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Climate change is here. Nature-based solutions can help.

Openlands works across the Chicago metropolitan region to advance nature-based solutions to climate change, improve the health and well-being of communities, and create a more verdant region for all. Learn more about our work and how you can get involved to help make a more verdant, equitable region with Openlands.

Volunteer with Openlands

Get Involved with Openlands

There are many ways to help protect the nature you love with Openlands. Whether your teacher that wants to teach outside, a government agency that wants to improve your greenspace, or a tree lover who wants to volunteer in their community, there are opportunities to connect with nature and your community.

Openlands connects people to nature where they live

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.

Founded in 1963 as a program of the Welfare Council of Metropolitan Chicago, Openlands is one of the oldest metropolitan conservation organizations in the nation and the only such group with a regional scope. Openlands has helped protect more than 55,000 acres of land for public parks and forest preserves, wildlife refuges, land and water greenway corridors, urban farms, and community gardens.


Mission

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.


Vision

Openlands’ vision for the region is a landscape that includes a vast network of land and water trails, tree-lined streets, and intimate public gardens within easy reach of every city dweller. It also includes parks and preserves big enough to provide natural habitat and to give visitors a sense of the vast prairies, woodlands, and wetlands that were here before the cities. In sum, Openlands believes that protected open space is critical for the quality of life of our region.

Take Action to Protect Nature

One of the simplest ways you can take action against Climate Change is by advocating for the protection of nature and wildlife. By contacting your elected official through the campaigns below, you help them understand how they can best serve the community they represent. 

Current Campaigns

Federal: Grow Green Jobs by Expanding Conservation Corps

Support a federal initiative that will create robust funding for conservation corps.

Federal: Protect Imperiled Species Under the Endangered Species Act

Tell your Federal elected officials that endangered Monarch butterflies must be listed as an imperiled species under the ESA.

Birds: Support Federal, State, and Local bills to protect birds

Ask your representatives in Congress, Springfield, and Chicago City Hall to pass bird-friendly policies.

Federal: Protect and Restore Forests with the REPLANT Act

Tell your Member of Congress to protect damaged forests by supporting the REPLANT Act.

Since 2017, over 16,000 messages have been sent to local, regional, and national elected officials in support of nature and the right to experience nature near where you live. This collective action has protected landscapes like Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, defeated rollbacks to wildlife protections in Illinois, and helped pass conservation legislation like the Great American Outdoors Act

Connect with your Legislators

Look up who represents you using Openlands easy to use tool. By searching you can find out who your government officials are, and connect with them by phone, email, or through their website.

Learn More About the Issues

Delve deeper into why Openlands advocates for nature-based issues locally and nationally.

The Monarch Needs Federal Protections Now

After six long years of consideration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced in December that it would not protect the Monarch under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), despite evidence that the North American butterfly has suffered dramatic population decreases over the last half-century.

Urban Forestry Advisory Board Key to Mitigating City Flood Damages, Promoting Environmental Equity Passes in City Council

To protect trees, the Chicago City Council unanimously voted on Friday, June 25 to establish an Urban Forestry Advisory Board, which Openlands supported. The Urban Forestry Advisory Board ordinance passed almost a year after it was first proposed by Alderperson Scott Waguespack, along with Alderpersons Samantha Nugent and George A. Cardenasto. The win would not have been possible without the TreeKeepers and advocates who championed the ordinance, along with the 27 alderpersons who co-sponsored the bill.

Why Openlands Has Joined A Lawsuit Against The City of Joliet

Openlands has joined a legal fight, alongside people who live and farm in this special place, because as an organization, we believe that, to be competitive on a global scale, the protection of nature and jobs creation can and must coexist, and that it is imperative that we work together with all the partners for a more equitable, resilient, healthy land-use solution.

Stay Engaged with Action Alerts

Taking action takes many forms at Openlands, from volunteering at a community tree planting to supporting our work with a monthly donation. You can also stay involved with Openlands advocacy efforts by signing up for Action Alert emails. 

Explore the Region’s Trails, Waterways, and Outdoor Spaces

The open spaces of the Midwestern landscape have always been crucial to the quality of life in our region. The Chicago Wilderness Region boasts many different and superb ways for people to be connected with nature. Openlands believes these spaces ought to be protected and enjoyed by all.

Photo: DJ Glisson