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, as well as develops and annually updates a strategic plan to operationalize the Next Century Conservation Plan. Additionally, the Council is responsible for reviewing and making recommendations for the annual budget, conservation policies, practices and long-term strategic issues.
- Conservation & Policy Council 2022 Annual Report & 2023 Budget Recommendation (PDF)
- Five-Year Implementation Strategy for the Next Century Conservation Plan – 2022 Update (PDF)
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.
- Moving Towards Racial Equity in the Forest Preserves of Cook County (PDF) – July 2020
- Acquisition and Disposition of Land by the Forest Preserves of Cook County (PDF) – October 2020
- Nature-Compatible Recreation in the Forest Preserves of Cook County (PDF) – January 2021
- Scaling Up Volunteers in the Forest Preserves of Cook County (PDF) – February 2021
- Amplifying Diversity and Inclusion in the Forest Preserves of Cook County (PDF) – October 2022
Conservation and Policy Council meetings are open to the public.
- February 9, 2023 – 9:30 am (Sand Ridge Nature Center)
- April 19, 2023 – 9:30 am (Virtual Meeting)
- June 21, 2023 – 9:30 am (Virtual Meeting)
- August 30, 2023 – 9:30 am (Virtual Meeting)
Megan Bang, Ph.D.
- Professor of the Learning Sciences and Director of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research at Northwestern University
- Expertise: Ecology, Education/Interpretation, REDI, Sustainability
Dr. Megan Bang (Ojibwe and Italian descent) is a Professor of the Learning Sciences and Psychology at Northwestern University and is currently serving as the Senior Vice President at the Spencer Foundation. Dr. Bang studies dynamics of culture, learning, and development broadly with a specific focus on the complexities of navigating multiple-meaning systems in creating and implementing more effective and just learning environments in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics education. She focuses on reasoning and decision-making about complex socio-ecological systems in ways that intersect with culture, power, and historicity. Central to this work are dimensions of identity, equity and community engagement. She conducts research in both schools and informal settings across the life course. She has taught in and conducted research in teacher education as well as leadership preparation programs. Dr. Bang currently serves on the Board of Science Education at the National Academy of Sciences. She also serves as an executive editor of Cognition and Instruction and is on the editorial boards of several other top-tiered journals in the field.
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.
- 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.
- Executive Vice President, Access Living
- Expertise: Management, Business; Policy and Planning; Racial Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
Daisy Feidt is Executive Vice President of Access Living, Chicago’s Center for Independent Living. She has worked at Access Living for 24 years and has held a wide variety of management positions during that time. In her tenure at Access Living, Daisy has led the organization through multiple organizational restructures, and served as interim President and CEO after the passing of Access Living’s founding President and CEO, Marca Bristo. Daisy has extensive management experience in fundraising, evaluation and program implementation.
Daisy is an alumna of Leadership Greater Chicago, a prestigious and competitive program that provides community awareness and networking opportunities for leaders in the Chicago community. Daisy has held a variety of board positions during her career. She is currently on the Executive Committee of Openlands, an organization that protects the natural and open spaces of Northeastern Illinois and the surrounding area. Daisy is also a Director on the Board of the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living, the state association of centers for independent living.
Josina Morita (Ex-officio member)
- Commissioner, Cook County Board and Forest Preserves of Cook County Board
Josina Morita is the first Asian American woman to serve on the board of Cook County and the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Josina dedicated her career as an urban planner and non-profit leader to addressing inequities and advancing sustainable solutions. She has been fighting for racial justice for the past 20 years and authored Illinois’ first-ever legislative report card in racial equity. Inspired by pioneering women leaders like Judge Sandra Otaka and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Josina has made history herself. Elected to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in 2016, Josina is the first Asian American elected to a countywide board in Cook County. As Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District since 2016, Josina has protected our homes from flooding, promoted equity, and increased transparency. Josina is the founding chair of the Asian American Caucus and the country’s first Mamas Caucus. She sits on the National Blue Ribbon Commission for On-Site Non-Potable Water Systems and the bi-national Great Lakes Commission.
Ryen Nagle, Ed.D.
- Dean of Science, Business & Computer Technology, Moraine Valley Community College
- Expertise: Education/Interpretation
Dr. Ryen Nagle is Dean of Science, Business & Computer Technology at Moraine Valley Community College. He oversees six academic departments and provides leadership to several grant-funded projects. He has co-chaired a variety of college initiatives, including the Strategic Priority Indicators Team and the Technology Governance Council. His work at Moraine Valley has been recognized by receiving the Innovation of the Year Award and the Vernon O. Crawley Leadership Award. He has additionally received community college leadership awards from the Illinois Council of Community College Administrators, the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the League for Innovation in the Community College. He has previously served as a member of the Peer Review Corps of the Higher Learning Commission and as a board advisory committee member for Orland School District 135.
- 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
- Former Treasurer for the League of Women Voters of the United States and the League of Women Voters Education Fund
- Expertise: Ecology, Education/interpretation, Management/business, Finance, Volunteer Management, Racial Equity/Diversity & Inclusion
Henrietta (Hank) Saunders is Chairperson of the Natural Resources Commission for the Village of Glenview and a long-time volunteer with the Friends of the Forest Preserves and the North Branch Restoration Project. She currently serves on the boards of Community Organizing and Family Issues (“COFI”) and Family Promise Chicago North Shore. 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
- Vice President for TV Original Content Production, WTTW
- 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 Emmys 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. Shelley draws on over twenty years of experience in broadcast television production and promotion to create and lead communication strategies across media platforms. Her broadcast work spans multiple genres from news, public affairs and documentaries to entertainment and lifestyle programs. Her work has been seen nationally and internationally. Shelley has a passion for public media and is currently serving as VP, Original Television Content Production for WTTW.
Mark N. Templeton
- Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Abrams Environmental Law Clinic, at the University of Chicago
- Expertise: Conservation, Finance, Management/Business, Policy & Planning; High-Level Government Experience
Mark N. Templeton has an extensive background in government, finance and strategic planning with a demonstrated focus on environmental and energy issues. He currently serves as 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 1,750 employees, supervised an 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 a 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 and the Environmental Law Institute, among other volunteer positions in the community and legal profession.