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’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.



Environmental Legacy Webinars

To keep the environmental community up-to-date on new initiatives and furthering our mission of stewardship and improving everyone’s quality of life through nature, we’re excited to offer several webinars on a variety of topics to add to your toolbox!

We think you’ll enjoy these and find them energizing as we move forward.

FREE — Thursday, July 29 at 11 am

This hour-long webinar hosted by PSCC and the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation will introduce you to the Casper Creek Natural Cemetery in Galena, Illinois and show the ease and environmental impact of choosing a natural burial in their conservation cemetery. A brief video will show the beautiful landscape and testimonials of those who have chosen this option for their final destination. You’ll learn the facts about natural burial and what it means to be a conservation cemetery. There’ll be time for questions following the presentation.

This webinar is FREE, but registration is required. The webinar link will be provided at registration.

Register Here for Casper Creek Webinar

Illinois 30×30 Campaign

FREE  Wednesday, August 11 at 3 pm

Join PSCC and the Illinois Environmental Council for a conservation discussion about barriers, challenges, and solutions to significant issues experienced by conservationists. This discussion will help inform the IL 30×30 Coalition’s goals for aligning the state with President Biden’s 10-year America the Beautiful Campaign. The campaign sets a national goal to conserve at least 30 percent of the nation’s lands, freshwater, and ocean areas by 2030.

This webinar is FREE, but registration is required. The webinar link will be provided at registration.

Register Here for Illinois 30x30 Webinar

Save the date! November 2nd and 3rd

Trails for Everyone Workshop

PSCC, Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, and Lake Forest Open Lands invite you to a trails workshop in Lake Forest showing the conceptual background and practical skills needed to plan, design, construct, and maintain “universal trails” — trails that serve as wide a range of users as possible, while also minimizing environmental impact. More details to come later!

In addition to these PSCC webinars, the Land Trust Alliance offers many good webinars on interesting and diverse topics. You can find out more by CLICKING HERE.



VSN Stewardship Funds available

Each year, The Nature Conservancy dedicates funds to support the work of volunteer groups by providing stewardship tools and safety equipment and by funding newsletters, websites, and educational materials through the VSN Stewardship Fund.

This year, in addition to the Stewardship Fund, the Volunteer Stewardship Network has launched the Community Convening Fund to assist organizations that are:

  • Fostering community connections to nature;
  • Engaging BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) and other historically underrepresented and overburdened communities in the programming, care and protection of green space with native habitat elements;
  • Providing co-benefits for human and environmental health.

The application deadline for both funds is: Friday, June 25, 2021.

Below you will find application materials for both funds as well as a one-page fact sheet that provides information about and differences between the two funds.

Volunteer Stewardship Network Application

Community Convening Fund Application

Additionally, please save the dates below for online information sessions, which will include background on the Volunteer Stewardship Network, information about each of the two funding opportunities and plenty of time for questions.


Info Session 1: Thursday, June 10 at Noon

Info Session 2:  Monday, June 14 at 7 p.m.

Info Session 3: Saturday, June 19 at 11 a.m.


Please share this information with anyone you know that might benefit from being connected to the VSN!


America the Beautiful conservation initiative

The Biden-Harris administration has announced its America the Beautiful initiative, a collaboration between the U.S. Department of the Interior, United States Department of Agriculture, and the U. S. Department of Commerce to conserve and restore the lands, waters, and wildlife that sustain the nation.

This decade-long effort will support conservation and restoration efforts to address climate change and will also create jobs.

You can view details in the News Release here.



May is Monarch Month

Final Event for Illinois Monarch Virtual Summit Series

Tuesday, May 4 from 1 to 3 p.m.


Warmer months are finally here! Hopefully soon trees will begin to fill out and grasses will begin to take off. Celebrate the changing of the season with recent wins and actions people plan to take to #SaveTheMonarch. Register today for the final part in the @IMonProj’s summit series taking place May 4 from 1-3 p.m. to learn what you can do to help.


COVID-19 Survey could determine nature funding

Forefront is asking all nonprofit organizations across the state to fill out a survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on their  operations and to determine community needs. Forefront is Illinois’ statewide association representing both grantmakers and nonprofits, as well as their advisors and allies.

Open space and nature is critical now more than ever. Nature is a human service; it’s not just about plants and animals, it’s about people — all of us.

Because so many of our foundation supporters are moving to COVID support, the conservation community of land trusts in Illinois need to join our voices to emphasize the importance of natural areas and nature to each of us during this pandemic now more than ever.

Our parks, preserves, and other open spaces already have seen a surge in use as our friends, families, and neighbors seek out these healing places as a refuge from the stresses of the pandemic restrictions.

Your input is critical as the results of the survey will be considered in recommendations shared with state elected officials and grantmaking organizations.

Please take a few minutes to complete the survey no later than Friday, November 13 by 5 p.m.

Your voice is needed on this important issue. We encourage you to let the foundations know through this survey how important this is as a mental, emotional, and physical healing response to the stresses of the pandemic.


3-part online Leadership Workshops

PSCC is excited to offer a 3-part online series of workshops to help you become a better leader for your oganization’s future.

We have partnered with Benedictine University’s Center for Values-Driven Leadership for these workshops to enable busy leaders like yourself to benefit from a time of focused leadership development. The series focuses on three levels of leadership: self, others, and organization.

Thanks to the generous support of the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, we are able to offer these workshops to our members at the very reasonable price of $30 for PSCC members and $45 for non-members for all three sessions.

Take a look at the session pamphlet for more details and register now. Registration deadline is Thursday, September 10. Space is limited to four tickets per organization. 


*Leading Self:
Being a Leader People Want to Follow, September 17

*Leading Others:
Building High-Performing Teams, October 1

*Leading the Org:
Connecting Purpose to Strategy to Drive Results, October 15

All online sessions are on Thursdays from 9 to 10:30 am

Registration deadline is Thursday, September 10

We hope you take advantage of this exciting opportunity!


Kerry Leigh appointed to IDNR Advisory Board

Natural Land Institute is pleased to announce that Kerry Leigh, Executive Director, has been appointed by Governor Pritzker to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Advisory Board. Kerry’s term of service will go through January, 2025.

The IDNR Advisory Board was established via Illinois State Statute under 20 ILCS 5/5-560 and is comprised of 13 people from across the state. Advisory Board members play an important role for the department. While board members do not have statutory authority to bind the agency, they discuss with and can advise the agency regarding conservation, recreational opportunities, protection of lands, bodies of water and wildlife, research, land acquisition, and hunting seasons, and bag limits of protected wildlife.

Leigh is also a board member of Prairie State Conservation Coalition and a consultant to the Illinois Department of Nature Preserves Commission.