In 1914, environmental visionaries in Cook County created the first forest preserve in the nation, with a mission
“to acquire, restore and manage lands for the purpose of protecting and preserving public open space with its natural wonders, significant prairies, forests, wetlands, rivers, streams, and other landscapes with all of its associated wildlife, in a natural state for the education, pleasure and recreation of the public now and in the future.”
The Forest Preserve District of Cook County, with more than 68,000-acres, is the largest forest preserve district in the United States. It receives an estimated 40 million visits each year, providing an escape into a world teeming with wildlife and rich with outdoor recreation and environmental education opportunities. Within its boundaries are rare habitats that offer plant and animal diversity on par with the rainforests of the world. This natural heritage offers something for everyone:
- Oak woodlands and savannas
- Tallgrass prairies
- Native wetlands
- Migratory fly-ways that afford spectacular birding
- 22 dedicated nature preserves
- 40 managed lakes and ponds
- 7 major waterways that can be canoed or kayaked and offer glimpses of waterflow and shorebirds
- 300 miles of marked trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and cross country skiing
- Scenic spots for painting, photography or quiet reflection
Environmental education programming for all ages is offered at Six (6) nature centers and thousands of children visit the forest preserves each year through Mighty Acorns and the Preserve Keeper Corp Teens program. Citizen scientists engage in a wide variety of plant and animal monitoring programs in collaboration with our staff.
Recreational opportunities abound as well with:
The District is committed to expanding public participation and to improving environmental management through the following initiatives:
We are expanding youth outreach programming to raise a new generation of environmentally-savvy students.
We are creating a culture of collaborative accomplishment, thus expanding our capacity for ecological restoration and implementation of education and outdoor recreation programs.
We are committed to increasing resources for scientific research. More than 20-years ago the District became the first agency in a major metropolitan area to monitor urban wildlife that carries West Nile, Lyme disease, rabies, and avian influenza. As a result the District’s Wildlife Research Center now has a world renowned data set utilized by the Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health and many universities.
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