Pond at Sand Ridge Nature Center, a Cook County Forest Preserve in the Calumet region. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

A proposed tax increase to benefit the Forest Preserve District of Cook County met with little opposition. Will voters respond with support at the ballot box?

Cousins Alfie Pritzl, left, and Teresa Pritzl chop down invasive buckthorn during a volunteer stewardship day at LaBagh Woods, Oct. 23, 2022. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

More than 50 fencing cages erected to protect plantings of native shrubs have been systematically destroyed, leaving the plants vulnerable to grazing by deer. Within days, tender seedlines were eaten to nubs.

Spring Lake Forest Preserve, Cook County. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

It's rare when newspaper editorial boards and fiscal watchdog groups recommend that residents vote to increase their property taxes. But that's exactly the case as Cook County voters face a binding question on their election ballot: Do you want to pay a little more to help fund the Cook County Forest Preserves?

Actor Nick Offerman has thrown his support behind a forest preserve tax levy. (YouTube)

His alter ego, Ron Swanson, may have been an anti-government government employee, but in real life, actor Nick Offerman has thrown his support behind a referendum that would increase the property tax levy for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.

Birds are on the move across the U.S. during fall migration. (Dariusz Grosa / Pexels)

Like any good host, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County has done its best to make sure the guests feel welcome.

Chicago Conservation Leadership Corps crew clearing buckthorn at Sand Ridge Nature Center, August 2022. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

While federal legislation to create a modern-day Civilian Conservation Corps inches its way through Congress, the Cook County Forest Preserve is moving full steam ahead with programs that deploy crews of youth and adults to tackle restoration and maintenance projects across the district’s acreage.

Swamp rose mallow at Sand Ridge Nature Center, a Cook County forest preserve. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

The native swamp rose mallow has hit full bloom, its super-sized six-inch blossoms bursting forth in seemingly every shade of pink from the palest blush to saturated fuschia

A coyote. (skeeze / Pixabay)

Complaints from animal rights advocates regarding the coyote, dubbed “Rocky,” prompted the forest preserve to review its ambassador animal program. A report was released Tuesday, outlining changes to the program, including a bigger enclosure for the coyote.

A baby Blanding’s turtle, raised at Shedd Aquarium its first year, awaiting release into the wild, where the state-endangered species' population has been in steep decline. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Nearly a dozen baby Blanding’s turtles — a state-listed endangered species — were recently released into the swampy waters of a Cook County forest preserve wetland.

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

The Forest Preserves of Cook County will take over Daley Plaza Tuesday to spread the word about all the county's 70,000 natural acres have to offer.

Great egrets and double-crested cormorants at the rookery in the middle of Baker's Lake. (Forest Preserve District of Cook County / Facebook)

The deaths occurred at the Baker’ s Lake forest preserve, the Forest Preserves of Cook County said in a statement on Thursday.

Artist John Bannon works on his tree sculpture “Y Knot” on March 4, 2022, in Hollywood Park as part of the Chicago Tree Project program. (WTTW News)

The overall number of trees in the region has increased, according to a 2020 tree census conducted by Morton Arboretum.  But not all trees are seen as equals. Some are invasive and prevent native trees and plants from flourishing. 

Wildlife biologists band egrets at Baker’s Lake. (Forest Preserve District of Cook County)

Cook County’s forest preserves are much loved for their picnic groves and trails. Not as well known: The forest preserve district’s role as a research hub and early warning system of sorts against zoonotic diseases.

North American river otters, once nearly extinct in Illinois, are a great comeback story. (Grayson Smith / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The Urban River Otter Research Project recently launched in Cook County. One of the early goals is to gather otter sightings from the public in order to get a sense of the extent of the animal’s presence in and around Chicago.

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

In honor of Monday’s Martin Luther King Day of Service, Cook County Forest Preserves is hosting volunteer activities at a number of sites across the forest preserve district, from habitat restoration to litter cleanups.

A falconry hood is placed over the eagle's eyes and ears to help relax the bird and make the exam easier on the bird and handlers. (Courtesy of Willowbrook Wildlife Center)

Eagles don't eat rat poison, but they do eat the critters that take the bait. The powerful toxins keep blood from clotting, and a recently rescued eagle would have bled to death from a tiny cut, said the veterinarian caring for the bird.