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Five Ways Our Forest Preserves Benefit Cook County Residents

a wetland area at Deer Grove-East

In honor of National Public Lands Day on September 28, throughout the month of September the Forest Preserves of Cook County and partners took to Facebook to highlight some of the ways Cook County residents benefit from local public lands. Check out what our partners had to say below:

1. Natural lands in the Forest Preserves of Cook County keep our water cleaner and save taxpayers millions of dollars a year in stormwater abatement.

“The natural areas that exist in our local public lands within the Forest Preserves of Cook County contribute much to the quality of the Chicago River and its tributaries. Land restoration efforts, allowing the return and growth of native species to help infiltrate storm water and runoff, is extremely valuable in our often impermeable urban setting,” explained Maggie Jones, Conservation Programs Specialist at Friends of the Chicago River.

2. Being out in nature offers health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, increasing brain activity, improving mental and physical well-being and even improving sleep quality.

“Public land, especially the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s public land, is so important because it provides our communities opportunities to connect with nature and to each other while engaging in healthy activities, like hiking, biking, running, walking and even paddling,” said Dr. Terry Mason, hief Operating Officer at Cook County Department of Public Health. “I encourage everyone to get outside and enjoy the Forest Preserves and the many benefits of public land and outdoor recreation.”

3. The Forest Preserves plays an essential role for the region’s climate change mitigation capacity.

“Natural lands such as in the Forest Preserves have critical climate mitigation and adaptation benefits. The impact of climate change can be reduced by increasing the amount of intact natural lands—including forests, prairies, and wetlands—as well as increasing the number of green spaces planted with native vegetation,” says Abigail Derby Lewis, Senior Conservation Ecologist with the Field Museum.

4. Thousands of plants and animals live and thrive in the Forest Preserves—some of which can only be found here in Cook County.

“In urban areas, public lands like the Forest Preserves of Cook County are often the only remaining large blocks of habitat where diverse natural communities of plants and animals can persist. These lands support resident populations of many native species and also act as stopover points for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife moving through the region, providing great opportunities for people living nearby to experience nature,” says Eric Schauber, Director of the Illinois Natural History Survey.

5. The Forest Preserves offers myriad ways for kids and young adults to learn about and help care for nature.

“There are so many roadblocks to youth accessing nature. Kids learn so much through experiences; the Forest Preserves gives them access and provides the tools to have engaging experiences close to home. I’ve been able to see them rediscover their curiosity and love of discovery. If they get connected to nature locally maybe then they can start to think about what their role in environmental issues globally,” said Sarah Compton, a biology and environmental science teacher at Tilden Career Community Academy High School on Chicago’s South Side, who completed our Camping Leadership Immersion Course.