Wildlife Framework Plan Underway

By collaborating directly with urban wildlife experts, the Wildlife Framework Plan will identify a list of specific actions that we can take together to improve the habitat health, connectivity, resiliency, and sustainability of the Chicago River system.

Drawing upon our existing tools and data to lay out the goals and strategies of this comprehensive effort, the first phase will culminate with a guiding framework plan called the Chicago River Wildlife and Landscape Restoration Framework Plan. Partnering with Friends in this important effort are Chicago Audubon Society and the Urban Wildlife Institute. More partners are expected to be announced in the weeks ahead.

Click here for the Wildlife Framework Plan.

The 156-mile Chicago River system and adjacent lands are a vital ecological system that present excellent opportunities to increase and connect instream and river-edge habitat for native wildlife. Also to build resiliency in the face of the climate crisis which is exacerbating challenges from habitat loss and destruction, fragmentation, noise, light, human activity disturbances, and pollution which the Urban Wildlife Institute found causes health challenges in urban wildlife just as it does for people.

"This urgent initiative will help us tackle the growing challenges that wildlife communities face from habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation amidst the climate crisis," said Friends' Executive Director Margaret Frisbie. "We need to assist wildlife and help people understand that human communities are dependent on continued biodiversity and urban areas play an increasingly important role in this. The vital interface between upland, aquatic, and riparian ecosystems, the Chicago River system is perfectly suited as an urban habitat corridor."

Like the river itself, too often urban areas are overlooked yet they are important for wildlife communities able to support great biodiversity because they are located in geographical locations that are attractive for many species, such as where lakes meet rivers.  In contrast, rural areas, especially in the Midwest, are predominantly monoculture agricultural landscapes with heavy pesticide use that cannot support many species. In Illinois 75% of the land area is agricultural use.

Once considered unthinkable, the recovering river system is home to an amazing representation of species including over 75 species of fish, countless species of birds, turtles, beavers, muskrats, and even toads, frogs, and salamanders. The forest preserves in Lake and Cook Counties are magically biodiverse and a survey of species at properties owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago identified over 900 different species. We must to plan to protect and provide for all these species.

For more information about this significant project please contact Friends' Planning Director Adam Flickinger at aflickinger@chicagoriver.org.