2022 Year In Review highlights achievements

Once again, David Holman has compiled an impressive report on the many wonderful things that continue to happen across the state — from the prairies and wetlands to urban areas and everything in-between. This is David’s longest report yet, so we can offer you a quick summary and the longer version you can immerse yourself with as you take in the many amazing accomplishments by so many dedicated people this last year.

Take a look!


2022 Year In Review highlights achievements

Once again, David Holman has compiled an impressive report on the many wonderful things that continue to happen across the state — from the prairies and wetlands to urban areas and everything in-between. This is David’s longest report yet, so we can offer you a quick summary and the longer version you can immerse yourself with as you take in the many amazing accomplishments by so many dedicated people this last year.

Take a look!


Meet Cynthia Kanner, PSCC Executive Director

We are thrilled to introduce PSCC’s first executive director, Cynthia Kanner, of Algonquin, who will step into this newly-created position January 2, 2023.

“The addition of an executive director to PSCC has been a goal for many years,” Brook McDonald, current PSCC president and president/CEO of The Conservation Foundation, said. “We are excited to see this become a reality as we embrace future challenges, create a stronger and unified voice for land conservation, and help prepare the next generation of conservation professionals.”

The executive director position was created to better meet the needs of this growing organization and was made possible with donations and pledges from private land conservation organizations and supporters across the state.

Kanner will be responsible for expanding the current membership to include not just conservation land trusts, but any organizations advocating for land preservation and conservation; diversify future funding sources; continue to educate the public, private landowners, and elected officials of the benefits to people and nature by permanent land preservation; create opportunities for future stewards of the environment; and, make PSCC a leading voice for land conservation in Illinois.

“I’m honored beyond words to have been selected for this important leadership position,” Kanner said. “I’m thrilled that my experience in the nonprofit world, passion for building capacity and collaborative partnerships, and love of the natural world will culminate in state-wide work dedicated to strengthening conservation efforts.

“We are at a pivotal place in human and natural history and I’m excited to work with our member land trusts as well as other organizations and groups across Illinois.”

Kanner said connecting with diverse and previously underserved communities surrounding the vital issues of habitat recovery and preservation will be a priority as will inspiring new generations of stewards.

“Elevating the critical connection between habitat and wildlife health and the health of all Illinoisans is something I look forward to very much,” she said.

Kanner brings a broad spectrum of experience to the position, most recently 15 years with Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, serving as its executive director for the last four years. She served as director of communications and marketing and as a consultant for Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and as executive director of World Affairs Council of Washington, D.C. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Comparative Studies from Duke University.

She has travelled professionally to Taiwan, Vietnam, and Morocco as a delegate representing World Affairs Council of Washington, D.C., and to South Africa, Czech Republic, Egypt, and the USSR for education tours and forums.

Kanner has been a long-time supporter of conservation and environmental organizations locally as well as state-wide and serves on the board of directors of the Food Shed Co-op, a cooperative grocery store breaking ground in McHenry County next year.

Her yard received the designation of Conservation@Home through the Land Conservancy of McHenry County and has both a native prairie and native woodland garden as well as several old bur oak trees. Kanner is also a former stream monitoring educator with Friends of the Fox River and is a river guide on the Fox.

Kanner will be officially introduced to the PSCC membership at its annual training conference March 2 and 3, 2023 at Starved Rock State Park.

You’ll be able to reach her at executivedirector@prairiestateconservation.org starting next month.

Join us in giving her a big welcome to Prairie State Conservation Coalition!


PSCC receives ICECF Natural Areas Grant



Prairie State Conservation Coalition is grateful to the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation for awarding a $36,000 grant for our project “Growing Leadership, Diversifying Membership, and Completing the Strategic Plan.”

The project will focus on enhancing the membership experience for our members, creating a commercial donor database, and expanding our membership beyond the land trust community. The project will put particular emphasis on a new strategic plan to incorporate our intentions regarding justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in our conservation community led by our newly-hired executive director to take us into the future.

Our new executive director will be responsible for leading us in five key areas:

  • Expand the PSCC membership that includes all land conservation organizations
  • Create opportunities for the next generation of conservation professionals
  • Diversify future PSCC funding sources to include more individual donors, local family foundations, corporate and private businesses, and new member organizations
  • Educate the public, private landowners, and elected officials of the benefits to people and nature by permanent land preservation and conservation practices
  • Be the leader and leading voice for land conservation in Illinois

We are excited with the opportunity to move forward in all these areas as we venture into a promising and fruitful future.



Prescribed Fire Survey

Citing new funding sources for wildfire hazard mitigation, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition has partnered with Colorado State University, University of Michigan, the Fire Learning Network, and the Watershed Research and Training Center to launch a survey on prescribed fire implementation capacity, insurance access and barriers. Those experienced in planning and implementing prescribed fire operations are urged to share their expertise.

This survey was designed in response to several timely factors and concerns:

  • An influx of new federal and state funding for wildfire hazard mitigation, without clear strategies for how partners’ capacity will be tapped;

  • A lack of comprehensive information about the community and capacity of partners with whom federal and state partners may work on prescribed fire; and

  • A dramatic loss of prescribed fire insurance policy options without a comprehensive understanding of how this impacts partners, at what scales, and in which capacities.

