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What We Do


  • project-1

    Blanding's Turtle Recovery Program

    The Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is a long-lived, semi-aquatic turtle in decline throughout much of its range. The species was designated as endangered in the state of Illinois in 2009.

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    Lake Plain Coastal Restoration Project

    This habitat restoration project represents the work of a multistate, public and private partnership comprised of state and local government, non-governmental organizations, universities, volunteers and private landowners.

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  • project-3

    Woody Invasive Species Clearing Project

    This winter, our well-trained crews will remove invasive woody species, primarily buckthorn, autumn olive, sandbar willow and honeysuckle, from the preserves listed below.

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Blanding's Turtle Recovery Program | Countywide


Blanding's Turtle Recovery Program | Countywide

Blanding's turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is a medium-sized semi-aquatic turtle distinguished by its bright yellow chin and throat and mottled shell. Historically common in northern Illinois, they are now designated as endangered and remain in only a few isolated remnant wetlands. Learn more »


Creating Climate Resiliency and Reconnecting Habitats | Grant Woods


Creating Climate Resiliency and Reconnecting Habitats | Grant Woods

Something groundbreaking is happening at Grant Woods. We have created a living laboratory on 180 acres of retired agricultural fields to research how we can work within the realities of climate change. The goal of this project is to learn how to cultivate and restore resilient native landscapes with plants that can withstand a shifting climate. It will also engage seed producers, conservation organizations, neighbors, volunteers, and landowners to build and sustain a demand for climate-adapted seed.

We are preparing the fields and will plant native seeds sourced from northern, central, and southern Illinois, as well as Kentucky, in fall 2020. Hedgerows and woody invasive species will be cleared in winter 2020-21. In spring and summer 2021, forb seeding will occur and drain tiles will be removed. We will continuously monitor the plants to study how they adapt to change across typical boundaries as they grow.

This research is supported by the Preservation Foundation of the Lake County Forest Preserves, a private donor and a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society Climate Adaptation Fund. Follow along here and on social media @LCFPD for up-to-date findings that will inform restoration techniques to build more resilient ecosystems.

Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid Conservation | Countywide


Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid Conservation | Countywide

Every year a tall white orchid flowers around the Fourth of July weekend in spectacular fashion across Midwestern United States. Lake County Forest Preserves is home to some of the largest remaining populations.

Eastern prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea) was listed as Federally Endangered in 1989. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, populations of eastern prairie fringed orchids—found mostly east of the Mississippi—have shrunk to 60. Illinois, which historically supported the largest number of eastern prairie fringed orchids, has seen the greatest decline in their numbers. Today only 22 known populations of eastern prairie fringed orchids remain.

Threats to this species include the loss and degradation of habitat and private collectors—even in protected sites. The use of insecticides has also played a role in diminishing orchid populations, since these orchids are dependent upon the rare hawk moth for pollination.

Ecological management of the preserves where this species occurs involves controlled burns, invasive plant species and restoration of hydrological conditions. We have worked with research organizations to identify the soil fungi and other environmental factors that are important to this orchid. Our staff, along with volunteers, conducts an annual census of plants. We also work to induce seed production in the small populations through hand pollination and later collect seed capsules for dispersal at sites deemed suitable for the reintroduction of the orchids.

Grassland Mammals Conservation Program | Countywide


Grassland Mammals Conservation Program | Countywide

Meadow jumping mice (Zapus hudsonius) and least weasels (Mustela nivalis) are grassland-dwelling mammals native to the prairie, savanna and wet meadow habitats of Lake County. As with many grassland-dependent species of this region, both of these mammals have lost a significant amount of their historic range through conversion of grassland to agriculture and habitat fragmentation.

Meadow jumping mice are especially sensitive to roads, limiting dispersal and reducing opportunities to colonize available habitat. Additionally, least weasels were historically trapped for fur, which may have contributed to local population declines.

In recent years, we have purchased and restored a significant amount of land that could support populations of meadow jumping mice and least weasels. Despite these conservation efforts, these species have only been found in a few forest preserves.

We have partnered with the Lincoln Park Zoo on a multi-year research and recovery project to further assess the status of these species and restore them to preserves where suitable habitat exists.

Green Infrastructure Model and Strategy | Countywide

Green Infrastructure Model and Strategy | Countywide

In collaboration with The Conservation Fund, we developed a Green Infrastructure Model and Strategy (GIMS), which will guide regional, local and site planning by agencies, corporations and citizens of Lake County. In 2015, the Forest Preserve Board adopted 13 strategic objectives, one of which is a commitment to develop partnerships to create three 10,000-acre complexes that provide large-scale habitats for woodland, grassland and wetlands species.

The Lake County GIMS will aid the Forest Preserves and other agencies in planning and implementation efforts by providing a consistent modeling framework throughout the county, as well as a common vision for conservation of major landscape types.

Hydrologic Restoration and Enhancement Project | Cuba Marsh

Prior to acquiring land at Cuba Marsh, much of the area was farmland. As part of the site’s agricultural past, drainage modifications were done to make the site more farmable, including the installation of water control structures and drain tiles. The effects of these modifications have scarred the landscape by draining wetlands, restricting the natural hydrology, and causing or furthering erosion. The project will improve natural hydrology and land and water quality by reducing erosion potential. Over the next several months, crews will:

  1. Remove the failing drain tiles that are draining wetlands and causing erosion
  2. Stabilize existing and eroding flow paths between wetlands and wetland basins
  3. Replace a failed water control structure within the wetland complex near the corner of Cuba an Ela Roads

From a wildlife perspective, Cuba Marsh once held numerous rare and threatened or endangered bird species that nested in the hemi-marsh habitat (roughly a 50:50 mix of open water and emergent marsh vegetation) at the site. This habitat structure provides high-quality habitat and nesting opportunities for many rare and secretive species, such as yellow-headed blackbirds, bitterns, rails, pied-billed grebe, sora, common gallinule, and others. 

