Support will expand successful youth corps program, restore native habitat Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

The National Forest Foundation (NFF) is pleased to announce a three-year $300,000 grant from the Exelon Foundation to support a youth crew and restoration efforts at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Joliet, IL.

The Exelon Foundation’s support will allow the NFF to expand its successful Youth Corps partnership with the North Lawndale College Preparatory High School in Chicago. The grant extends the youth corps program for three years, ensuring that the NFF can field two full-time youth crews for six weeks of job training and skills development at Midewin through 2017. For the past two summers, the NFF Youth Corps program at Midewin has brought eight students, two student mentors, and a faculty leader from the high school to Midewin for six weeks of hands-on restoration activities, job training, and mentorship.

“The National Forest Foundation’s program creates new opportunities for these young adults and help protect a fragile prairie ecosystem in a community we serve,” said Steve Solomon, president of the Exelon Foundation. “We are proud to support this effort as part of our commitment to environmental conservation and education. Midewin presents a rare opportunity for Chicago area residents to visit a tall grass prairie, and we are excited to be involved in its restoration.”

“As part of the National Forest Foundation’s Treasured Landscapes campaign, we have made it a priority to connect urban residents and youth to our spectacular National Forest System,” said NFF’s president, Bill Possiel. “Thanks to the Exelon Foundation, we can greatly expand this successful program and give high school students from the Chicago area the chance to help transform Midewin, while they gain a better appreciation for our forests and grasslands.”

Additional funds from the Exelon Foundation’s gift will be invested in direct on-the-ground restoration activities at Midewin, including restoring native tallgrass prairie plants, removing bunkers that once stored ammunition, and restoring the hydrology of the Prairie to its pre-settlement condition. Midewin is one of the NFF’s Treasured Landscapes conservation campaign sites. This national conservation campaign is addressing large-scale restoration and community engagement at 14 National Forest sites across the country.

Today’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was yesterday’s Joliet Arsenal, a Department of Defense (DoD) site that manufactured munitions for decades beginning in World War II. In the 1990s the DoD transferred ownership of the land to the U.S Forest Service, which has managed it since that time. The NFF included Midewin in its Treasured Landscapes campaign in 2012.

The Youth Corps groups will begin working at Midewin this July. Crews will focus on planting native plants, improving recreational opportunities, and developing job and work skills that will help them long into the future.

“This experience has been great for me because I got to do hands-on activities with the environment and it opened my eyes to the beautiful wildlife,” said Joy Carpenter, a Youth Corps participant in 2012.

National Forest Foundation