Survey responses must be submitted by Wednesday, November 30, 2022. CLICK HERE to visit the survey website. If you have any questions, please contact Michelle Greiner, CSU researcher and survey partner.


State of the Birds report for the U.S. released

Despite a loss of 3 billion — yes, billion — the State of the Birds report does contain some encouraging news that the steep decline can be reversed through conservation actions that will positively affect all wildlife, and also people.

The report states that trends for the nation’s birds shows them declining in every habitat except wetlands, which has benefited from decades of targeted conservation efforts.

Give birds and nature a chance is the overall message in reversing this downward trend that will benefit the environment as a whole.

You can read the complete report here:


Test drive outdoor wheelchair at Lake Forest Open Lands

Lake Forest Open Lands Association (LFOLA) is offering a test drive of specially-designed outdoor wheelchairs at an Open House on Saturday, October 29 from 10 a.m. to noon. LFOLA is partnering with Access Ability Wisconsin (AAW) as a host location for a motorized, all-terrain wheelchair in its efforts to increase access for everyone to enjoy the outdoors.

“We’re thrilled to be the first Illinois partner with AAW,” LFOLA president Ryan London, said. “This partnership helps us deliver on our promise of making nature available for all, while raising awareness that there is a no-cost solution to the challenge of getting outdoors for those living with mobility difficulties.”

These special chairs become “hiking boots” for anyone living with a physical disability to experience the dignity and freedom to get outside in nature. The chairs are able to go where regular wheelchairs with skinny tires can’t go. An enclosed trailer also is available to take the special chair to a desired trail head.

As an AAW Network Host, LFLOLA can rely on AAW’s expertise in programming and adaptive equipment that provides increased outdoor access for those living with mobility challenges. Those interested can reserve the chair (available at NO COST with a small deposit andd required returned survey) to explore miles of trails at a favorite Lake Forest Open Lands preserve and other local private or public lands using the provided AAW trailer.

Lake Forest Open Lands Association was established in 1967 and is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, the first accredited land trust in Illinois. LFOLA has acquired, preserved, and maintained some of the finest natural habitats in the region including prairies, savannas, ravines, and wetlands, including more than 16 miles of walking trails and six (soon to be nine) nature preserves open to the public year-round.

Access Ability Wisconsin is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organizaiton dedicated to facilitating and providing the means for individuals with mobility challenges to acces and enjoy the outdoors, promoting equity and healthy living.


Lake Forest Open Lands names new president

Ryan London named President

Lake Forest Open Lands Association is pleased to announce that Ryan London has been appointed to the position of President on May 18, 2022. Ryan becomes the fifth president in the nationally recognized land trust’s 55-year history, “I am incredibly thankful to continue my meaningful career with an organization that connects people with nature.”

An Illinois native and long-term staff member of Lake Forest Open Lands (LFOLA), Ryan London brings extensive knowledge of the land as well as a deep understanding of LFOLA to his role as president, acquired during his 20+ year tenure with our organization. In his previous role, Ryan directed the acquisition, stewardship and financial planning of our land preservation projects. Most recently Ryan was the chief project manager for LFOLA’s ambitious restoration and infrastructure project, the Jean and John Greene Nature Preserve at McCormick Ravine which is slated to open in late Fall, 2022. Ryan stewarded the organization through successful reaccreditation, guided our nature preserves to their highest level of habitat health, improved the management of our many conservation easements, and was intricately involved in helping secure some of our most recent land acquisitions, including Westfork Savanna in late 2021.

Ryan’s career highlights include projects that represent successful collaboration between federal, state and local organizations and the development of support from both public and private stakeholders for complex land preservation, recreation and environmental education initiatives.

Susan Lenz appointed Senior Vice President of Community Conservation

LFOLA’s vision is to expand the community’s commitment to conservation and connection with nature. With this in mind, LFOLA hired Susan Lenz, former Executive Director for Barrington Area Conservation Trust (BACT) for the new position of Senior Vice President of Community Conservation. While at the BACT, Susan directed land preservation initiatives and stewardship. Susan currently serves on the board of the statewide Prairie State Conservation Coalition, the coalition of land trusts throughout the state of Illinois. In addition, she also participates in several regional and state initiatives including Rotary International’s Operation Pollination, Illinois Monarch Project, the Morton Arboretum’s Chicago Region Trees’ Initiative and Oak Ecosystem Recovery Project, Chicago Wilderness and the Land Trust Alliance.

About Lake Forest Open Lands

Since its establishment in 1967, Lake Forest Open Lands, the first accredited land trust in Illinois, has acquired, preserved and maintained some of the finest natural habitats in our region including prairies, savannas, ravines and wetlands. Over 14 miles of walking trails and six, soon to be nine, nature preserves are open to the public year-round. Lake Forest Open Lands Association’s vision is to engage and expand the public’s commitment to land preservation and conservation, and the organization offers robust engagement programming to connect all people to nature. As an independent conservation land trust, LFOLA is supported solely by voluntary contributions, including membership dues and donations and receives no local or state government funding to support its day-to-day operations. For more information about Lake Forest Open Lands, please visit LFOLA.org.