With the failure of the old water control structure, the wetland’s hydrology and vegetation structure changed and no longer supported these species as it did previously. Replacing the water control structure will allow us to recreate the hydrologic conditions that existed when these important species were present. Additionally, some of the other measures that will be installed to combat erosion will also act to hold more water on the landscape within the other wetland basins. This will provide additional hemi-marsh conditions throughout the site and create more habitat for the species previously mentioned. 

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority's Mitigation Project | Pine Dunes

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority's Mitigation Project | Pine Dunes

In 2013, we entered an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority for the mitigation of impacts associated with the construction of the O’Hare International Airport Western Access Project.

The agreement provided access for ISTHA to construct public access and implement wetland and upland restoration at Pine Dunes to meet the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mitigation requirements.

Lake Plain Coastal Wetland Restoration | Multistate Project

Lake Plain Coastal Wetland Restoration | Multistate Project

Partners are restoring and protecting over 4,000 acres of coastal wetlands and prairies at Spring Bluff Forest Preserve, Chiwaukee Prairie and Illinois Beach State Park. The Lake Plain has been designated as Ramsar "Wetlands of International Importance." Learn more »


Northeast Illinois Ravine Restoration | Fort Sheridan

ravineNortheast Illinois Ravine Restoration | Fort Sheridan

In partnership with the Alliance for the Great Lakes, we are enhancing rare Lake Michigan ravine community.

This project includes clearing woody invasive species to increase light levels that reach the ground, restore growth of native grasses and forbs, and reduce slope erosion adjacent to homes. Native plants from seeds and fruits collected within these high-quality ravines were grown in our Native Seed Nursery until they were large enough to reintroduce into the ravine at Fort Sheridan

The project also provided outreach to private landowners, educating them about the actions they can take to prevent further threat of erosion to their homes and property.

North Mill Creek Restoration | Ethel's Woods

North Mill Creek Restoration | Ethel's Woods

We are restructuring an earthen dam to slowly drain 53-acre Rasmussen Lake and restore the North Mill Creek stream channel.

The water quality of Rasmussen Lake is very poor. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has classified the lake as unsupportive for aquatic life, swimming and recreation. Rasmussen Lake is currently ranked by the Lake County Health Department as 161 of 162 in terms of water quality in the county.

From 2001 to 2006, we studied restoration options with an advisory committee made up of officials from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Lake County Health Department, Lake County Stormwater Management Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey. In February 2007, our Board of Commissioners approved dam modification and channel restoration of North Mill Creek.

The project consists of two phases. During the first phase, we restructured the existing earthen dam to slowly expose the lake sediment. The result was a 14-acre shallow wetland that acts as a sediment catch. Slowly draining the lake allowed North Mill Creek to cut a shallow swale through the lake sediment, while allowing the sediments to stabilize and prevent them from moving downstream.

The second phase of the project, which started in October 2017, will drain the remaining 14 acres. Once complete, we will create pools and riffles in a newly developed stream channel. Eroded slopes and the original dam will be addressed during this phase, and the concrete spillway will be removed. The floodplain will then be seeded with native plant species. Finally, we will connect with the stream below the project area to allow fish passage.

The new stream channel will improve water quality, sediment transport, water oxygen levels, and fish habitat. Project completion is anticipated in spring 2019.

Funding assistance for this project was provided by Section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act—Grant funds by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

Smooth Green Snake Recovery Program | Countywide

snakeSmooth Green Snake Recovery Program | Countywide

Categorized as an Illinois Species in Greatest Need of Conservation, these tiny, jewel-colored snakes have drastically dwindled in numbers over the past few decades. As part of a joint conservation effort with the Lincoln Park Zoo, we seek to restore the smooth green snake to its native prairie home.

After decades of development, Illinois has less than one percent of its original prairie intact. We have purchased and restored a significant amount of land containing suitable habitat for the smooth green snake. Despite this, recent monitoring indicated that remaining populations were small and not likely viable in the long term.

Now, the smooth green snake population is recovering with a head-starting program conducted in partnership with the Lincoln Park Zoo. Juvenile snakes raised in the zoo have been released in temporary enclosures or directly into the preserves. They are then monitored to determine the best method for reintroduction moving forward.

Woodland Habitat Restoration Project | Countywide

Woodland Habitat Restoration Project | Countywide

Oak Woodlands are in trouble across the eastern United States. We have begun opening the canopy to increase the amount of light that reaches the ground and ensure the regeneration of oaks and other native trees and shrubs.

These clearing projects will increase the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground. Higher light levels will encourage the regeneration of shade intolerant trees and shrub species, such as white oak, red oak, walnuts, viburnums and hazelnut. These native trees and shrubs provide important cover and food for wildlife. Learn more »

Woody Invasive Species Clearing | Countywide

Invasive_Woody_Species_Before_and_AfterWoody Invasive Species Clearing | Countywide

Invasive species have a negative effect on our natural areas and threaten the health of commercial, agricultural and recreational activities dependent on healthy ecosystems. Each winter, we selectively remove invasive woody species from forest preserves throughout the county. Learn more »