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National Geographic's Joel Sartore Headlines Gala for Lake County Forest Preserves

April 3, 2024 11:35 AM
Portrait of Joel Sartore, 2021, by Ellen Sartore

World-renowned National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore is the featured speaker at a May 17 gala benefiting the Lake County Forest Preserves.

Sartore will delve into his ambitious National Geographic Photo Ark project dedicated to documenting every species living in the world’s zoos, aquariums and wildlife sanctuaries.

His goal is to create a photo archive of global diversity to inspire action through education, motivating people to help protect these animals for future generations. The award-winning photographer anticipates the completed project will encompass portraits of 20,000 species, including birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.

The evening features a cocktail reception, seated dinner and a photo-filled presentation. The Preservation Foundation, the charitable partner of the Lake County Forest Preserves, is holding the event at Independence Grove Forest Preserve in Libertyville.

The business casual gala kicks off a significant fundraising campaign in Lake County. The foundation is striving to secure $20 million in endowment funds by the end of 2025 to support the forest preserves. Collaboratively, donations from individuals, corporations and foundations provide a continuous source of funding to ensure restored land remains healthy and resilient/

The interest generated from the endowment will annually offer $800,000 to support essential land management tasks. This funding will safeguard decades of investments, comprising both public and private funds, dedicated to the restoration of the forest preserves, said Preservation Foundation President Nels Leutwiler. "The endowment will also provide a steady source of matching funds necessary to secure outside grants and donations in order to advance future projects.”

Event organizers say Sartore is an ideal choice to inaugurate the fundraising campaign, given his alignment with the mission and conservation principles of the Forest Preserves.

The National Geographic Photo Ark is a multiyear effort to raise awareness about endangered species and conservation efforts. Sartore's striking portraits of animals have drawn attention to the plight of many species facing extinction due to habitat loss, climate change and other human-induced factors.

Sartore was a newspaper photographer before focusing on wildlife photography. He often uses a simple black or white background in his portraits to focus the viewer's attention solely on the animal subject. His minimalist approach highlights the beauty and diversity of each species he photographs.

"As stewards of the environment, we are thrilled to welcome Joel Sartore to kick off our fundraising campaign,” said Executive Director Alex Ty Kovach. “His dedication to the preservation of wildlife through his National Geographic project resonates deeply with our mission to protect and conserve the biodiversity of Lake County.”

To purchase tickets or a table, visit or call 847-968-3110.

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Media Contact: Rebekah Snyder, Director of Community Engagement & Partnerships, 847-968-3434,