Openlands’ agenda supports and leads initiatives that protect recreational rights, increase opportunities for equitable access to nature, and promote more effective management of natural resources close to home.

Connecting a Web of Healthy Landscapes

Restoration is the process of returning the land to a healthy state for nature, wildlife, and people. The retreat of glaciers 12,000 years ago and the evolution of tallgrass prairies that followed left Illinois with deep, rich soils. As more colonists moved west, wetlands were drained, much of the prairie was plowed, and farmland now covers over 80% of our state in place of natural ecosystems. Over the decades, Openlands has developed strong expertise in cutting-edge ecological restoration in order to restore the diversity and beauty of native prairie, woodland, and wetland ecosystems on all scales. From working with property owners in Lake County to practice conservation-friendly landscaping to our work in large landscape restoration at Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, Openlands understands the importance of healthy, connected land and water.

Policy Priorities


In Chicago, we work to strengthen the recently formed Urban Forestry Advisory Board and help establish its integral role between the government, the people, and experts, in order to produce transparent, informed policies that protect our urban forest. We advocate for the protection and recreational development of our waterways and investment in green infrastructure in flood-prone communities.

In the Illinois General Assembly, Openlands fights to protect the right to recreate on Illinois’ shared rivers and streams, protect voter-approved open space districts from being dissolved without their consent, and bring conservation even closer home by making native landscaping more accessible.


Openlands engages our federal policymakers and activates our network on legislation that will help promote thriving communities and equitable access to nature, including the TREES Act, an initiative to help grow the urban tree canopy in neighborhoods where they’re needed most and the Outdoors for All Act, an initiative to help economically disadvantaged communities that lack access to open space.

Make Your Voice Heard

Openlands Action Alerts highlight urgent issues at local, regional, and federal levels, empowering you to make a difference. From advocating for clean air and water to protecting open spaces, your participation drives positive change.

Meet Our Expert Staff

Openlands Staff Emily Reusswig
Vice President of Conservation and Policy
Openlands Director of Policy Chris Kessler
Director of Policy
Policy and Advocacy Associate
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