nation's highest quality tallgrass savanna just got better.
Better protected, that is. On August 21, the Lake County Forest
Preserve District authorized the purchase of the 60-acre LeWa
Farm, thus ensuring habitat extension and buffer for Middlefork
Savanna. The District also approved a conceptual master plan
for the 514-acre preserve including installing trails,
nature education exhibits, restoring and managing oak woodland,
savanna, and prairie and wetlands, and establishing the site
as a national ecological research site and outdoor classroom.
July 20, 200 people celebrated the grand re-opening of North
Park Village Nature Center, a 50-acre nature preserve at
5801 N. Pulaski Road, in the middle of Chicago's north side.
The city's Department of Environment rehabilitated this
site (once a tuberculosis sanitarium) to be an oasis of
Chicago Wilderness. Visitors are greeted by two acres of
native flora in an entrance garden filled with more than
7,000 plants representing the four major ecosystems here:
prairie, wetland, oak savanna and woodland.
wetlands provide habitat for heron, kingfishers, red winged
blackbirds, and turtles, among others. "We removed
all the existing vegetation on an eight acre site,"
explains restoration ecologist Bob Porter, "and left
bare soil a blank slate which we then re-seeded
with native forbs and grasses. It was interesting to watch
how the native flora returned gradually year by year as
predicted by the experts. In the first year came the big
blue stem and Indian grasses; a greater variety of plants
appeared during the second year, including gray-headed cone
flowers, blue lobelia and swamp milkweed." For more
information, call (312) 744-5472.
never heard or seen of such a thing in my life!" said
Society's Eric Walters, who wondered if he was observing
a Far Side cartoon come to life. Driving by Triangle Park
on Chicago's north side (literally a triangle, squeezed
between a cemetery, apartment buildings, and CTA train tracks)
one night, Walters saw and almost hit probably
the most prized annually-occurring shorebird in Illinois.
A whimbrel strutted out from between two beat-up old cars,
jumped up on the curb, and walked along the sidewalk as
if nothing was happening. Since that night on September
8, dozens of other eager birders have seen this long-billed
creature, which seemed uncharacteristically fond of junk
food. "After much study, scientific evaluation and
fieldwork," Walters noted, "I've discovered the
daily diet of this whimbrel (urban subspecies): 1) Cheetos,
2) leftover Labor Day corn chips, 3) dirty street water,
4) dried bread chunks. These birds are normally quite wary
of people," Walters added. "To get this close
to one is a real treat."
in October 1998, students throughout the region will come
to Camp Good Fellow in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore,
not only for outdoor fun, but to benefit from what Lee Botts,
president of the new Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning
Center, calls "a 15,000 acre classroom without walls."
All activities, including fine arts, language arts, exploration
and hands-on discovery, are geared toward knowledge and
appreciation of science with an emphasis on "learning
fall, many 4th - 6th graders will spend three days and two
nights at Camp Good Fellow, sharing the dunes with coyotes,
deer, beavers, turtles, lizards, salamanders, more than
300 bird species, and the widest diversity of plant species
in the Great Lakes region. Botts hopes to spread the word
about the facility within a 90-mile radius. The center,
operated by the Learning Center and the National Park Service,
is also open on weekends for private groups, and program
plans are underway for other grade levels, adults, families,
and teachers to experience this "living laboratory"
in the dunes. For reservations and information, contact
Lee Botts or Matthew Miller at (219) 938-8221.
habitat destruction," says herpetologist Tom Anton,
"poaching is the greatest threat to endangered reptile
and amphibian populations in northeastern Illinois, and
poachers have gotten much more sophisticated." But
enforcers are getting more sophisticated, too. On August
18, Illinois enacted stiffer penalties for poaching. According
to John Allen, public affairs officer at the Illinois Department
of Natural Resources, "Under the old law, poachers
would go out and grab a little bit every day. If they got
caught, it would only be a misdemeanor.
