Chicago Wilderness

A Rare Metropolitan Wilderness

Chicago Wilderness is a regional nature reserve that includes more than 225,000 acres of protected natural areas stretching from southeast Wisconsin through northeast Illinois and into northwest Indiana.

The Chicago Zoological Society is a founding member of the Chicago Wilderness consortium, an alliance of more than 200 public and private organizations working together to protect, restore, study, and manage the natural ecosystems of the Chicago region, contribute to the conservation of global biodiversity, and enrich local residents’ quality of life.

The Chicago region is one of only a handful of metropolitan areas worldwide that have a high concentration of globally significant plant and animal communities. It harbors some of the best remaining remnants of Midwestern wilderness, including some of the best surviving examples of Midwestern tallgrass prairie and open oak woodlands (oak savannas), communities that are now rarer than tropical rain forests. It also supports many other rare plants and animals, including nearly 200 species listed as endangered or threatened in Illinois.

Collaborative Action
The members of Chicago Wilderness work collaboratively in four program areas: science, natural resource management, education and communication, and sustainability. Chicago Wilderness has funded more than 300 collaborative projects in these areas to conserve native plants and animals in this region and to foster more sustainable relationships between people and nature. Some of the consortium’s key accomplishments include: 

  • Producing the region’s first comprehensive Biodiversity Recovery Plan.
  • Helping to restore natural communities on public and private lands.
  • Working to prevent the ongoing loss of critical habitats and promote careful development.
  • Offering opportunities for citizens to become involved in local biodiversity conservation.

The Society actively supports these programs by hosting and guiding the consortium’s two communication staff members and by participating in collaborative projects, including the creation of a social science research agenda that supports the Chicago Wilderness strategic plan.