Conservation & Policy Council

Conservation & Policy Council and others posing for a photo outside.
Front row: Terry Guen, Laurel Ross, Peter Ellis. Back row: Commissioner Larry Suffredin, Wendy Paulson, Michael DeSantiago, Sylvia Jenkins, Mark Templeton, Emily Harris, Arnold Randal, Commissioner Stanely Moore. Not pictured: Rob Castaneda.

Created in 2014, the Conservation and Policy Council advises on specific steps to implement the Next Century Conservation Plan’s vision of a vibrant, ecologically healthy and welcoming forest preserves system.

On this page:

Plans & Recommendations

The Conservation and Policy Council advises the President, Board of Commissioners and General Superintendent and develops and annually updates a strategic plan to operationalize the Next Century Conservation Plan, as well as reviewing and making recommendations for the annual budget, conservation policies and practices and long-term strategic issues.

Position Papers

Each of these position papers outlines a set of principles and recommendations about a key issue that faces the Forest Preserves today and in the foreseeable future. It is our intention that these papers will set clear guidelines for the actions and direction of the Forest Preserves staff, its Board of Commissioners, and its partners and supporters.


Conservation and Policy Council meetings are open to the public.


Wendy Paulson (Council Chair)

  • Chairman, Bobolink Foundation
  • Expertise: Conservation, Education/Interpretation, Volunteer Management

Wendy Paulson holds numerous leadership positions within the local and international conservation communities. She is Chairman of the Bobolink Foundation, which supports conservation efforts. Additionally, Wendy holds or has held leadership positions with Rare, the Student Conservation Association, the National Forum on Children & Nature, the American Bird Conservancy, BirdLife International/Audubon U.S. and the Illinois, New York and National boards of the The Nature Conservancy. Locally, Wendy served as co-chair of the Next Century Plan Commission, Director of Education at Citizens for Conservation in Barrington and is on the board of Openlands and the Field Museum’s Science Action committee. A long-time educator, Wendy has taught public school in Boston, New York and Barrington, Illinois, as well as at the Potomac School in Virginia. She serves as education associate at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, has written a nature activity series for children and edited a conservation newsletter for many years. Wendy is a longtime participant in prairie and savanna restoration, and has been leading bird walks for more than thirty years.

Alan M. Bell

  • Partner, Charity & Associates, P.C.
  • Expertise: Government, Finance, Nature-oriented Development

Alan M. Bell is a partner at the law firm of Charity & Associates, P.C., focusing on municipal finance and real estate finance. He is also the founder and president of The Elements Group, which focuses on nature-oriented development projects. Alan serves on the boards of Openlands, the Land Trust Alliance, the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance and the Black Ensemble Theater, and is a member of the National Association of Bond Lawyers. He enjoys bike riding along Chicago’s lakefront and hiking trails throughout the Forest Preserves.

Michael DeSantiago

  • Former President, Primera Engineers
  • Expertise: Conservation; Management/Business; Working Knowledge of the CBG, Brookfield Zoo, and Other Culturally Significant Institutions

Michael DeSantiago is has more than 30 years of experience in the practice of sustainable design and energy management and has a life-long interest in conservation and sustainability. He is also a LEED Accredited Professional. In addition to designing environmentally responsible and budget-compliant solutions, he is also actively engaged with local and national code-writing bodies and regularly contributes to the industry’s professional organizations. Through his involvement with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago and other programs, he promotes engineering as a profession to children and young adults from communities that are under-represented in the profession. Michael is a trustee of the Conservation and Education Committee and a member of the Planning and Facilities committee at the Chicago Zoological Society. He is the past President of the American Council of Mechanical & Electrical engineers and has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards related to engineering design, community development, and diversity leadership.

Terry Guen, FASLA

  • President, Terry Guen Design Associates
  • Expertise: Conservation

Terry Guen is President and Principal at Terry Guen Design Associates, Inc. Her Chicago-based practice focuses on integrating ecological outdoor environments within public design to create public spaces which are accessible and aesthetic and provide ecological benefits.

Terry is Landscape Architect for Millennium Park and 63rd Street Beach at Jackson Park, as well as local-landscape architect for Navy Pier, Maggie Daley Park, and the Lurie Garden. Projects include public open space Master Planning and Design for the Hudson River Park in New York, Charles River Basin for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (MDC), and the F&G Streets Retail District in Washington, DC. Her projects have won awards from the American Institute of Architects, Chicago Building Congress, US EPA, Midwest Construction, and Friends of the Chicago River.  Terry is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, served on the Next Century Plan Commission, and is Expert/Member of the US Federal Advisory Council for Historic Preservation.

Emily Harris

  • Executive Director, ADA 25 Advancing Leadership
  • Expertise: Economic Development, Planning and Public Policy, Accessibility

As Executive Director of ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, Emily Harris is dedicated to creating a pipeline of leaders with disabilities who are advancing professionally and serving in civic positions throughout metropolitan Chicago. Emily previously directed ADA 25 Chicago, the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act which engaged 200 partner organizations in creating a more inclusive city and region. She is also Senior Director at the Chicago Community Trust, working with its Disabilities Fund and equity and inclusion initiatives related to neighborhood economic development. Emily was Vice President of Metropolis Strategies, leading research and policy programs in regional economic growth, open space conservation, early childhood education, and serving as Executive Director of the Burnham Plan Centennial. With Metropolis and Openlands, she led development of the Next Century Conservation Plan for the Forest Preserves of Cook County and assisted with the development of the World Business Chicago Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs and Cook County Partnering for Prosperity plan. Emily serves on the Boards of Directors of Access Living and the Leadership Fellows Association of Leadership Greater Chicago, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s Economic Development Committee, and the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation Strategic Planning Committee.

