Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

At roughly 26,000 acres, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County owns an impressive 13% of the county’s land. Comprised of 60 forest preserves that feature 30 lakes and ponds, 145 miles of trails, educational centers and more than 3,400 species of plants and animals, it serves as a recreational playground for its 4.2 million annual visitors. A true urban escape, DuPage County residents and guests take great advantage of the opportunity to bike, hike, golf, learn about native species, marvel at the natural beauty and reconnect with nature. Following are just a couple of examples of how the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is restoring land and educating its many visitors on the importance of conservation.

WILLOWBROOK WILDLIFE CENTER. Each year people bring thou- sands of orphaned or injured wild animals to Willowbrook Wildlife Center where they are treated, cared for and eventually released in a DuPage County forest pre- serve. As one of the only rehabilitation centers of its kind in the United States, Willowbrook Wildlife Center plays a significant role in the preservation of species native to Northeastern Illinois, ranging from chipmunks and raccoons to bald eagles and bobcats. Opened in 1952 and deeded to the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County in 1956, Willowbrook Wildlife Center offers visitors an opportunity to learn about and observe the animals found in their own backyards. “The primary objective is to teach DuPage County residents about how to live in harmony with wildlife,” explains Audra Bonnet, public relations coordinator.

Animals that have permanent disabilities or become too accustomed to human in- teraction and cannot survive in the wild, live in exhibits along the center’s outdoor trail where visitors are able to observe and learn about them from center volun- teers. Visitors are also encouraged to spend time inside the Visitor Center, which houses a raptor education program and nursery with orphaned baby animals. In its more than 60 years of operation, Willowbrook Wildlife Center has not only cared for tens of thousands of animals, it has also fostered an understanding between the human and wildlife residents of DuPage County.

NATIVE GOLF PRESERVES. The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County owns and operates three outstanding public golf courses: Green Meadows, Maple Meadows and the recently renovated Preserve at Oak Meadows. Designed with the natural landscape in mind, DuPage Golf boasts 9-hole and 18-hole courses, offering par 3s and par 4s. Each facility maintains its own distinct landscape style, from an open prairie design at Maple Meadows to a more traditional parkland setting at Green Meadows.

A two-year renovation project at Oak Meadows has resulted in a golf experience unlike any other in Illinois. The goal of the innovative improvement project was to complement the relationship between water and land at a golf course. The newly completed Preserve at Oak Meadows solves past flooding issues by adding 20 million gallons of stormwater storage, while also offering restored natural landscapes like savanna, prairie, woodland, wetland and waterway. “For centuries golfers have recognized that a good golf course provides an experience that is fun, challeng- ing and scenic,” explains Ed Stevenson, director. “A great course does all that while improving the communities around it and the habitat within.” Highly antici- pated in the golf world, the Preserve at Oak Meadows has reopened as a great course, earning acclaim as one of the top public courses in all of Illinois.

Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo, considered among the best in the U.S., hosts 2.3 million guests annually and has stayed true to its mis- sion of “inspiring conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature” since its founding in 1919. Not only do they offer a wide variety of education opportu- nities — ranging from preschool camps all the way to masters programs to inspire future generations of scientists, but as a member of the Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield Zoo is on the forefront of animal research and conservation. Following are just a few examples of how their work is protecting the animal kingdom.

CROSS-FOSTERING WITH THE WILD Brookfield Zoo introduces millions of visitors to a variety of endangered animals housed at the zoo, and is also actively involved in protecting these species in the wild. One import- ant way to assist endangered species is to promote genetic diversity through a cross-fostering program. Brookfield Zoo has been an active partner in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program since 2003. In cross-fostering, a pair of zoo-born pups and a pair of wild-born pups are swapped, thereby increasing the genetic

diversity in the wild population. “We are extremely proud to be able to contribute to this important conservation effort for the Mexican gray wolf population,” explains Bill Zeigler, senior vice president of animal programs. The program has seen great success as the mother wolves care for their litters, including their newly adopted pups, and the gene pool of the wild wolves eventu- ally grows as the zoo-born wolves breed within the population.

SARASOTA DOLPHIN RESEARCH PROGRAM A spectacular dolphin show may be seen daily at the zoo in Illinois, but the real show is underway in Sarasota, FL, where Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Zoological Society run the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. This program is the longest running of its kind in the world and entirely unique in that scientists are able to study and know specific animals within a population through their pioneered use of systematic long-term dolphin surveys. These surveys were especially important after the gulf oil spill in 2010 when researchers were able to quickly assess the severity of the impact on area dolphins.


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