Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 45–63 | Cite as

Planning for broad-based environmental protection: A look back at the Chicago Wilderness Biodiversity Recovery Plan

  • Rebecca Coleen RetzlaffEmail author


In 1994 a collaboration of environmental interests formed in the Chicago region, U.S.A. Composed of representatives of environmental organizations, government agencies, citizen and neighborhood groups, private interests, and university representatives, the consortium provides a forum for communication, advocacy, policy, and sharing ideas and knowledge about biodiversity issues and the various activities of each organization. The specific mission of the Chicago Wilderness Consortium is to protect, restore, and manage natural lands, plants, and animals in the Chicago region. Shortly after forming the Chicago Wilderness Consortium, the idea of creating a region-wide biodiversity recovery plan emerged, in order to provide a blueprint for how the consortium would accomplish its mission. Within a few years, the group began work on the Chicago Wilderness Biodiversity Recovery Plan, and it is now among the first regional biodiversity plans in the United States. While using collaborative planning processes to solve environmental problems is not unique, the Biodiversity Recovery Plan and the process through which it was created were innovative in the U.S. for having a broad and ambitious scope, extensive use of some kinds of data and analysis (particularly on natural communities), the large number of participants in the planning process (over 200), and the dispersed organizational structure in which the consortium operates. Another innovation was adoption of the plan by three regional planning commissions in three different states. The Chicago Wilderness Biodiversity Recovery Plan was one of the first major departures from traditional (single-medium based) environmental planning by a region in the United States. These innovations warrant research and reflection, 8 years after completion of the plan, and are the focus of this article.


Biodiversity Biodiversity planning Chicago wilderness Collaborative planning Environmental planning Ecosystem management 



The author gratefully acknowledges the helpful comments from two anonymous reviewers of an earlier draft of this article, and participation from the members of the core Chicago Wilderness planning committee who provided information for this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Auburn UniversityAuburnUSA

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