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New Position Paper on Diversity & Inclusion

People dancing at the River Trail Nature Center Fall Festival in 2012.

Cook County is richly diverse, with more than 5.2 million residents who each have their own unique experiences, backgrounds and characteristics. At the Forest Preserves of Cook County, we believe that everyone is welcome in our nearly 70,000 acres, and that each person deserves to feel welcome, safe, seen and heard while exploring and experiencing the benefits of nature.  

In 2020, the Forest Preserves Board of Commissioners adopted the first of two position papers created by our Conservation and Policy Council that are focused on racial equity, diversity and inclusion (REDI), “Moving Towards Racial Equity in the Forest Preserves of Cook County.” This paper included a series of recommendations to extend the Forest Preserves’ focus on promoting equity in our work, including ensuring that voices from communities impacted by racial inequity are incorporated throughout planning and decision-making processes, and applying a racial equity lens to major policy and budget decisions. 

This fall, the Board adopted a new position paper, “Amplifying Diversity and Inclusion in the Forest Preserves of Cook County (PDF),” which aims to build upon and broaden the Forest Preserves’ equity lens by expanding the framework and approach outlined in “Moving Towards Racial Equity” to include additional dimensions of diversity and inclusion. 

The recommendations in “Amplifying Diversity and Inclusion” include: 

  1. Continue efforts to expand outreach and engage residents and extend racial equity strategies to engage more people who have been historically excluded. 
  1. Recognize the special obligation to Native Americans, who have a historic and ongoing relationship with the lands within the Forest Preserves. 
  1. Learn from the Universal Design, disability rights and disability justice communities to improve access to the preserves for individuals with disabilities and others. 
  1. Build a workforce that reflects the diversity of Cook County. 
  1. Shape and sustain an inclusive organizational culture and the systems required to accomplish all REDI goals. 

This position paper is the last of five published in partnership with the Conservation and Policy Council. The other papers are: 

  • Moving Towards Racial Equity in the Forest Preserves of Cook County 
  • Acquisition and Disposition of Land by the Forest Preserves of Cook County 
  • Nature-Compatible Recreation in the Forest Preserves of Cook County 
  • Scaling Up Volunteers in the Forest Preserves of Cook County 

Each of these documents outlines a set of principles and recommendations about a key issue that faces the Forest Preserves today and in the foreseeable future. To read more about the recommendations in this position paper or to learn about the others, visit our Conservation and Policy Council page