Sylvia M. Jenkins, Ph.D.

  • President, Moraine Valley Community College
  • Expertise:  Education/Interpretation

Dr. Sylvia M. Jenkins is the President of Moraine Valley Community College. She began her involvement with Moraine Valley Community College in library science, twice receiving Master Teacher of the Year honors for incorporating technology into her teaching. Dr. Jenkins also served as Dean of Academic Development and Learning Resources and Vice President of Academic Affairs before being elected as the College’s fifth president in 2012. She has received the Innovator of the Year Award and the Vernon O. Crawley Leadership Award from the college, and has chaired its reaccreditation Systems Portfolio team, Strategic Technology Planning team, and Diversity and Leadership task group. Dr. Jenkins has been appointed to serve on numerous boards and committees, including Congresswoman Robin Kelly’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Council, the Chicago-Cook County Workforce Investment Board, the Northeast Illinois Transit Task Force and the Cook County Forest Preserve District’s Next Century Plan Commission.

Stanley Moore (Ex-officio member)

  • 4th District Commissioner, Cook County Board and Forest Preserves of Cook County Board

Stanley Moore is the Cook County Commissioner of the 4th District. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Moore developed a successful career as a public servant that includes experience in the public, private, and philanthropic sectors.

As current restaurant owner, Commissioner Moore oversees all operational and management functions for his company. He takes pride in hiring residents from the local community and has been instrumental in utilizing his business as a catalyst for economic development. As an executive in government, he oversaw major construction, transportation, and urban planning initiatives. He has also served as Assistant Area Development Director of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Inc., Director of Development at the Henry Booth House, Division Director of the United Way of Chicago, and Legislative Budget Analyst for Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, Jr. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Illinois Masonic Lodge, and Third Baptist Church.

Maria Pesqueira

  • President, Health Communities Foundation
  • Expertise: Health, Cultural Awareness

As an award-winning and visionary leader, Maria Socorro Pesqueira is a sought-after speaker addressing local, national and hemispheric audiences on a wide variety of prescient topics ranging from private/nonprofit partnerships, women and family issues, health disparities, immigration reform, violence prevention and intervention, and the future of philanthropy. Maria del Socorro Pesqueira was appointed President of the Healthy Communities Foundation (formerly The Arthur Foundation) in May 2017. Previously, she served as President & CEO to Mujeres Latinas en Accion and earlier led The National Museum of Mexican Art’s Development and Marketing team. She has held leadership roles in various national and local boards including UNIDOS US, the Congressional Commission for a National Women’s History Museum, Illinois Partners for Human Services, Community Memorial Foundation and the Aetna Medical Advisory Board.

Laurel Ross

  • Former Director of Urban Conservation, Field Museum
  • Expertise: Conservation, Ecology, Volunteer Management, Cultural Resources

Laurel Ross has served in numerous leadership positions within the conservation community of Chicago, demonstrating a tremendous commitment to conserving the native environment of Illinois. Laurel was the Director of Urban Conservation for the Field Museum from 2004 to 2014. In this role, she developed and oversaw programs that connected people to nature through environmental education, habitat restoration and collaboration between related environmental and cultural organizations. She has also served as Chair of Chicago Wilderness, Director of Conservation Programs for the Illinois Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and Director of the North Park Village Nature Center. Laurel has many years of experience as a committed volunteer and leader in environmental stewardship through the Volunteer Stewardship Network of Illinois.

Shelley Spencer

  • Executive Producer, Media Consultant
  • Expertise: Communications, Mass Media, Message and Brand Strategy

Shelley Spencer is a four-time Emmy® award-winning producer/writer specializing in documentary and public affairs programming. One of those Emmy® awards was for Chicago’s True Nature, a documentary film on the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. Shelley developed that documentary while serving as Supervising Producer at WYCC TV. She has a passion for public media having also served as Executive Producer for WTTW. Her broadcast work has been seen nationally and internationally. As a media consultant, Shelley draws on twenty+ years of experience in broadcast television production and promotion to create and lead communication strategies across media platforms for corporate and non-profit organizations. Her corporate clients have included Citibank, Chase, The United Way, The Red Cross, McGraw-Hill Education and Pearson educational publishing. She is a board member of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Chicago/Midwest.

Mark N. Templeton

  • Director, Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago
  • Expertise: Conservation, Finance, Management/Business, High Level Government Experience

Mark N. Templeton has an extensive background in government finance and strategic planning with a demonstrated focus on environmental issues. He currently serves a Director of the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago. Prior to this role, Templeton was Executive Director of the Office of Independent Trustees for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust, where he helped ensure that the $20 billion pledged by BP was available to address claims of affected individuals. He also served in the cabinet of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon as Director of the Department of Natural Resources, where he managed approximately 1759 employees, oversaw approximately $300 million annual budget, oversaw Missouri State Parks and directed allocation of approximately $350 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. Additionally, Templeton was Associate Dean and COO at Yale Law School, developed strategies for environmental sustainability at McKinsey & Company and was and senior adviser to the U.S. Delegation to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.