Empowering Local People in Conservation Work

We recognize the crucial link between healthy, wild lands and the quality of life of the people in and near them. The same linkage between nature and culture is vital in urban settings. Our work with both urban and rural communities reveals their strengths and aspirations. In the process we give voice to the value that people, in whatever setting, find in the conservation of natural resources.

Our approach is focused on the assets local people bring to the conservation process and identifies (1) the strengths of their local organizations, (2) their ecological knowledge, (3) their use of natural resources, (4) their cultural practices related to sustainable livelihoods, and (5) their aspirations for the future.

Sustainability in the Andes-Amazon

Together with partner organizations, we work with communities living in or around protected areas. Typically, these are communities whose livelihoods depend heavily or almost entirely on the health of the surrounding forest. We focus on the quality of life of local people and design a strategy that engages local communities in the management, land-use planning, and long-term success of the protected area. 

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Working With Communities in the Chicago Region

We are guided by the region’s Green Infrastructure Vision (GIV), in which natural areas and their surrounding communities take care of each other. We work in both the dark green areas of the GIV map, which represent protected land, and the light green areas, which represent communities surrounding the protected land. In our work in both areas, we help our partners design and develop environmental programs and plans that build on their local assets and on natural resources to address quality of life concerns. Our partners are diverse and include groups such as land managers, volunteer stewards, recreation organizations, municipalities, businesses and engineering firms, libraries, and community-based and environmental organizations.

Our work spans the 9-county Chicago Wilderness region, and we focus especially on Calumet and the city of Chicago. Our major partners include: