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.
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 is returning to the complex mosaic of habitats that once characterized the Prairie State, including marsh, sedge meadow, wet prairies, and rare dolomite wetlands.
The Initiative has successfully leveraged more than $3.5 million to support the restoration of 1,800 acres of once-lost and degraded wetland and prairie habitat at Midewin. 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 sixth project at Midewin, the Lobelia Meadows Restoration. This effort is transforming 160 acres of degraded industrial land back to healthy habitats, including globally rare dolomite 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, creating one of the largest restored complexes of wetland and prairie in the state.
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.
Funding for TWI’s restoration activities at Midewin in 2014–15 has been provided by Associated Colleges of Illinois, Caesars Foundation, Clearwater Paper Corporation, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Ecolab, Grand Victoria Foundation, National Forest Foundation, and the U.S. Forest Service.