Lansing woman works to diversify the environmental conservation field

LANSING, Ill. (WLS) -- It wasn't Brenda Elmore's dream to do environmental conservation work.

"Somethings were going on in my life at that time that I needed a change. I needed something that I could do where I could get outside and feel like I could breathe again," said Elmore, production manager for Friends of the Forest Preserves.

It worked. Elmore has found purpose and joy for more than a decade restoring the woodlands at the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

"I had an aha moment as to this is what I want to do," Elmore recalled. "It was just for me, peace and serenity to just show up and now all that I hear is nature."

Before entering the field, she didn't think much about nature.

"I wasn't a nature person. The most I have done in nature prior to working, helping my mom plant some vegetables in a garden and I absolutely hated it," she said.

Still Elmore said she always understood the importance of taking care of the environment, just not to the extent she does now.

As a production manager, one of her responsibilities to direct crews removing invasive species at the forest preserves. Plants that are not native to a region can wreak havoc on the ecosystem, Elmore warns.

"We need to get them out of here, so that the things that should be here can grow and thrive," she said. "Every native plant is a resource, a food for something."

Elmore sees beauty in nature, not only in looks but also in the function it plays in our world. Plants absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere, which can help reduce global warming, she said.

"We want to just maintain this ecosystem or try our best to get it to its natural habitat as it once was," she said.

Elmore works to educate others about the importance of nature conservation, particularly people of color.

According to the Center for American Progress, people of color continue to be the subject of violence or intimidation while out enjoying nature. Additionally, they have been excluded from the U.S. conservation movement, which has been dominated by, quote "white people and white perspectives."

That's why Elmore is focused on recruiting people to the field.

"I encourage people of color to come on out join us in this, join us in this fight to save our planet, save our environment," she said.
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