This past election provided a unique opportunity for local residents of our northern Illinois county, Winnebago. For the first time, residents were asked to vote for 7 candidates out of 35 running to serve terms for the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District Board of Commissioners. It was a great way to choose some amazing people to make sound decisions for local conservation.
When we first became aware of this new board it was a prior election where Winnebago County residents decided to enact a new board specifically for the Forest Preserve District. I decided at that point to run for one of the positions. However, my bid never amounted to more than that initial thought because as time progressed I realized that I wouldn’t be living in the county long enough to hold a position (if I would have even been elected).
However, my friend and supreme birder, Dan Williams (former American Birding Association President), was running and I wanted to help in any way I could to get him elected. We put up a yard sign, handed out brochures, wore buttons, and talked to as many people as we could to get them to vote for him.
Unfortunately, after election Tuesday, Dan did not get enough votes to make it on the board. I was pretty disappointed because Dan would have been a perfect candidate. He has so much experience in conservation and so much knowledge in working on boards that to me he was the ultimate choice.
Not only that, but his openness to share information was uncanny. I had hoped to get to discuss and listen to his ideas over his term as a board member. I definitely wanted to pick his brain about various conservation issues directly effecting the forest preserves. And even though I won’t be a resident of this county for too much longer (moving to an adjacent county) I will always use the preserves for birding, hiking, camping, and eventually horseback riding.
Winnebago is blessed with some of the most pristine, preserved lands. These provide a lot of natural outdoor activities and diverse habitat for tons of wildlife. We hope that the new board continues to purchase and protect new land, especially that which can connect current corridors of preserves.
But that is the way elections go. There are now seven members on this brand new board. They have a lot of work to do and I hope they stay true to the mission of the forest preserves and greatly improve what is already a great thing for nature. We need good people working locally to provide natural places for future generations.
We hope the board is transparent in what they do and we plan to follow their actions closely even after moving on to a new county to explore and possibly run for office.
From the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District, their mission is to:
“Acquire lands…for the purpose of protecting and preserving the flora, fauna and scenic beauties…and to restore, restock, protect and preserve…such lands together with their flora and fauna, as nearly as may be, in their natural state and condition…”
The Winnebago County Forest Preserve District needs sound marketing to increase public awareness and usage. We would be happy to provide consulting services for them in this regard, especially in terms of internet and social media presence.