Protecting Cook County’s natural heritage for the next century

Protecting Cook County's natural heritage for the next century

As the oldest and largest forest preserve in the nation, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County provides education, relaxation, and recreation to millions of County residents and visitors each year while protecting nearly 70,000 acres of open space. In 2014, the District released its Next Century Conservation Plan, an ambitious blueprint to make Cook County a national leader in urban conservation. Implementing the Plan would require significant financial resources, and the District needed to determine how to bring the vision to life while working within its budget. To do so, the District asked Civic Consulting Alliance for help in analyzing a viable path towards implementation.

Civic Consulting, in partnership with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, identified and assessed initiatives for alignment with the District's mission, feasibility, and financial impact over a 25-year horizon. The team then developed a scenario-planning framework by identifying forest preserves across the country facing similar challenges, thus helping the District visualize different models for what the next century could look like.

The Civic Consulting-Booth team used the scenario-planning framework to facilitate a workshop for the District's Conservation and Policy Council. Discussing peer models helped to focus the conversation and allowed the District to prioritize implementation initiatives in a holistic manner. As a result of this work, the Forest Preserve can implement the Next Century Conservation Plan in a way that aligns with its mission and financial capacity.

"Civic Consulting Alliance's external perspective added a new level of rigor and depth to our Council's discussion," said Forest Preserve Superintendent Arnold Randall. "For an organization that thinks in terms of decades, this work will improve our strategic decision-making for a very long time."

For more information on this project, please contact Andy Schwarm.

Civic Consulting Alliance's external perspective added a new level of rigor and depth to our Council's discussion.

Arnold Randall

District of Cook County