the new law, offenses occurring over the course of 90 days
will be considered cumulatively, so the penalties for individual
poachers will be much heavier." Anton says poachers
have posed as graduate students. They also surf the net
and attend academic conferences to glean information about
local populations of rare animals valuable on the exotic
pet market. "My own maps have been used to find and
poach Massassauga rattlesnakes," he said. "A lot
of researchers are really circumspect about what they publish
now. I hope the new law has an impact." Mark
of this continent's most striking birds, a scissor-tailed
flycatcher, spent more than two weeks this summer in DuPage
County, catching meals along the Fox River. Salmon-colored
wing linings accentuate the bird's pale pearly gray body,
which is doubled in length by its scissor-like tail. This
species breeds as close as north-central Missouri, and could
be expanding its breeding range into Illinois, where nearly
50 sightings have been recorded. In late summer, some bird
species engage in post-breeding dispersal and occasionally
fly out of their range. Lucky birders first spotted the
DuPage County scissor-tail on August 3, and dozens of people
came to see the bird, which remained until at least August
19. Sheryl De Vore
his studies of deer overpopulation in Indiana's State Parks,
Purdue University's Dr. George Parker has shown that the
diversity and abundance of plant and animal species are
being harmed by deer predation in Indiana Dunes State Park.
In particular, populations of insects and birds, especially
neotropical migratory species, are declining due to habitat
destruction from the deer. On August 26, the Save the Dunes
Council voted unanimously to support a reduction of the
deer herd at Indiana Dunes State Park.
Jewish, Muslim, Baha'i, and Buddhist leaders have been working
together to craft a vision for a sustainable Chicago region.
Called the Interreligious Sustainability Project of Metropolitan
Chicago, this group has published "One Creation One
People One Place," a report on the state of the ecology,
economy, and community of northeastern Illinois. "We
believe that the religious community has a special responsibility
and deep spiritual resources to address the
current crisis of our relationship with the Earth,"
states the report.
project is reaching out to religious congregations to encourage
prayer, study, and action to heal our common home. The group
kicked off a series of fall programs with an interfaith
seed-gathering weekend October 3-4. A day-long workshop
Religion and Sustainable Development: A Participatory
Dialogue followed on October 17. To obtain a copy
of the report or find out about upcoming events, call (773)
278-4800 x 255.
county bond referenda continue to produce funds for conservation
land acquisition in the region. Before the end of the year,
DuPage County expects to close on the purchase of approximately
200 acres the first parcels to be acquired with funding
from last year's $75 million bond referendum (see Winter
'98, p. 28). Last June, the McHenry County Conservation
District offered $20 million worth of bonds for sale, most
of which will be devoted to the purchase of 2,700 acres.
Next April, Will County hopes voters will approve a $70
million bond issue, most of which will be used to purchase
6,500 acres, while Lake County looks toward a $55 million
bond referendum, more than half of which will be devoted
to land acquisition. Conservationists in Cook and Kane Counties
are currently seeking to have bond issues for land acquisition
placed on their ballots in the near future.
his debut in Elgin on the Fourth of July, Mike the Monarch
has been spreading his wings and a message about
our natural areas throughout northeastern Illinois.
"Like many environmental campaigns, the effort to preserve
and restore our native woodlands, prairies, and wetlands
needed a friendly, happy, charismatic mascot," said
creator David Lloyd. "Mike in the flesh and
in cartoon form raises awareness about how native
species like him rely on people, especially volunteers,
to care for our natural areas." Keep your eyes peeled
Mike may be coming to your neighborhood next!
was a unique experience to restore the river bank, and perhaps
save many fish and aquatic animals," said 6th-grader
Sarah Sippel. "It was a good way to take what we learned
in science outside." With hundreds of other 6th graders
from 10 schools, Sippel worked to help stabilize degraded
portions of the Kline Creek streambank in DuPage County.
She also helped to release 1,500 smallmouth bass raised
in classroom aquariums. Last year the Forest Preserve District
of DuPage County, in partnership with the Illinois Department
of Natural Resources, kicked off the remarkable program
to restore plant diversity and prevent soil erosion with
a grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
and support from local businesses.
