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Next Century Conservation Plan by .
Forest Forward 

NCCP Workshop sets the tone for 2016, Partner Perspective: One Year of NCCP, Restoring Deer Grove, launching our new website and other news to know & share about the Next Century Conservation Plan

Forest Forward is a monthly newsletter about the progress and programming of the Next Century Conservation Plan (NCCP). It's easy-to-read -- and easy-to-forward -- filled with information that you will want to pass on to your network of co-workers, colleagues and friends.

Forest Forward is being delivered to members of the NCCP implementation team, along with other friends. Please help us grow the distribution list to include people from your network who care about great, open spaces. Together, by spreading the word of our work, we can generate awareness, enthusiasm and excitement for the NCCP.
December NCCP Workshop at Botanic Garden spreads ideas for 2016 Goals 

By Eileen Figel
Deputy General Superintendent
Forest Preserves of Cook County

Developed by conservation advocates throughout the Chicago region, the Next Century Conservation Plan (NCCP) calls for a massive commitment to scale up restoration efforts, acquire and protect more land, and make the Forest Preserves more inviting and accessible.  The ambitious plan is designed to be implemented over the next 25 years.  Success will require new and creative approaches to ensure limited resources invested by FPCC, advocates, volunteers, and other partners are spent in the most efficient and effective manner possible.  We must also measure our progress, be frank about what is and isn't working, and be willing to adjust course as needed.

To that end, seventy partners and staff who participated in the first year of implementation gathered at the Chicago Botanic Garden in December to discuss what had gone well during year one and what hadn't, and to suggest changes for 2016. Read more.
Partner Reflection: lessons learned and progress made 

By Karen Tharp 
Director of Urban Stewardship and Engagement
The Nature Conservancy, Illinois Chapter

It was a little over a year ago, when I attended the meeting to launch the Next Century of Conservation Plan. The room was buzzing with energy and everyone quickly formed into small groups to discuss ideas and embrace the big vision. Since then, an enormous amount of work has been accomplished, but with progress and celebration, come lessons learned. From the beginning, I was immediately conflicted on how I should contribute as a partner. Would it be through the pre-determined committees of Nature or People? I needed to be involved in both, but given the commitment of double meetings and agendas, that wasn't realistic, so given my experiences with volunteer stewardship, I chose Nature.

This traditional approach with a focus on the management needs of the land while another group of people think about the human connections is comfortable, however, today's world requires a different way of thinking that blends these two strategies. It meets people where they are, seeks the intersection of restoring nature with the social issues of the day and invites the smaller, local community organizations to be a stakeholder. It is a more difficult path that takes time and requires participation from a diversity of people and partners. Given this is the largest and most populated county in the state, this work needs to be done strategically and at a scale that is achievable and can show success over time.

The Forest Preserve is also known nationally for engaging volunteers on the land and yet there remains untapped wealth in the form of knowledge by volunteers, some with 20+ years of experience. It is not simply up to Volunteer Resources to invest in this asset, it is everyone's responsibility to initiate a call to action that invites volunteer expertise to the table. The next couple of years will be formative, developing policies and testing out strategies with the goal to expand programs across the county. The business of restoration and connecting people to the forest preserves is about hope and hard work. With some tweaks along the way, I am optimistic we will achieve this vision together.

Come On In!: New Gateway Plan means new signage, amenities at 30 sites

The Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC) has released its
Gateway Master Plan, activating an idea conceived in the 2013 Centennial Campaign Plan to develop a vision for "gateway" sites that encourage people to take advantage of the natural open space available in Cook County.

The Gateway Master Plan aligns with the Forest Preserves of Cook County's Next Century Conservation Plan, which seeks to make everyone in Cook County feel welcome at the Forest Preserves.  "In addition, the Gateways are meant to serve as regional activity hubs boosting user-ship and becoming a source of economic value for local communities," said Kindy Kruller Senior Planner with the FPCC and member of the NCCP Economics Committee. "We are excited to begin the design work and implementation for the first twelve priority sites that will be completed over the next two-three years," Kruller said.

