Jeff Gahris: 2022 candidate for DuPage County Forest Preserve Board District 4
Office sought: DuPage Forest Preserve Commission
Occupation: Environmental engineer/scientist
Previous offices held: Appointed Environmental Commissioner, village of Glen Ellyn
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
A: I grew up living in and enjoying a rural environment that included farmland and woods. I am most motivated to assure that we maintain and enhance our natural areas so that they that are beautiful, ecologically diverse, healthy, and sustainable for future generations.
Q: If you are an incumbent, describe your two biggest contributions to the board. If you are a non-incumbent, describe two ways you would contribute to the board.
A: To date I have pushed for and obtained a "net zero" design for the new Willowbrook Wildlife Center animal rehabilitation clinic that will use no more energy than it produces on site, and a professional study of environmental sustainability practices associated with various district operations, in other words, making the best and wisest use of our resources.
These are early steps in my desire to substantially reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from our operations while being wise stewards of our financial resources.
Q: What role should the forest preserve play in preserving historic buildings on its land?
A: The forest preserve district's primary mission is to preserve, protect, and restore natural areas for the education, pleasure and recreation by the public. That said, I believe that preserving certain historic structures on forest preserve land can enhance a "sense of place" for visitors, and can be an important part of educating the public about the history of the land which had been acquired for preservation. This may include Native American history.
Q: How would you rate the job the commission is doing to develop existing forest preserves and make them accessible to residents? How would you approach things differently?
A: I believe the professional staff are doing an excellent job at managing the preserves, with the right balance of preservation, restoration, and developing amenities for access, such as trails. Further, I believe that the board of commissioners is providing proper guidance by adopting master plans.
No process is perfect, and I believe we need to emphasize public participation opportunities even more frequently than we do now.
Q: What is the most important issue facing the forest preserves in your district and how should it be addressed?
A: Many of our natural areas are being overrun by invasive plant species that choke out native plants, so the natural areas are out of balance to the detriment of our oak trees and other important plants that support an abundant, productive and diverse community of plants and wildlife.
By removing the invasive plants aggressively, we open up the natural areas to create vistas which are more attractive and safer for visitors.