National Forest Foundation

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Turns 25!

History and Culture, NFF Grant Partners and Projects

scroll

Tallgrass prairies hold some of the greatest diversity known on earth. Some of it – like the bison and the grass, which can grow up to six feet tall – cannot be missed. Other prairie plants and wildlife are small enough to hide unseen among the tall grasses, noticed only through keen observation.

After two centuries of sustained agricultural, industrial, and residential development, this landscape, which was once the Midwest’s most dominant, is today one of the Earth’s most endangered. In Illinois, the “Prairie State,” tallgrass prairie makes up just a fraction of 1% of the state’s original 21 million acres.

Established by an act of Congress on February 10, 1996, the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (Midewin) became the nation’s first National Tallgrass Prairie twenty five years ago. To mark this occasion, on February 10, 2021, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) hosted a virtual anniversary celebration featuring a keynote by famed journalist and radio broadcaster Bill Kurtis and a cooking demonstration with James Beard Award-winning Executive Chef Sarah Stegner. You can watch a recording here. Try out Sarah’s prairie-inspired recipe.

Jerry Heinrich

Consider celebrating Midewin’s Silver Anniversary with a visit to the prairie. Midewin offers a plethora of opportunities to get outside. Although the Welcome Center is closed, Midewin’s 34 miles of trails and other outdoor opportunities have remained open to visitors throughout the pandemic.

Opportunities to explore Midewin include:

  • 22 miles of trail for shared use by hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians and over 12 miles for hiking only.
  • Picnic areas, including one near the seedbeds where Midewin grows much of the native seed that is used to restore the prairie.
  • Learn about Midewin’s mobile app for self-guided tours.
  • Bison! The bison are out, no matter the weather. Consider a visit (and if you miss them, you can always check the bison cam).
  • Short eared owls have recently been very visible hunting for voles. The Forest Service has posted some amazing photos on the Midewin NTP Twitter feed.
  • Visit Midewin’s web page and other social media. The Forest Service does a great job of highlighting the nature and history of Midewin.

The Forest Service has created a year’s worth of activities and events to celebrate Midewin’s Silver Anniversary, including special Silver Anniversary hikes, a commemorative poster and button, an anniversary website that includes a Midewin timeline, and more.

Joel Porterfield

A number of partners, some that have been there since the beginning, have committed to restoring the prairie from it former use as the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant. To coordinate the many efforts across Midewin into a prairie-wide restoration effort, the NFF joined this effort in 2011 as facilitator of the Midewin Stakeholder group. Today Midewin is the largest tallgrass prairie restoration effort east of the Mississippi.

The Midewin Stakeholder group consists of:

To learn more about the National Forest Foundation and stay in touch, consider signing up for Tree-MailTM by visiting: https://www.nationalforests.org/tree-mail.

We are in the home stretch of a multi-year campaign to restore a significant swath of prairie. If you would like to learn more about this work, including how you can support it, please visit: https://www.nationalforests.org/who-we-are/our-impact/midewin.

If you would like to volunteer, please contact Allison Cisneros. Her email address is: acisneros@TNC.ORG. The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Volunteer program is managed through a partnership agreement with the USDA Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy.


Related Posts

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.

Read more

Building Capacity for Watershed Restoration in Southeast Alaska

In March of 2018, more than 70 people, representing 31 organizations met to advanced watershed restoration and stewardship at the 2018 Southeast Alaska Watershed Restoration Workshop in Juneau, Alaska. The workshop was made possible by the National Forest Foundation's Community Capacity and Land Stewardship Program and organized by the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition.

Read more

Share this post on social media

Comments

Support on-the-ground conservation

Help ensure the NFF and our partners can continue doing important work like this on our National Forests.

Donate Now