The Negaunee Opportunity Fund Launches: Conservation leader Openlands secures $3 million for strategic land acquisition


This transformative gift will enable Chicago’s regional land trust to double down on conserving nature for life  

A beautiful field of purple flowers in the morning, creating a vibrant and colorful scene.
Discover the serene beauty of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, a haven for wildlife and nature enthusiasts alike.
Photo credit: Ray Mathis

Huan Song, Director of Communications

Yamys Urbano Valencia, Bilingual PR and Communications Specialist
(415) 712-5427

CHICAGO (May 16, 2024): Openlands is proud to announce the creation of The Negaunee Opportunity Fund with a $3 million gift from The Negaunee Foundation. The Fund will support Openlands’ land acquisition transactions across the region, including ongoing acquisitions at Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, where 7,500 of the Refuge’s 11,200 acres remain unprotected.  

“The real estate market in our region waits for no one. Openlands must move quickly on strategic, high-quality parcels priced for development or risk losing forever what they have to offer in the way of beauty and ecological benefit,” said Michael Davidson, President & CEO of Openlands. “The Negaunee Opportunity Fund equips Openlands with essential revolving capital to be nimble and opportunistic in our pursuit of the most important landscapes in the region to protect. This capital will leverage additional public and private investment to get these often-complex acquisitions across the finish line. When we transfer the land to partners, that investment goes back into the Fund to protect more land when the next opportunity arises, growing our capacity to increase the pace and scale of conservation for our region.” 

As one of the first conservation organizations to focus on a metropolitan region, Openlands utilizes diverse models of land protection to restore and reconnect the once ubiquitous landscapes and waterways of greater northeastern Illinois. In practice, the organization achieves its conservation goals through building strategic partnerships, offering technical assistance, engaging agencies and elected officials, and empowering local advocates to protect their most beloved natural assets. Openlands is unconventional among land trusts in that it does not own land in perpetuity but buys and transfers it to a partner – often a public agency – to protect it for public benefit. 

Openlands became an accredited land trust in 2013 and recently celebrated reaccreditation after again meeting the highest industry standards for creating, connecting, and expanding natural open space.  Since 1963, the organization has protected over 71,000 acres of land for the benefit of our region’s people and globally unique biodiversity.  Cherished open spaces saved due to Openlands’ efforts include the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Goose Lake Prairie State Park, Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, and Chicago’s North Park Village and Global Garden Refugee Training Farm, among others.  

The Negaunee Foundation gift comes after the successful acquisition of a key parcel in the Hackmatack Refuge, the 985-acre Tamarack Farm property, protected in partnership with The Conservation Fund and Illinois Audubon.  

“This generous gift from The Negaunee Foundation will have a lasting impact on our region through our shared vision for thriving natural landscapes – open and enjoyed by all,” said JoAnn Seagren, Openlands Board Chair. “With diminishing private funds available specifically for land acquisition, The Negaunee Foundation has established itself as a philanthropic leader and champion for nature. We look forward to protecting and sharing more landscapes with people across the region through the fund and hope it inspires others to contribute to this vital work.”  


About Openlands 

Founded in 1963, Openlands protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives. As Chicago’s regional land trust, Openlands connects and energizes the region through strategic collaboration and local partnerships. We work closely with government agencies and policymakers to develop new environmental conservation plans and practices created with all individuals in mind. From establishing city parks and trails to stewarding large-scale landscapes and waters in Northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region, Openlands is committed to advancing nature-based solutions to mitigate the threats of biodiversity loss and climate change and create access to nature for all. For more information, please visit 

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