by Forest Preserves President Toni Preckwinkle   This spring, the Forest Preserves of Cook County is heralding a new beginning. As part of our centennial celebration, a special commission of civic leaders presented the Forest Preserves with a renewed vision for the future: the Next Century Conservation Plan.

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Volunteer Spotlight

Winter Workdays   Most people assume that when the temperature drops and the snow falls, habitat restoration volunteers pack up their tools and stay home on the couch, binging on episodes of Downton Abbey and House of Cards while waiting for spring. But that’s not the case.   Winter is actually a very busy time for habitat restoration. Volunteers are out in force, focused on cutting invasive brush that’s poised to crowd out the native plant community when it warms up again.

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Try This!

Snowshoeing   Cultures living in cold climates have relied on snowshoes for millennia. This oversized footwear can mean the difference between slogging through drifts up to your knees and floating above the fray, one with the elements.   This snowy winter we’ve been having is the perfect opportunity to try out snowshoes yourself. Today’s models aren’t your grandpa’s snowshoes. You can borrow a pair for free at the following nature centers, then head off on the nature center trails for a day of fun. Try it today!

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Did You Know?

  Snow Fleas: Unexpected life in the frozen forest by Brian Winters   Signs of life in the winter woods are easy to find. Squirrels scurry ceaselessly and birds mob the feeders. Tracks in the snow reveal mammals large and small. But while winter halts the visible activity of most insects and spiders, visit your local preserve on a sunny winter day and you may encounter the hardy little snow flea.   Look around the bases of trees, often where the snow has begun to melt. If you see what looks like pepper sprinkled all over the snow, look more closely—you may just be looking at snow fleas.

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Your Wild Animal Stories

We asked for your best sightings, and here’s what you shared   What is the most amazing, unusual or memorable thing you’ve ever witnessed a wild animal do in the forest preserves?  We asked Forest Preserve staff and our Facebook community, and you had some wild stories, mostly about birds and mammals, and many involving animals caught in the act of eating one another. A lot of stories came from our naturalists, who spend the better part of each day in the preserves.   What’s clear is that there’s a lot of cool stuff happening out there, and you can see it if you’re observant and lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

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