In the years since its founding by The Nature Conservancy and other like-minded groups, the Chicago Wilderness coalition has grown to include more than 180 member organizations.
The wilderness of Chicago encompasses more than 225,000 acres of protected natural lands that survive amid some of the Midwest's most highly developed landscapes. From southeastern Wisconsin through northeastern Illinois and into northwestern Indiana, the members of Chicago Wilderness work to preserve prairies, forests, streams and wetlands.
The ecosystems of the Chicago area are at even greater risk than the tropical rain forest. The Conservancy jumped at the opportunity to join forces with some great Chicago area organizations to protect these vital Illinois lands.
The biggest threat to Chicago wilderness is development. As the Chicagoland population is expected to rise by 1.5 million people by 2020, there will be an increasing demand for housing and transportation, and fast-paced and careless development planning may result in the destruction of important natural landscapes.
Chicago Wilderness can't stop the growth, but the coalition can work to see that development is conducted with natural habitats in mind. Through education and outreach programs, Chicago Wilderness hopes to convince builders and businesses that protection of our natural lands is good for people, nature and the economy.
Together with The Nature Conservancy in Illinois, Chicago Wilderness alliance developed the Climate Action Plan for Nature [1.27MB PDF]. This Plan outlines strategies for mitigating climate change for the benefit of people and nature, and is the first of its kind to address on the preservation of nature in the urban setting of Chicago.
Members of the Chicago Wilderness consortium work together on projects in the areas of science, natural resources management, sustainability, education and communication.
Chicago Wilderness partners have collaborated on more than 240 projects including providing prescribed fire training, educating teachers and students about nature and reaching out to local governments to help them restore and maintain natural areas.
Chicago Wilderness is also working with scientists to direct research that will improve our understanding of the region’s ecosystems and our ability to maintain them.