Chicago Wild Things Wilderness Conference

If you love being outside, join the conservation community.
If you love access to nature in urban areas, join the conservation community.
If you love remote wilderness and nature preservation, join the conservation community.

While it's great to have wild spaces to go to and take pictures of, and find cities where people value being outside, the existence of either is dependent on an incredible number of people. Even in my flat Chicago, a huge number of folks turned up for the bi-annual Wild Things Conference.

You can get a sense of what all might be happening at an urban wilderness conference in the midwest by checking out their detailed schedule. But the conference started with a call to make wilderness more accessible by Toni Preckwinkle, noting that Chicago's predominantly African American south side is the only place left you'll find large amounts of undeveloped land, and the response was a long, standing applause from the audience, followed by a keynote speech from Nachusa Grassland's project director about the reintroduction of bison to Illinois. He was funny, charming, and gave a great talk about the dramatic history of the american bison, but to be honest all the while I couldn't stop thinking about what train/bike routes there must be to get out there. Wouldn't it be rad to see some bison up on this blog?

My schedule for the rest of the conference was based around, duh, accessibility to nature. Wild Indigo, a program that's providing free nature activities for people who've never spent time outdoors, giving them a space to become confident with the activities, and has been hugely successful at giving the African American community opportunities to learn to enjoy the outdoors. Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab showed their amazing progress at building milkweed-dense monarch butterfly gardens in the south side's beautiful Bronzeville neighborhood. Finally Susan Ask showed off her great Transit To Trail project, which is just so aligned with everything I'm doing with this blog it's ridiculous.

Those are just some highlights of my packed day, and honestly the biggest problem I had going into this was choosing which talks to go to. I know it's not the most exciting thing on this blog, maybe even a little nerdy, but you don't get amazing parks and preserves anywhere without the hard work of people who are at these conferences. I only met a fraction of the attendees, but those I did meet made me feel so humbled by the work they do that directly benefits me (and this blog), so I hope this post encourages you to find your own, or come to Chicago's next Wild Things conference.