The U.S. Forest Service’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Will County, Illinois, is big in every sense of the word. At 20,000 acres, it’s the largest prairie restoration effort east of the Mississippi River, as well as the largest public open space in the Chicago metropolitan region. In fall 2015, it got some very big new inhabitants when bison were reintroduced. And starting in 2016, TWI will be part of a major restoration expansion at Midewin that’s bigger than anything ever done there before.
Ever wanted your name to go down in conservation history? Well, now may be your chance. On Saturday, August 20, 2016, the Thismia Centennial Hunt will take place at Indian Ridge Marsh in Chicago’s South Side Calumet region. The hope is to rediscover Thismia americana, a unique plant species last seen in Chicago in 1916 and thought to be extinct.
The new Marquis Oak Ridge Trail at TWI’s Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin & Hopper Lakes is now officially open for visitors to explore.
Refuge site manager Rick Seibert couldn’t believe his eyes on April 6 when he saw a group of five-foot-tall white birds standing in a farm field less than a mile from TWI’s Dixon Waterfowl Refuge. “I nearly ran off the road,” he said. “There were five right there, clear as day… It was just incredible.”
The Wetlands Initiative recently had the pleasure of meeting Brownie Troop 21242, or as they call themselves, “The Rainbow Troop.” Inspired by their “WOW! Wonders of Water” curriculum, this troop of home-schooled seven- to nine-year-olds on Chicago’s North Side decided they wanted to donate a portion of their Girl Scout cookie sales to support wetland wildlife, and troop leader Charisse Antonopoulos contacted TWI through our Facebook page.
The Wetlands Initiative is happy to welcome Lauren Tisdale as a 2016 summer intern. Lauren will be working on a new research project at TWI’s Dixon Waterfowl Refuge that is examining benefits to water and soil quality from restoring longtime farmland back to prairie and savanna at the Refuge’s new Hickory Hollow tract.
The Wetlands Initiative is working closely with Audubon Chicago Region, the Chicago Park District, and other partners on a conservation action planning effort that will inform restoration and management of important remnant wetland sites in the Calumet area.
Here at TWI we celebrate wetlands every day of the year, but February 2 is an opportunity for everyone to raise a glass of water to wetlands and the valuable ecosystem services they provide for people and the environment.
Though the landscape looks barren, new prairie and savanna plants are quietly waiting to spring to life at Hickory Hollow once the weather warms. With a major seeding effort and other first steps, the Wetlands Initiative has kicked off restoring rare habitats on the 283-acre parcel that TWI acquired to expand our Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin & Hopper Lakes in late 2014.
It was a warm morning on Tuesday, September 1, with the sun rising over Hennepin & Hopper Lakes at about 6:30 a.m. The kiosk by the boat launch was stocked with permit applications and maps, ready for eager anglers. This day was long awaited by many: the reopening of public fishing at TWI’s Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge after Hennepin & Hopper Lakes had been closed for several years to address an invasion of common carp.
The Wetlands Initiative had a role in sessions covering both conservation and outreach at this year’s Illinois River Conference in Peoria on October 27–29.
August has been an exciting and ground-breaking month for the Wetlands Initiative—literally! During the week of August 3, 2015, the Wetlands Initiative's senior environmental engineer, Jill Kostel, coordinated construction of the first farm-based wetland designed for nutrient removal in the Big Bureau Creek Watershed in north-central Illinois.
On June 13 and 14, TWI held its first-ever “BioBlitz” to survey biodiversity at the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin & Hopper Lakes in north-central Illinois. Guided by more than 30 scientists and expert leaders from across the state, participants recorded 675 species at the site over a 24-hour period, including many that were previously unknown at the Refuge or unusual for the area.
Thanks to a $100,000 gift from Marquis Energy, LLC, in Hennepin, Illinois, TWI will be able to complete a significant new trail at the Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge. When finished in 2016, the 2.7-mile Marquis Oak Ridge Trail will open the Refuge’s interior to the public for the first time and more than double the site’s existing trail system.
The Wetlands Initiative has acquired a 417-acre parcel to expand its Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin & Hopper Lakes in north-central Illinois.
Through a major ongoing partnership with the National Forest Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service, the Wetlands Initiative is doing significant restoration work this year within a new area at the Forest Service’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie called the South Prairie Creek Outwash Plain.
Key work items have begun and TWI is already seeing progress on the 27-month Oak Ridge Trail and Restoration Project at our Dixon Waterfowl Refuge, which began in May 2014.
In spring 2014, a team of three students from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Engineering helped design a farm-based wetland to capture nutrient runoff for TWI’s project in the Big Bureau Creek Watershed in north-central Illinois. The students turned the opportunity into their senior design project, while the partnership allowed TWI to complete a needed initial engineering design at no cost.
The Wetlands Initiative will begin a new project at the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge in 2014 that will restore rare oak savanna habitat and more than double the existing trail system, allowing visitors to access and explore the interior of the 3.5-square-mile site for the first time.
A grant from Coca-Cola, together with match funding from the National Forest Foundation (NFF), is helping TWI expand its restoration work at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie to a large new parcel known as the South Prairie Creek Outwash Plain.