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President's Letter: Back to Basics on Earth Day

As Cook County Board President, my responsibilities run the gamut from balancing budgets to public health to making intersections safer. As the president of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, it’s also my duty to oversee the wise stewardship of the county’s nearly 69,000 acres of open space.

Municipal governments have so many critical tasks to accomplish that it’s not uncommon for some to view preserving the environment as something “nice to do” rather than a necessity. That’s especially true during difficult economic times.

Yet in reality, the forest preserves provide a critical foundation for success in our county. The preserves help control floods in our neighborhoods, clean our air and improve the health and quality of life of millions of people. As if these things weren’t enough on their own, healthy preserves also help attract business and investment in the region.

Each April, the Forest Preserve District and hundreds of other organizations celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day, two internationally recognized days of observance, to consciously acknowledge the contribution the environment makes, including something as basic and taken-for-granted as trees.

On Saturday, April 20, I’ll be attending two Earth Day celebrations in the forest preserves, one at Whistler Woods in Riverdale on the county’s south side and one at Deer Grove on the county’s northwest side. These events are open to everyone. Those who come will have a chance to work in the woods and prairie, helping to restore local natural habitat, and then enjoy food and celebration. These are just two of the more than 50 organized activities celebrating Earth Day in the forest preserves that weekend.

The District will also hold its first Arbor Day Celebration on April 27 at LaBagh Woods on Chicago’s northwest side, complete with tree plantings and tree-inspired activities. The event will launch our new Forest Preserve District Big Tree Register, in which members of the public can report trees they believe may set a size record.

I encourage you to join us for one of these events. They’re an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the natural environment, a way to inspire us to work even harder to protect and restore habitat for the millions of plants, animals and other living things that call the forest preserves home.

I hope to see you there.

Toni Preckwinkle, President
Forest Preserves of Cook County