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 Randall, 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.


Alan M. Bell (Council Chair)

  • 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 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 nature-filled public spaces which are publicly accessible, aesthetic and environmentally successful.

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, NY, NY, Charles River Basin for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (MDC), the F&G Streets Retail District, Washington, DC. Her projects have won awards from the American Institute of Architects, Chicago Building Congress, US EPA, Midwest Construction, Friends of the Chicago River, among others. Terry is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, served on the Next Century Plan Commission, and is a former 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 Harrisis 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.  Commissioner Moore began his career in public service as a Legislative Budget Analyst for the Illinois General Assembly. As chairman of the Cook County Complete County Census Commission, he led a diverse and inclusive effort to ensure a complete count of county residents. He has also served as Division Director of the United Way, Director of Development at Henry Booth House, the Assistant Area Development Director for the United Negro College Fund, as a Director at the Illinois Department of Transportation, and as Project Director with the Cook County Office of Capital Planning and Policy. Commissioner Moore is a board Member of the Illinois State Association of Counties and a member of National Association of County Officials, the National Organization of Black County Officials, and the Salvation Army Kroc Center Advisory Council. He is the recipient of the Chicago Defender’s “50 Men of Excellence” award and the “Most Distinguished Men of Illinois” award.

Maria Pesqueira

  • President, Health Communities Foundation
  • Expertise: Health/Human Services, Cultural Awareness

Maria Pesqueira was appointed President of the Healthy Communities Foundation in May 2017.  The Healthy Communities Foundation (HCF) aims to achieve health equity across its 27 zip-code region in Chicago and west suburban Cook County.   Maria is a sought-after speaker addressing local, national, and hemispheric audiences on a wide variety of topics ranging from the future of philanthropy, health disparities, gender, and racial/ethnic equity.   Previous to her role at HCF, Maria served as President & CEO to Mujeres Latinas en Accion and formerly led The National Museum of Mexican Art’s Marketing and Development team.  Her civic and community involvement is extensive and includes appointments to the Congressional Commission for a National Women’s History Museum and the Lincoln Academy of Illinois.  She has held leadership roles in various national and local boards including UNIDOS US (formerly National Council of La Raza), Hispanics in Philanthropy, Illinois Partners for Human Services and The Chicago Network.  

Laurel Ross

  • Retired Director of Urban Conservation, Field Museum
  • Expertise: Conservation, Ecological Restoration, 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 among 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.

Henrietta (Hank) Saunders, CFA

  • Civic Volunteer
  • Expertise: Management/Business, Volunteer Management

Henrietta (Hank) Saunders is Chairperson of the Natural Resources Commission for the Village of Glenview.  She currently serves on the board of Community Organizing and Family Issues (“COFI”). She previously has served on local, state and national boards of the League of Women Voters as well as the Delta Institute and Faith in Place. She worked in commercial banking, in a small family business, at the UFCW Midwest Health and Benefits Fund and in various nonprofits before retiring.  Hank has a BA from Brown University, an MBA in Finance from University of Chicago, an MS in Learning Sciences from Northwestern, and is fluent in Spanish. Her honors include:

  • Spirit of the River Award, Friends of the Chicago River, 2015
  • Peggy Montes Unsung Heroine Award, Cook County Board of Commissioners, 2016
  • Freshwater Hero Award, Freshwater Future, Petosky, MI, 2017
  • 20th Anniversary Transformative Leader Award, Faith in Place, 2019
  • LWV Lake Michigan Region Palleon Advocacy Award, 2020

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’s 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 Clinical Professor of Law and 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 1750 employees, oversaw approximately $300 million annual budget, and oversaw Missouri State Parks. 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.  He is also a board member of the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.