Thursday, November 3, 2016

Chicago Wilderness celebrates 20 years at Congress 2016

It was a stormy day in the Windy City yesterday. A good day to be indoors at the annual congress of the Chicago Wilderness. Not being from Chicago myself, I had never attended a congress (i.e., conference) before. However, I've known about and admired Chicago Wilderness for years. It is an alliance of over 200 member organizations and businesses. Its mission is to "preserve, improve, and expand nature and quality of life" within the Chicago region.

The Chicago Wilderness region includes parts of 4 states, including Southeastern Wisconsin (but just short of Milwaukee.) This year marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of Chicago Wilderness and that was the theme of Congress 2016: "Celebrating 20 Years: One Home. One Future."

As an outside observer, it was a revelation to me to see so many people and organizations coming together to network, learn from each other, and plan how to make their communities more natural. This in the third largest metropolitan area in the country! There were approximately 600 attendees at the Congress, which was held at the University of Illinois Chicago.

I learned a lot about the organization, about current preservation and restoration efforts, and about the priorities for future improvements to the natural landscapes and wildlife that exist in the region. 

I also got to participate. There was a "story slam" component and I volunteered to read a story relating to a personal experience I've had with urban wildlife. I chose to adapt one of my favorite blog posts from Urban Wilderness, entitled "Seiche: Symbolism and reality in an unlikely urban wilderness." You can read the original version here

One of the takeaways from the experience for me was a desire to see a version of Chicago Wilderness formed for Milwaukee. We have a lot going for us already. In fact, several times when I mentioned to people that I was from Milwaukee they told me with respect verging on awe, "You have the Urban Ecology Center!"

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