Chicago Wilderness Vision
City of Chicago. Photo by Sergiy.
At A Glance
- The Chicago Wilderness Region spans four states, 38 counties and more than 500 municipalities.
- More than 10 million people live in this region.
The vision of Chicago Wilderness is to create a network of more than two million acres of protected and restored lands and waters across the Midwest.
Download Report & Map
Our conservation efforts in and around Chicago, from Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie to wetlands restoration, keeps growing. Chicago Wilderness, regional alliance represents more than 300 organizations, recently asked us to help update and refine its 2004 green infrastructure plan.
With an ambitious vision to create a network of more than two million acres of protected and restored lands and waters across the Midwest, Chicago Wilderness continues to make conservation gains and their vision continues to grow and change.
The Fund’s Role
The Fund was chosen by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to develop detailed maps for a seven-county study area in northeast Illinois and in 2012, we completed a revised vision plan that links woodlands, grasslands, wetlands, streams and lakes within urban, suburban and rural areas around Chicago.
To find ways to save this heartland while supporting economic development and quality of life, we convened land developers, federal and state regulators, cultural and academic institutions, conservation groups, engineering firms, corporations, local government officials, public works and transportation leaders. Together, we identified a need to improve the original Green Infrastructure Vision with more robust analytics, scientific research and data that address a broader range of issues for the protection, restoration and connection of healthy ecosystems across the region.
Our new Chicago Wilderness Vision is expansive, with ideas for big landscapes and individual neighborhoods alike. Here are a few of our top goals:
- Provide critical habitat, including migration corridors, for wildlife.
- Preserve healthy working lands, such as farms.
- Link communities through greenways, trails, and recreational networks.
- Enhance urban neighborhoods for livability and good environmental outcomes with tree-lined streets, community gardens, pocket parks, green roofs and green boulevards.
With support from Chicago Wilderness and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Fund took the Vision one step further, expanding the green infrastructure network into southeast Wisconsin, northwest Indiana, southwest Michigan, and the remainder of the Chicago Wilderness ecoregion in Illinois. The enhanced Vision is designed to inform the future development of regional, local and site-specific land-use plans and guide decisions on the protection of nearby lands that provide important natural assets—like wildlife habitat, clean water, flood control and recreational opportunities.
Planning A Future Connected By Nature
Through community-based Sustainable Watershed Action Teams, metropolitan planning organizations, residents and institutions in the region—like the Field Museum in Chicago—are learning about the updated Green Infrastructure Vision and using it to create tailored green infrastructure plans that facilitate their conservation and restoration goals. Our collective Vision is helping counties, townships and neighborhoods across the region plan for a greener tomorrow.
Green infrastructure datasets and final reports are available for the entire Chicago Wilderness region, including portions of Indiana and Wisconsin, on the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning website.