What We Do
Long before there was a Cook County, this region where tallgrass prairie meets eastern forest was home to a breathtaking mosaic of landscapes. By the turn of the 20th century, with a great city growing here, civic leaders like Dwight Perkins and Jens Jensen recognized that it was essential to preserve these native landscapes for people to enjoy for centuries to come. They worked for years to establish the world’s first – and now largest (69,000 acres) – forest preserve district.
In more recent history, the forest preserves have encountered a great deal of abuse and neglect. Invasive brush turned thousands of acres into impassible thorn thickets, preserve land was sold, and trash littered the landscape. A new group of civic leaders, people just like you, formed Friends of the Forest Preserves in 1998 to rescue these treasured lands. We knew that in order to maintain these vast rewards and ensure they’re here for all of us to enjoy, we’d have to work just as hard as the visionary citizens who protected them more than a century ago.
Today, we protect, restore, and promote the forest preserves to ensure they thrive for us and for future generations. Great civic leaders started the forest preserves over 100 years ago and now, it’s our turn to be those great civic leaders that ensure the preserves are here and healthy for the next 100 years.
The members of Friends formed the organization to help solve serious problems in the forest preserves of Cook County. As an independent non-profit, Friends provides oversight by attending all Forest Preserve District board meetings, making policy and budget recommendations, and fending off land grabs. We also believe that in order for the Forest Preserve District to be properly governed, it needs an independent board of forest preserve commissioners.
Invasive brush has turned thousands of acres of the forest preserves into impassible thorn thickets. Through government contracts, foundation funding, and private donors, we hire contractors for large-scale, on-the-ground restoration projects that include removing invasive species, restoring hydrology, and conducting prescribed burns. We also coordinate, support and promote volunteer workdays year-round to maintain the progress we’ve made and move forward in restoring native species. And finally, our Conservation Corps programs teach valuable restoration skills and helps return the forest preserves to nature.
We aspire to elevate the status of the preserves to the same level as Chicago’s great architecture, sports teams, free and clear lakefront, and culture. Great civic leaders started the forest preserves over 100 years ago. Now it’s our turn, together, to ensure the preserves are here for the next 100 years. Let’s work together to ensure these natural lands, together with their plants and animals, are here for us and future generations to learn from, to enjoy, and to recreate in.