LFOLA’s John Sentell to retire

Lake Forest Open Lands announced President and CEO John Sentell will retire in May, 2022. Sentell has led the highly-regarded conservation land trust for more than 11 years and will remain with the organization in an advisory capacity and continue to serve on LFOLA’s board of governors.

Here’s the news release with the announcement:

“We will miss John’s steady hand, contagious energy and passionate vision leading our organization,”said Fred Wacker, board chair of LFOLA. “John’s dedication during his tenure has brought many successes of which we can all be proud and that will endure for decades.”

During Sentell’s tenure, LFOLA extended its mission to preserve threatened native landscapes and connect people with nature. Notable land achievements include the addition of several high‐priority parcels to LFOLA’s portfolio of nature preserves, including the permanent preservation and restoration of the iconic McCormick ravine and woods along Lake Michigan, the recently acquired 102‐acre Westfork Savanna and completing the land trust’s 40‐year goal to link a 7‐mile protected greenway at West Skokie Nature Preserve.

Over the last decade LFOLA found success in engaging more people to celebrate our unique “conservation community” and proudly promoted the rally cry to “Think Outside” and embrace the wonder of nature. This goal to connect people with nature extended to groundbreaking programs like the Center for Conservation Leadership and the recent blessing of our historic landscapes with Native American partners. The organization also recently completed a nearly $17-million capital campaign to help endow LFOLA’s current nature preserves and to accelerate their ambitious conservation goals into the future.

“As stewards of this fine organization, we know our mission is about the land,” added Wacker. “But just as important are the people that make what we do happen every day. Thanks to John’s leadership and that of our incredibly professional staff, an engaged Board and the support of the community, LFOLA is positioned extremely well for its next chapter of success.” Sentell’s passion for conservation runs deep. While president of LFOLA he also served as a past president of the state‐wide Prairie State Conservation Coalition (PSCC) along with other positions on non‐profit boards and leadership committees in the broader conservation field. Before joining LFOLA Sentell served as Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director of The Wetlands Initiative, a leader in innovative restoration models and partnerships that advance large‐scale wetland restoration throughout our state.

“It has been a privilege to serve an organization like LFOLA that is recognized at the very highest level and to help to make a meaningful impact that will endure for generations,” added Sentell. “This institution is a true gem and being a part of its legacy has been a dream job for me.”

LFOLA has an active search underway to identify the organization’s next Executive Director. A job description can be found HERE. Interested candidates are encouraged to email a cover letter, résumé, and references no later than Friday, February 11, 2022 to Fred Wacker, board chair.



Statement of commitment to diversity

PSCC Statement of Intention Regarding Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

September 2021

Prairie State Conservation Coalition (PSCC) commits to building a Board that is made up of and supports inclusion that reflects the diverse population that lives and works in Illinois. This diversity includes, but is not limited to, age, ability, economic circumstance, ethnicity, gender identity, race, religion, education, and sexual orientation.

We recognize that our effectiveness and impact will be enhanced, and our mission well served when the practice of diversity, inclusion, and belonging are reflected in all aspects of PSCC, and specifically when we, the Board of Directors, reflect the rich diversity of all our members throughout the state.

However, we understand that supporting diversity goes beyond the makeup of the Board and must include a commitment to building a culture where diverse voices can be heard and respected. As we advance in this important work, we must openly and proactively pursue the cultural changes that will be necessary to meaningfully include these voices.

As we discover equitable ways of engaging with new partners and implementing our programs, we will continually review our practices and decision-making in all our program areas as we look at them through an equity lens.

Therefore, we commit to creating a Board and culture that:

  • Reflects all the communities in which PSCC works to advance the diversity and inclusion criteria listed above.
  • Encourages open and respectful engagement and interaction among the different voices invited to join the Board and promotes opportunities for discussion and debate in the regular course of Board meetings, retreats, and conversations to ensure differing perspectives are not ignored.
  • Strives to create long lasting and meaningful partnerships so that our work benefits people.
  • Recognizes that urban areas are critical for pollinators, habitat connectivity and expanding our conservation impact.
  • Links climate change and nature-based solutions to environmental justice outcomes recognizing that communities of color are disproportionately impacted by inequitable and structural environmental policies and practices.
  • Maintains a positive, productive, inclusive, transparent, and supportive environment where the diverse experiences, voices, ideas, and skill sets that the board, staff, and volunteers bring to their work help PSCC to better fulfill its mission.
  • Is committed to examining how diversity in all its forms can advance conservation in ways that build resilient and just communities for the benefit of all people.

By adopting the values and actions outlined above, the Board of Directors seeks to ensure a stronger foundation from which the Board and the organization can grow. We recognize that a diversity of experience, perspective, and expertise will strengthen our ability to make smart, strategic decisions, and find solutions to the challenges and opportunities we face.

The Board of Directors commits to pursuing the inclusive goals listed above and working proactively to build the culture of the Board to ensure the long-term success of PSCC.