For Cook County’s 5.2 million residents, there are myriad benefits to having nearly 70,000 acres of open Forest Preserves land. Natural lands help clean our air and water, protect a diversity of plants and animals, and provide endless opportunities for healthy recreation, as well as exciting educational outings. But our forest preserves also provide specialized opportunities for employment and job training across the county.
Eleven different summer and year-long Conservation Corps programs offer training, employment and exposure to conservation-related careers to youth and adults, including programs dedicated to serving individuals facing barriers to employment. The Forest Preserves works closely with partners such as the Housing Authority of Cook County, the Forest Preserve Foundation, Greencorps Chicago, Friends of the Forest Preserves and the Student Conservation Association to provide these paid, hands-on experiences.
Conservation Corps crew members learn valuable transferrable skills such as job readiness and team work, and adult programs provide professional development opportunities including advanced certification in chainsaw and herbicide use. Conservation Corps graduates have gone on to jobs with the Forest Preserves and other conservation organizations.
The restoration work performed by Conservation Corps crews is so important because it makes the land more hospitable to native plants and animals and it makes the Forest Preserves a more enjoyable experience for us all.
In this issue, readers will learn about three regional and national awards recognizing the Conservation Corps programs and partners. Also in this issue is a story about how residents can bring conservation close to home by creating “Forest Preserves Friendly” gardens at community schools and businesses.
In honor of Women’s History Month, the issue also features insights from three women working to help nature in different ways, from on-the-ground restoration to introducing youth to nature to advocating for the incredible value of nature in our lives and in society.
We hope to see you in the Preserves!
Toni Preckwinkle, President
Forest Preserves of Cook County