The long term plan for gateways includes a potential class of 30 special sites, chosen from locations throughout the preserves, with identifiable entry-ways and situated near highly visible, high-traffic areas that already serve as activity hubs within communities. According to the plan, gateway sites should convey a sense of welcome, interest, safety and beauty.

"Creating a physical gateway to the Forest Preserves will serve as a landmark to the public as well as a welcome sign for visitors who all too often overlook the variety of amenities available to them throughout the county," said Toni Preckwinkle, President of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, whose comments were featured in a recent Daily Herald story.

The Gateway Master Plan was made possible with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Healthy HotSpot initiative (led by the Cook County Department of Public Health) and the Forest Preserve Foundation.
New Year, New Look for the NCCP Website 

As a new year rises, it seems that everybody is treated to something new, from habits and hobbies, to diets and destinations. Why should people have all the January fun? Websites enjoy renewal, too. We're excited to relaunch the Next Century Conservation Plan website - it has a new look, new content, new ways to connect with our council and initiatives. You're invited to meet the leaders behind the Plan, to follow our work via social-media sites, find out more about our ambitious goals and track our progress. Visit it now and let us know what you think.

O'Hare funds spur restoration at Deer Grove West

In alignment with the Next Century Conservation Plan's
goal of restoring 30,000 acres of forest preserve to good ecological health, Deer Grove West will undergo a large-scale, five-year restoration project which started this January.  The project work, performed in partnership with Openlands which is the site steward for Deer Grove, will impact 238 acres and include brush clearing and tree removal work, resulting in increased light levels on the ground, which will facilitate surface restoration within the project zone and allow for improved oak regeneration and growth of other native plant species.

"Deer Grove West was the first preserve purchased by the Forest Preserves one hundred years ago," said Openlands Restoration Specialist Linda Masters. "We are very excited to be a partner in this historic project that will ensure the continued health and beauty of this important site for the next 100 years."

The restoration work also will include removal of invasive and aggressive native species of plants, as well as some hydrological restoration, repairing and providing erosion control on wetlands and streams. The Deer Grove West restoration project comes on the heels of a 180-acre restoration project at Deer Grove East that began in 2008.

The Deer Grove projects are funded by an O'Hare Modernization Mitigation Account (OMMA) and also supported by several other partners, including the Army Corps of Engineers, Stantec, Deer Grove Natural Area Volunteers, the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, and US Fish and Wildlife Service. This is one of three major restoration projects planned for 2016.

First round of grants awarded in Early Action Seed Funding 

How do you maintain the energy necessary to implement ambitious goals that will take many, many years to fulfill?  In July 2015, the Forest Preserves decided to try something new and established an Early Action Seed Fund. The idea is modeled on a successful program developed by the non-profit agency LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation).

To launch projects, build momentum and strengthen partnerships, the Fund empowered the NCCP implementation committees to award grants of up to $10,000 each to help partners develop pilot projects and initiatives.  The projects must address a specific gap in implementation efforts and produce results within one year. The first round of grants totaled $40,865 in awards, and partners matched those dollars with an additional $108,005.

Grants were awarded to the following projects and partners: 
Follow, then Lead 

Are you following our news about conservation, people and programs? We invite you to take a moment to tune in to our social media accounts. Once you become a follower, you'll let others know how you're helping to lead conservation efforts in the Forest Preserves.
Also, if you'd like to receive information on how to update your LinkedIn page, email signature or social-media accounts with information about your involvement with conservation planning, contact us for tips.
Share the conservation love

It's a new year: Surely you've made some new friends already. Why not share the conservation love and introduce them to the NCCP? When you submit their names to the Forest Forward distribution list, you'll be very appreciated by the council. Those five new friends - five is your goal - will be grateful for your help broadening their network. Everyone wins. Please email your contact names and email addresses to
[email protected].