The Forest Preserve Enabling Act of 1913, charged the district to restore, restock, protect and preserve lands together with their flora and fauna for the education, pleasure, and recreation of the public.


“The most precious things of life are near at hand.”

John Burroughs, Naturalist


Fire and ice shaped our landscape over the past 12,000 years. When European settlers arrived in what is now Cook County they found a landscape still experiencing dynamic change. Native Americans helped shaped their environment, most notably by use of fire. The pace of change increased dramatically after 1700, first by hunting and fur trapping, then farming, and finally urbanization.


After almost 200 years of intensive human settlement, most of Cook County’s original prairies, wetlands, woodlands and forests are now limited to protected preserves. Unfortunately, even in preserves, the native animals, plants, and even whole ecosystems face threats to their survival. Pollution, habitat loss, changes in hydrology, lack of periodic fire, and intense competition take a toll. Survival of many of our native species depends on positive action we take now, before it is too late.


It is impossible to duplicate the environmental processes that worked over thousands of acres and decades of time in the fragments we have so fortunately preserved today. Ecosystem management is an adaptive process. Ecologists identify highest priorities for preservation and restoration and prescribe techniques that have the best chance of maintaining existing biodiversity and enhancing more degraded sites.


The Forest Preserve District of Cook County accepts the challenge of preserving biodiversity and protecting our precious natural heritage. Working together with both citizen volunteers and public and private agencies, the District strives to protect and restore the county’s diverse ecosystems, so all our unique native plants and animals can live and thrive.

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