Natural and Cultural Resources Master Plan

grassland in the foreground and woodland in the background at Spring Creek

The Natural and Cultural Resources Master Plan (2015) for the Forest Preserves of Cook County focuses on conserving natural and cultural resources in concert with each other, and on both the people who are doing that work and those who benefit from it. Effective conservation requires understanding those resources; understanding the “place” or context in which they are found; and understanding the history, traditions, values, and attitudes of the people living in that place. Ultimately it depends on a shared understanding of the problems facing the region and a shared commitment to improving the conditions for the people, plants, and animals living there.

The Next Century Conservation Plan (2014) for the Forest Preserves of Cook County offers an ambitious vision for expanding the preserves and restoring the native landscapes they contain. The Natural and Cultural Resources Master Plan aims to provide the guidance needed to implement the Next Century Conservation Plan’s natural resource goals. It also provides a natural and cultural resources framework for future land acquisition, recreation development and capital improvement.

In developing this master plan, the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois consulted extensively with the Forest Preserves’ staff, volunteers, and partners. Institute staff compiled and analyzed existing data collected over many years by the Forest Preserves and other organizations, institutions, and individuals. Staff also visited most of the preserves to assess their natural communities and the threats they face. This report summarizes their findings and presents recommendations for natural and cultural resources management. The Forest Preserves have also received technical reports providing more detailed analysis, the data compiled from all sources, and a Geographic Information System that integrates all geographically based information. These products will guide the Forest Preserves’ natural and cultural resource management as they implement the vision of the Next Century Conservation Plan.