INFOGRAPHIC: Growing the Forest Preserves

The Forest Preserves of Cook County just acquired a 397-acre equestrian estate in Barrington Hills known as Horizon Farms, putting us at 69,123 acres. It’s the single largest tract purchased by the Forest Preserves in a single transaction since 1968, and we’re very excited about it.   Check out this infographic for more facts about the growth of the Forest Preserves over the past century.

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VIDEO: Conserving Nature for the Next 100 Years

  In February, the Forest Preserves of Cook County and the Center for Humans and Nature held a “Conserving Nature for the Next 100 Years” event to explore thought-provoking questions and offer ideas critical to the future of our urban wilderness.

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Back from the Brink

A special photography exhibit at Crabtree Nature Center highlights birds that almost didn't make it.   Crabtree Nature Center is proud to host local photographer Arlene Koziol's beautiful "Back from the Brink" exhibit. Arlene's work showcases birds that were almost extinct due to plume hunting, DDT use or habitat loss and who have rebounded thanks to awareness and legislative changes. These gorgeous works will be on display until May 15.  

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Helping a Rare Shrub

From a single plant, ecologists work to renew streamside population   A rare white flower will soon begin to bloom, and thanks to collaborative efforts by the Forest Preserves and the Chicago Botanic Garden, you now stand a better chance of seeing it.   The flower belongs to shadbush (Amelanchier interior, also known as inland shadblow), which grows as a shrub or small tree in woodlands along stream banks in our forest preserves. Named for an eastern fish (shad) that returns to spawning grounds when the plant is in bloom, this magnificent species has become rare due to habitat loss and degradation, so much so that it is listed as threatened in Illinois.

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Internships cultivate conservation

by Forest Preserves President Toni Preckwinkle   Most of us think of the Forest Preserves as a place for discovery, exercise and rejuvenation. But the Forest Preserves provides many other resources to Cook County residents. Some are not obvious to the general public, yet provide direct and long-lasting community benefits. Our paid internship program is a prime example.   The Forest Preserves funds more than 30 paid internships each year, both directly and through partners. Through our diverse programs, Cook County residents—students, young professionals and career changers—can develop critical professional and life skills.   Several intern positions are now open, many with applications due in early to mid-April, and more to come.

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Did You Know? That hopeful little blue flower in suburban neighborhoods is Siberian squill

One of the early spring flowers to gladden the hearts of Cook County residents is Siberian squill, Scilla sibirica. Its small, blue, six-parted flowers blanket many shaded suburban yards throughout April, particularly in areas of open soil without competition from other plants.   Introduced from Europe and Asia, this short, fragrant plant can be found at a low level in Cook County forest preserves such as Chicago’s Dan Ryan Woods. It’s common on sites where old homes once stood. Though Siberian squill is common in Cook County, ours is one of only a few Illinois counties where it occurs.   According to Forest Preserve ecologists, squill doesn’t tend to spread aggressively. In Perkins Woods in Evanston, the plant has spread into areas where garlic mustard, a truly aggressive nonnative plant, has been removed. But in most places where it grows, it’s a quiet, well-behaved and bright touch to April in the suburbs.

Try This: Cast your line for trout

Trout fishing returns to the Forest Preserves of Cook County   Although not native to our region, rainbow trout are favored by anglers for their bright color and moist, flaky meat. With the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Forest Preserves stocks four lakes with more than 3700 pounds of trout each spring and fall. This spring’s stocked lakes are Axehead Lake in Park Ridge, Belleau Lake in Des Plaines, Green Lake in Calumet City, and special this year, Horsetail Lake in Palos Park. The spring season opens at dawn on April 5—so get ready to cast a line!   Learn more about spring stocking here, and check out our Fishing Guide for more on fishing in the Forest Preserves.

A Centennial Call to Action

By Forest Preserves of Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle   This February the Forest Preserves’ Board of Commissioners approved the Next Century Conservation Plan, a bold path for our next 100 years. One of the plan’s exciting first initiatives is already underway.   The Chi-Cal Rivers Centennial Initiative will recruit 6,000 volunteers to work on five large restoration projects -- three along the North Branch of the Chicago River and two along the Little Calumet River.

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Winter Fish Kills Possible

Due to the severe weather of the past few months, our fisheries staff is reporting that "winter fish kills" may be possible at some Forest Preserve lakes and ponds. These kills are caused by heavy snow cover over thick ice, blocking sunlight from penetrating the water. The lack of light prevents the aquatic plants in the lake from producing oxygen. Reduced levels of dissolved oxygen in the water could result in the suffocation and death of fish. As the ice melts, the fish become more noticeable at the surface and along shorelines.

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Did You Know?

The “shamrock” is alive and well in Cook County.   If you’ve so much as opened your eyes in the days leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll be familiar with the shamrock, that iconic bright green trio of leaflets that symbolizes the Irish celebration. It’s said that St. Patrick used the plant to illustrate the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity back in the 5th century.

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This window into the preserves of yesteryear offers great winter reading   For some twenty years—between 1945 and 1964—the Forest Preserve District issued weekly bulletins about the natural history of Cook County. Written by staff, the bulletins went out to classrooms across the county. Revised editions were reissued until 1980. Today they offer a fascinating window into Cook County nature and the Forest Preserves of yesteryear.

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Police seeking volunteers to make preserves even more welcoming   We need your help! The Forest Preserves is seeking new volunteers to join our Trail Watch program. Become additional eyes and ears for our Law Enforcement Department, and help us keep the preserves safe, healthy and attractive for all our users. Just by going out and enjoying the forest preserves, you can be a visible presence to help make our preserves even more welcoming.

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