By Forest Preserve District Board President Toni Preckwinkle
It takes a lot of resources to ensure that 68,000 acres of some of the nation’s most biologically rich natural areas remain protected for future generations.
Luckily, the Forest Preserve has a network of committed partners who share our passion for protecting habitat, offering quality education and outreach programming, and increasing compatible outdoor recreation opportunities.
We also actively pursue grants from federal and state agencies. These grants provide us with the support we need to tackle ambitious projects that ensure the health of our public lands. This year alone, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County has raised $4,424,800.00 in grants to support land acquisition, trail development, restoration of natural areas and community outreach. Our partners, including the Field Museum, Friends of the Forest Preserves, Friends of the Chicago River, Openlands and Audubon Chicago Region, have secured an additional $1.8 million from private foundations, donors and other government agencies for their research, volunteer and restoration activities on our property.
Here’s a look at a few recent highlights. In July, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) Program awarded $502,000 for the acquisition of the Hickory Lane Buffer at Wolf Road Prairie. Wolf Road Prairie is one of only eight major prairie preserves in the state and is home to a remarkable collection of plants and animals. This acquisition will protect the prairie from the pressures of neighboring development.
In September, the Restore and Connect Natural and Human Communities in the Calumet, received $350,000 from US Fish and Wildlife Service; Great Lakes Regional Initiative Great Lakes Coastal Program. As part of this project, we’ll restore more than 160 acres of diverse coastal ecosystems in the Calumet Region at Jurgensen Woods, Green Lake Savanna, and Sand Ridge Nature Preserve, a dedicated Illinois nature preserve that boasts a rich array of plants and consists of high quality sand prairie, black oak savanna and marsh swales.
We’ll also hire outreach coordinators, who will be trained in restoration techniques and bird and plant identification, to connect the local community with conservation activities in the forest preserves of southeastern Cook County.
And, earlier this year, the Urban and Community Forestry Program of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (managed by the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus) awarded $40,000 to conduct tree plantings at sites that have lost ash trees due to an infestation of the emerald ash borer, a continued threat to trees in our region.
With more than $50,000,000 in grant funding supporting current active projects throughout the District, we are leveraging all of the resources available to ensure that our lands remain among the best in the country.