Gerald D. Tang
August 27, Openlands
Project released a state-of-the-art regional map illustrating
how land use patterns since 1900 have altered the landscape
in a 13-county area from Kenosha, WI to Lapone, IN. Losing
Ground: Land Consumption in the Chicago Region, 1900-1998,
the first of two reports for the SOLAR (Strategic Open Lands
at Risk) Project, graphically shows the accelerated urban
sprawl of the last 50 years when the region's population
grew by 48 percent while land coverage increased by 165
percent. The second report, due to be released at the end
of November, will map and assess land at risk of development
during the next 30 years.
August 5, 1998, Chicago Wilderness added eight new members.
DuPage Audubon Society helps maintain St. Stephen's
Cemetery Prairie and West Chicago Prairie; they also provide
bluebird houses and monitor bluebird trails at McKee Marsh,
Morton Arboretum, and Oak Meadows and Maple Meadows Golf
Clubs. Save the Dunes Conservation Fund works in
sustainable economic planning, land acquisition, restoration,
and enforcement of laws and regulations principally in northwest
Indiana. The Center for
Neighborhood Technology seeks to promote ecological,
economic, and community development through public policy,
market development, and community planning activities.
Jurica Nature Museum at Benedictine University focuses
mainly on collection, conservation, and education with an
emphasis on biodiversity. Crystal Lake Park District
and Lake View Nature Center both manage natural areas
and educate the public about Illinois habitats and biodiversity.
Conservancy protects and restores the 2,500-acre
Liberty Prairie Reserve and fosters environmental ethics
in Lake County. Friends
of Ryerson Woods seeks to empower and educate individuals
and organizations to preserve, restore, and protect native
plants and animal communities of the Des Plaines River Valley.
Information about all Chicago Wilderness organizations is
available from the Chicagoland Environmental Network (708)
485-0263 x 369.
the 1970s, US Steel (a USX Company) had a reputation as
one of the most ardent opponents of the federal Clean Water
and Clean Air Acts. Recently, however, the company reached
a surprising and innovative decision.
background of the suit was the literal death of a five-mile
stretch of the Grand Calumet River near US Steel's 90-year
old plant in Gary, IN. But the settlement went far beyond
clean-up. USX will spend funds on new, cleaner technology
that will make the company more competitive while going
far beyond compliance with environmental laws. The $30 million
settlement includes $22 million for future pollution abatement
at the plant and a $2.9 million civil penalty. USX will
also donate five parcels of land totaling 246 acres to the
National Park Service and the state of Indiana.
"We expect to see a significant improvement in the
river within the next five years," said Tom Anderson
of Save the Dunes Council. "One of the parcels of land
contains 32 acres of globally rare dune and swale habitat
that is home to the endangered Karner blue butterfly."
Another of the parcels includes 76 acres along the Salt
Creek, a tributary to the Little Calumet River that is home
to trout and lake salmon.
Steel president Paul J. Wilhelm termed the plan "a
creative commitment to cost-effective environmental solutions
on the Grand Calumet. US
Steel is gratified that a remediation plan was developed
through cooperative negotiation, rather than drawn-out litigation."
Wilhelm added that the plan "goes well beyond what
is required of the company under terms of an earlier (1990)
consent agreement with the EPA evidence of US Steel's
commitment to continuous environmental improvement as well
as competitive excellence."
future? Lee Botts, longtime activist and President of the
new Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning Center, points
out that USX is part of the Grand Calumet Visioning
a project "that includes community folk, enviros, and
other industries, to plan for what ought to happen along
the river in the future when the multiple clean-up efforts
now underway create undreamed-of possibilities. This for
a river for which 90 percent of the flow is industrial effluent,
but which now again has beaver on its banks and conceivably
will have fish safe to eat in my lifetime."
Give Fire Thumbs Up
1995, the US Departments of Agriculture and the Interior
jointly released The Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy
and Program Review, which formally recognized the critical
role fire plays in the maintenance of healthy wildland ecosystems.
