served as Chair of Chicago Wilderness, Director of Conservation Programs for the Illinois Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and Director of the North Park Village Nature Center. Laurel has many years of experience as a committed volunteer and leader in environmental stewardship through the Volunteer Stewardship Network of Illinois.


Mark N. Templeton

Director, Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago


Expertise: Conservation, Finance, Management/Business, High Level Government Experience


Mark N. Templeton has an extensive background in government finance and strategic planning with a demonstrated focus on environmental issues. He currently serves a Director of the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago. Prior to this role, Templeton was Executive Director of the Office of Independent Trustees for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust, where he helped ensure that the $20 billion pledged by BP was available to address claims of affected individuals. He also served in the cabinet of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon as Director of the Department of Natural Resources, where he managed approximately 1759 employees, oversaw approximately $300 million annual budget, oversaw Missouri State Parks and directed allocation of approximately $350 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. Additionally, Templeton was Associate Dean and COO at Yale Law School, developed strategies for environmental sustainability at McKinsey & Company and was and senior adviser to the U.S. Delegation to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

Visit two of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County