In the 20th Century, we preserved the land. In the 21st, let’s restore it.


The Next Century Conservation Plan provides a bold and visionary blueprint for the future of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. It also includes specific objectives, actions and timelines for implementation. The following actions are the first steps already underway.

The Launch of the Plan

The Plan was formally presented by the Next Century Conservation Plan Commission Co-Chairs to President Preckwinkle on Friday, January 24, 2014.

Adoption of the Plan

The plan was unanimously adopted by the Forest Preserves of Cook County Board of Commissioners on February 18, 2014. It was recommended to the board for adoption by President Preckwinkle as a “Blueprint for the Future of the Forest Preserves.”

Working Committee Meetings

Conservation & Policy Council

The Conservation and Policy Council advises the President, Board of Commissioners and General Superintendent on specific steps to implement the Next Century Conservation Plan’s vision of a vibrant, ecologically healthy and welcoming forest preserves system. Learn more and view upcoming meetings >


Expand the Volunteer Corps

Through an innovative program recently funded through the ChiCal Rivers fund, the Friends of the Forest Preserves, Friends of the Chicago River and Audubon Chicago Region will create a new Centennial Volunteer Network, recruiting 6000 volunteers dedicated to restoring habitat in the Chicago and Calumet region.

Build a permanent Conservation Corps to provide workforce training for restoration.  Combine two critical goals – giving young and unemployed people valuable work experience translatable to eventual employment in the private sector; and at the same time meet the goal of restoring the land to good ecological health.  One of the region’s strongest workforce development organizations – the Chicago Jobs Council- will lead a design team to help us find the right partners and strategy to make a Conservation Corps a permanent part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Protect more land

While the Forest Preserves currently account for 11 % of the County’s land – nearly 69,000 acres – the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and Chicago Wilderness have identified 21,000 additional acres that are currently unprotected and provide critical habitat, or buffers or connections for trails.  Protecting new lands will have significant future benefits such as increased property values, reduced flooding and more recreation opportunities – in addition to better connecting the Forest Preserves to people where they live.  To acquire additional acreage, the County will propose legislation to the General Assembly to need to expand our statutory limit (which is currently 75,000 acres).

Make the Preserves easier to get to

The planning team mapped the bus and train service and only 7% of Cook County’s people have good public transit access to the Preserves.  To make sure there are sidewalks, bus routes, and good signage, the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways will look at access to the Preserves in their comprehensive transportation plan


An increase in both human and financial resources is needed to make this plan a reality.  One step in this direction is the newly revitalized Forest Preserve Foundation which will provide access to potential new funding sources.