National Forest Foundation

Data Gathering at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie: small steps to bring back a big ecosystem

National Forest Foundation, Treasured Landscapes


The “Robel Pole” is a pretty simple tool to use; basically it’s two measuring sticks connected by an eight-foot string. But in waist-high grass, on uneven ground, and juggling clipboards and other items (while making SURE not to touch the nasty parsnip all around) it becomes surprisingly – and humorously – challenging.

Last week, the NFF invited volunteers from the Exelon Corporation to team up with students from North Lawndale College Prep in Chicago for a day of field work at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. The students will be at this for six weeks as part of a youth-corps program the NFF and Exelon are supporting. This is an exciting and integral part of the NFF’s partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to restore this landscape to a healthy, intact, resilient tallgrass ecosystem.

Ray Foote, NFF Executive Vice President, with Kelly Gutknecht, Range Management Specialist at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

With the Robel Pole measurements we took, Forest Service scientists have data to help them best plan and manage the conversion of these fields from agriculture and cattle grazing back to their original, native state. We were but one small part of this complex project which also includes removing remnants of the old Joliet Arsenal, replanting native grasses, and monitoring the new bison herd (now with calves!) that the NFF helped reintroduce at Midewin last fall.

The video gives a brief insight into our work last week. We are very thankful to all our partners in this exciting initiative!

Learn more about work at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

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Looking back at 2015 – Bison make their way to Midewin

As 2016 starts afresh and we look forward to the New Year, it’s also fun to reminisce about memories from the last twelve months. Among the milestones, one is especially memorable. 2015 was the year that the NFF, U.S. Forest Service, and many partners worked together to bring a small herd of bison to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie outside of Chicago, Illinois.

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