The new policy endorsed a significant increase in the use
of "prescribed" fire as a normal land management
tool. The review recommended allowing fire to play its natural
role in "an ongoing and systematic manner, consistent
with public health and environmental quality considerations."
goals of this change in land management policy are to reduce
unnatural fuel densities that contribute to increasing unplanned
fire hazards, and to restore wildland ecosystems to their
healthy natural state. Five federal agencies the
US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park
Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs
began increasing the use of fire in the types of
wildlands that most needed it in 1997. Annual treatment
targets for all federal land management agencies will be
increased to more than 5 million acres per year by 2005
up from an historic estimate of 662,000 acres from
1984 to 1994.
April 23, 1998, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
issued a related national policy that addresses how best
to achieve national clean air goals (including EPA's national
air quality standards for particulate matter), while continuing
to use fire to improve the quality of wildland ecosystems
(including forests and grasslands). EPA expressed confidence
that the amount of prescribed burning, conducted under sound
smoke management programs, can be increased substantially
without causing violations of the air quality standards.
Managing smoke can mean scheduling burning during favorable
weather conditions, for instance.
EPA pointed out that the damaging effects of excluding fire
"mounted gradually and inconspicuously over decades.
Fire exclusion practices have resulted in forests, shrub
lands, and grasslands plagued with a variety of problems,
including overcrowding, resulting from the encroachment
of species normally suppressed by fire; vulnerability of
trees to insects and disease; and inadequate reproduction
of certain species. In addition, heavy accumulation of fuels
(such as dead vegetation on forests floors) can cause fires
to be catastrophic, which threaten firefighter and public
safety, impair forest and ecosystem health, and degrade
air quality." Elizabeth Sanders
August 15 the US Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator
Laboratory dedicated its oldest prairie to the man who started
it all: biologist Robert F. Betz. Dr. Betz, an emeritus
professor at Northeastern Illinois University and an expert
in prairie ecology, is widely recognized as a driving force
behind prairie restoration efforts, not only at Fermilab
but throughout northern Illinois. In 1974, Betz convinced
Fermilab's founding director, Robert Wilson, to support
the prairie reconstruction project. Betz formed the Fermilab
Prairie Committee in 1975 to help rebuild the original grassland
ecosystem. Hundreds of volunteers have harvested seeds,
and Fermilab maintenance staff have become experts in burning
the area to combat weeds and keep woody plants in check.
As a result, Fermilab now claims over 1,100 acres of restored
tallgrass prairie. A brass plaque honoring the venerable
Dr. Betz now stands on the spot where he planted the first
prairie grasses. Eugene Bender
Chicago was built atop drained wetlands, many of today's
new homes are built beside wetlands. Thus, throughout the
region, people and wetlands increasingly are becoming neighbors.
In order to help people understand, enjoy, and become good
stewards of these soggy but precious resources, The
Wetlands Initiative has just published Living with
Wetlands: A Handbook for Homeowners in Northeastern Illinois.
Chicago Wilderness and the Grand Victoria Foundation funded
the free 24-page full-color book describing water conditions,
plant life, soil, wildlife, and legal regulations unique
to these ecosystems.
agencies that protect and restore wetlands US Fish
& Wildlife Service, Chicago Field Office, and US Army Corps
of Engineers, Chicago District were also partners
in the project. The book offers practical information about
management of invasive plant species and how to cope with
nuisance animals such as mosquitoes and geese. To request
a free copy, write to The Wetlands Initiative, 53 West Jackson
Boulevard., Suite 1015, Chicago, IL 60604; send email to
Success in Bartlett
1998 issue of Chicago WILDERNESS reported on the struggle
to save the Windt farm property in the village of Bartlett
from development. The campaign to save the natural area,
including 36 acres of important wetland habitat, seemed
to hit an impasse last July when the village filed to condemn
parts of the property for streets and sewers, a hasty 30
minutes before the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
filed to condemn the land for conservation.
September 8, however, the Bartlett Village Board voted unanimously
to dismiss its condemnation lawsuit saying they had looked
at all the facts and decided it was best to support the
Forest Preserve's plans for the property.
press time, the Forest Preserve was in the process of acquiring
the property, and campaign co-leader Mary Ellen Knuth was
celebratory. She praised the citizen's group that so much
impressed the Village Board: "We did something as a
community, and none of us knew each other before. It shows
you can make change. You've got to believe in it, and we
did." Alison Carney Brown