GLENCOE, IL (December 13, 2013) – The Chicago Botanic Garden today awarded the Forest Preserves of Cook County the 2013 Hutchinson Medal to recognize leadership in ecological restoration and education.
“The Forest Preserves is celebrating its first centennial and planning for the next one hundred years. It’s a fitting time to recognize the environmental visionaries who set aside the first preserve in the early 1900s, and all the volunteers, private partners and government leaders who have built on this early vision,” said Sophia Siskel, the Garden’s president and CEO. “We believe the Forest Preserves will continue to protect vital open space for generations to come through its Next Century Conservation Plan.”
Toni Preckwinkle, Forest Preserves president, and general superintendent Arnold Randall accepted the award at a meeting of the Chicago Botanic Garden Board of Directors.
“We are proud to accept the Hutchinson Medal on behalf of the Forest Preserves of Cook County and join a distinguished list of recipients from the Forest Preserve family, such as Cap Sauers and Arthur Janura,” Preckwinkle said. “It is an honor to be recognized for our ecological restoration, education and outreach efforts. I’d especially like to thank our dedicated staff for its excellent work. And I want to acknowledge the thousands of volunteers and partners, including the Chicago Botanic Garden, who support our mission. None of these accomplishments would be possible without them.”
The Forest Preserves comprise the oldest and largest forest preserve district in the United States. The system serves an estimated 40 million visitors a year at its six nature centers and more than 69,000 acres of open space. The beautiful and biologically rich natural areas, accounting for 11 percent of Cook County, contribute to the regional economy and enrich the lives of residents throughout the Chicago region.
The system began in 1911 with a group of environmentalists who predicted the area’s rapid growth and worked to pass a 1913 act creating the Forest Preserve District. The first board meeting was held in 1915 and land acquisition began in 1916 with 500 acres known today as Deer Grove in Palatine, Illinois. The Forest Preserves now traverses the county with a network of wetlands, prairies, woodlands and river corridors. The system successfully merges residents of the urban environment with nature and fulfills the founding principle of the Forest Preserves, providing natural areas “for the masses to restore their body, mind and spirit.”
The district’s Next Century Conservation Plan works to further enhance the visitor experience by beautifying entrances, improving interpretive signs, establishing campsites and installing a work of art to commemorate the centennial. The district also plans to expand educational programs to foster the next generation of conservation leaders, integrate the Forest Preserves experience with new technology and continue efforts to protect the incredible biodiversity of the system.
The Chicago Horticultural Society—the governing body of the Chicago Botanic Garden —created the Hutchinson Medal in 1894 to honor organizations or individuals who have advanced the fields of horticulture, plant science and conservation. The medal is named for Charles L. Hutchinson, founder and president of The Art Institute of Chicago and a Chicago Horticultural Society board member. Previous honorees include the following:
- Gerald W. Adelmann (2012), executive director of Openlands, where he has helped coordinate numerous conservation projects, including the creation of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, the preservation of the Openlands Lakeshore preserve, and the designation of the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor.
- George B. Rabb, Ph.D. (2011), president emeritus of the Chicago Zoological Society, an innovator who pioneered naturalistic environmental immersion exhibits and helped found the Society for Conservation Biology and Chicago Wilderness.
- Peter H. Raven, Ph.D. (1986), botanist, environmentalist and president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden.
- William A.P. Pullman (1968), president of the Chicago Horticultural Society during the emergence of the Chicago Botanic Garden.
- Janet Meakin Poor (1994), a Chicago-area conservationist and landscape designer dedicated to preserving natural habitats.
- E.O. Wilson, Ph.D (2004), the father of biodiversity.
- William T. Stearn, D.Sc. (1985), past president of the Linnean Society and past librarian of the Royal Horticultural Society, and 2000 recipient of the Asa Gray Award, the highest honor of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists.
- John L. Creech, Ph.D. (1987), past director of the U.S. National Arboretum.