Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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The Forest Preserve District
Nature Bulletin No. 109   March 29, 1947
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation

Forest Preserve Districts, in Illinois, are separate municipal bodies governed by a Board of Forest Preserve Commissioners consisting of the elected county commissioners, as in Cook County, or by a committee of the county board of supervisors, as in 7 other counties. The legislative act which provided for such a district, if authorized by referendum vote of the people, became a law on July 1, 1914.

Under that act, the commissioners are empowered to levy taxes, issue bonds, and to acquire lands containing forests "for the purpose of protecting and preserving the flora, fauna and scenic beauties.... and to restore, restock, protect and preserve the natural forests and said lands with their flora and fauna, as nearly as may be in their natural state and condition for the purpose of the education, pleasure and recreation of the public". A limit of 35,000 acres was set; later increased to 39,000.

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County was organized in 1915. Its holdings now exceed 36,800 acres distributed over the entire county along the major streams and including 10,000 acres in the Palos hills, plus several isolated tracts of from 1300 to 1700 acres each. Eighty percent is wild land; 60% is forested.

Until 1929, when a general plan and policy recommended by an Advisory Committee for future acquisitions and developments was adopted, the District was largely concerned with land purchases. From 1929 to 1942, acquisition continued but the major activity, aided by CCC, CWA and WPA, consisted of construction to protect the holdings against fire and automobiles, and to provide adequate recreational facilities.

Along the highway borders, 165 picnic centers have been provided and picnicking is by far the major form of outdoor recreation in this county of 4,250,000 people. The interiors are accessible only by walking and 175 miles of trails were built to serve hikers, bicyclists and equestrians. The district also operates 4 golf courses, three outdoor swimming pools and four winter sports centers. About 15 million persons visit the preserves annually but the interiors are wild and support all forms of native wildlife in amazing abundance. Our problem is to improve the quality of public use.

We must educate the people to enjoy and protect their own property.

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