Resource ChallengeThe Chicago region supports regionally and globally significant natural communities, including some of the best examples of tallgrass prairie and oak savanna. Nearly 200 state and federally listed endangered and threatened species occur in the region.
However, the ecological health of these communities is threatened by invasive species, fragmentation, changes in water flows, decades of fire suppression, and unsustainable development practices. A key challenge is engaging an urban and suburban populace that, for the most part, does not understand basic biological processes and has few encounters with wild nature.
The Chicago Wilderness consortium was formed in 1996 to more effectively sustain, restore, and expand the region’s remnant natural communities. The work is accomplished through collaborations of Chicago Wilderness member organizations and the thousands of volunteers who work with them.
Examples of Key PartnersUSDI Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, City of Chicago, Field Museum of Natural History, Brookfi eld Zoo, The Nature Conservancy, Openlands, Audubon-Chicago Region, the MacArthur Foundation, Boeing, and more than 170 other public and private organizations.
Results and AccomplishmentsSince 1996, the consortium has embarked on more than 180 collaborative projects stretching from southeastern Wisconsin to the Indiana dunes, including:
• Producing a comprehensive regional Biodiversity Recovery Plan.
• Publishing an Atlas of Biodiversity and distributing more than 30,000 copies.
• Developing a regional monitoring plan.
• Assessing the ecological health of the region’s oak woodlands and savannas.
• Developing teacher training hubs and curricular materials based on state standards.
• Developing a prescribed burning protocol and sponsoring burn training for more than 200 people since 2001.
• Establishing the Mighty Acorns program combining classroom instruction with hands-on stewardship on public lands. More than 8,000 elementary school students participate each year.
• Creating a Green Infrastructure Map to identify resource rich areas for protection and to promote conservation-minded development.
• Publishing Protecting Nature in your Community as a tool to help local governments incorporate biodiversity conservation design features into new developments.
• Developing sustainable design principles and model ordinances for adoption by municipalities, and supporting a Sustainable Watershed Action Team to work with local governments on plans for growth.
• Publishing Chicago WILDERNESS Magazine, distributed to 180 retail locations and 7,500 paid subscribers.
Establishing a genuine, regionwide collaboration and
transcending institutional and political boundaries to share resources and apply expertise toward the common goal of conserving biodiversity.