Cook County is the largest and most populous county in Illinois, including the city of Chicago, where Openlands is headquartered. Like Lake County, Cook shares a coastline on one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes, Lake Michigan. While much the land-use in Cook County is developed, though it boasts a robust forest preserves system, with over 70,000 acres devoted to natural areas including woodlands, marshes, prairies, and hundreds of miles of trails.
Since Openlands’ founding as part of the Metropolitan Welfare Council of Chicago, it has been committed to connecting urban dwellers with nature close to home. Openlands work in Chicago and Cook County focus on building advocates for nature through community-driven tree plantings and care, environmental education, and working with partners like the City of Chicago and Forest Preserves of Cook County to acquire and restore land for future parks, preserves, and natural areas. Our work in policy and advocacy expands and deepens these efforts, by pursuing policies and land-use decisions that protect habitats and wildlife, and the health and well-being of residents across the metropolitan region.