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Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Named after a Potawatomi Native American word for “healing,” the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Will County stretches across 20,000 acres — a restoration undertaking of unprecedented scale in the region. This land once hosted the U.S. Army Arsenal, one of the world's largest ammunition plants. Today, it is the largest protected open space in northeastern Illinois, as it has become a designated national tallgrass prairie managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Get visiting information here.

A valuable remnant wetland surrounded by a prairie landscape at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

Since 1997, the Wetlands Initiative has partnered with the Forest Service to restore native ecosystems at Midewin, providing extensive technical and financial support for habitat restoration. More than just a "prairie," Midewin can become a complex mosaic of habitats, which include wetlands -- marsh, sedge meadow, wet prairies, and rare dolomitic wetlands. Read a scientist’s perspective on the importance of restoring the broader landscape of wetlands here.

A mosaic of wetland and prairie is being restored at Midewin.

The Initiative has successfully leveraged more than $2.5 million to support the restoration of 1,500 acres of once-lost and degraded wetland and prairie habitat. In doing so, we have modeled how private organizations can partner with federal agencies to accomplish significant work. In 2013, TWI’s first restoration project at Midewin in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service received a Conservation and Native Landscaping Award from Chicago Wilderness and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2012, the Initiative began its latest project at Midewin, the Lobelia Meadows Restoration. This effort is transforming 160 acres of degraded industrial land back to healthy habitats, including globally rare dolomitic prairie and wetlands. It will also connect other previously restored areas for the first time to form a nearly 2,000-acre natural corridor on Midewin's west side. This corridor will create one of the largest restored complexes of wetland and prairie in the state and will potentially lead to reintroductions of federally listed species, such as the extremely rare eastern prairie fringed orchid.

At one time, prairies dominated more than 60 percent of the Illinois landscape, but today, less than 0.01 percent of high-quality tallgrass prairie remains in the state. Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie offers visitors a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience a large restored prairie-wetland landscape and its rare native plants and wildlife.

In 2014, the Wetlands Initiative’s work at Midewin has been made possible by generous support from the following donors: Grand Victoria Foundation, National Forest Foundation, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service, Ecolab, and Clearwater Paper Corporation.

Further Reading:

Practical Climate Change Adaptations. Learn how TWI is making our Midewin restorations adaptive to climate change.

Midewin Prairie starts to matter. By Dale Bowman. Chicago Sun-Times, October 23, 2011.

Restoring prairies in the Prairie State. By Mary Owen, photographs by Chuck Berman. Chicago Tribune, October 17, 2011, page 4.

A Midewin Almanac. Follow Arthur Pearson's blog as he chronicles the restoration of Midewin.


Midewin named a 'Treasured Landscape'

Watch this video from the National Forest Foundation to learn more about the story of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and the new 10-year plan for its restoration.

Midewin in the news

Midewin on the Radio

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It is part of the Tellabs Foundation's mission to encourage understanding and protection of the environment, and this project does both. We are grateful for the Initiative's work to restore Midewin."

— Meredith Hilt, Tellabs Foundation Executive Director, on supporting the Grant Creek Restoration Project

Mission Statement

The Wetlands Initiative is dedicated to restoring the wetland resources of the Midwest to improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and reduce flood damage.