A Message from the Executive Director

Conserve Merges Into Openlands as Exciting New Vision Takes Shape

November 27, 2017

Dear Friend of Conserve Lake County,

With your generous support and involvement, we accomplished some impressive work together in the last 22 years. Thank you for helping us preserve some extraordinary places, influence regional plans, advance game-changing legislation, and empower the many people who are now taking meaningful action on behalf of the lands they love.

We continued to do good land conservation work this year. We:

  • restored the remainder of Aaron’s Prairie in Libertyville
  • secured permanent protection for 162 acres as Illinois Nature Preserves
  • planted trees and sowed thousands of pounds of wildflower seed
  • made it easy for you to buy native trees and other native plants
  • improved monarch habitat and
  • prepared for next spring’s restoration of 44 acres of highly erodible farm fields.

And there’s more. We worked with – and learned from – a critical mass of property owners who live among the fabulous oaks of Riverwoods and want to manage their properties with conservation values in mind. We re-certified the first round of participants in the award-winning Conservation@Home program. We monitored our properties and supported local food at our certified organic farm.  

While these are significant achievements, we can do more. It’s time to think bigger. With the state’s richest assemblage of natural resources, and a coveted culture of conservation, Lake County deserves a more robust, nonprofit land conservation partner as it addresses both new and long-standing threats to our quality of life and the many plant and wildlife species that take refuge here among us.  

To do something bigger, we need more horsepower. So, Conserve Lake County is merging into Openlands, a nationally recognized land conservation leader that is a fierce defender of nature and has served Lake and its neighboring counties for 54 years. Conserve and Openlands have collaborated on many local land protection projects. Our board and staff believe this is a smart move, and we are excited by the new alliance. The work of Conserve will continue as a program area of focus at Openlands, which shares our deep commitment to Lake County’s extraordinary natural treasures. In fact, Openlands has protected more than 55,000 regional acres, including the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve in Fort Sheridan that opened one-mile of Lake Michigan shoreline to public access. (Learn more at

Together, Conserve and Openlands led the nonprofit voice to pass the Lake County Forest Preserve District’s $185 million bond referendum in 2008, allowing for the purchase of 3,000+ acres. Accredited by the national Land Trust Alliance, Openlands holds conservation easements on many Lake County properties, including some that Conserve has stewarded in partnership with the Libertyville Township Open Space District such as Oak Openings, Liberty Prairie, and the new Donnelley Prairies and Oaks Preserve. Together, we’ve labored over projects like Route 53, farmland protection and the beloved Liberty Prairie Reserve.

Both organizations have long histories of success. And both share values and a passion for protecting land and water. We believe collaboration is the key to greater effectiveness and will allow us to be more efficient with your resources. Lake County residents are top of mind as we continue to serve this great county of people known for their land ethic.

The decision to become part of Openlands came after a year of conversations, research and due diligence. It benefitted from experts who provided third-party neutrality and specialized talent. More important, though, it benefitted from the insights we gleaned from you, the hundreds of members, Conservation@Home participants and other Conserve supporters who weighed in when asked. Your input shaped the vision we now pursue – and we thank you.    

Please join us to celebrate this exciting new direction at our Annual Meeting and Holiday Party on Thursday, December 7, at Independence Grove in Libertyville. As you may know, this is Lake County’s largest annual gathering of conservationists. We will honor County Commissioner Carol Calabresa for her lifetime of leadership and public service on behalf of land conservation. Attendance is complimentary for members and $75 for non-members. Please RSVP, while space remains available, at

Also, please support this new union of Conserve Lake County and Openlands with a gift. Your donation can help us implement a new strategic direction focused on protecting land and engaging people in conservation. Invest in the health and beauty of our region at Your tax-deductible donation will support our work in Lake County. Your Conserve membership automatically stays active with Openlands through 2018.   

Thank you for all you’re doing to care for this land we love. I look forward to continuing our work together.

My deepest thanks and highest regards,

Sarah Surroz

Executive Director

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