Since my last article on the local Smooth Green Snake release project, I have been thinking about local conservation efforts and realizing how many wonderful organizations we have right here that doing some green good. You may be aware of these but perhaps not aware of all the efforts they make. It would take quite a long article to cover them all so just pieces for now, my friends.
Chicago Audubon Society
Do you like birds? Good! The Chicago Audubon Society was “founded in 1971, the Chicago Audubon Society’s mission is to promote the understanding and appreciation of nature, and to aid in the conservation and restoration of our natural ecosystems for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biodiversity.” The Audubon Society isn’t just a bunch of bird lovers sitting around with their binoculars pointed towards the sky they do much more than that. Research programs, education campaigns, bird counts and conferences, just to name a few. The information they provide goes to helping create the Illinois Breeding Bird Atlas.
The Wetlands Initiative “is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to restoring the wetland resources of the Midwest to improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and reduce flood damages.” Their vision is: Wetlands should be more valuable wet than dry. They have several local wetlands restoration projects. One being the 2,700-acre Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin & Hopper Lakes, which since its restoration, now attracts 260 species of bird and has 600 native plants. The area contains lakes, marshes, seeps, savannahs and prairies and was named an Audubon Important Bird Area.
The Nature Conservatory
The Nature Conservatory’s mission “is to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.” Their vision is to “leave a sustainable world for future generations.” Here in Illinois, they have many places they work on protecting. One of the closest to Chicago is Indian Boundary Prairies which is a cluster of four prairies just south of Chicago, near the junction of U.S. Route 57 and Interstate 294. The Nature Conservatory, along with Northeastern University and the Natural Land Institute, currently owns and protects 300-acres at the Indian Boundary Prairies. These restored grasslands contain an important local squirrel named the Franklin’s Ground squirrel which had previously gone extinct from these prairies but is now thriving in the area again. Along with the Franklin’s Ground squirrel, one can also see more than 250 species of plants including endangered ones such as the prairie white fringed orchid and more than 350 insect species, the smooth green snake, eastern milk snake and 11 other species of amphibians and reptiles.
Chicago Botanic Garden
Most local residents are familiar with the Chicago Botanic Garden located in Glencoe, IL., right outside Chicago which is known for its many beautifully themed gardens but did you know they also do plant and science conservation in their own Conservation Science Laboratories? Each lab has a particular focus “but all share the common goal of saving plants though gaining and applying knowledge.” You can visit these labs in person at the Planet Science Center at the Gardens. The Botanic Gardens also has a “Green Roof Garden” which is on top of the Conservation Science Center. “Combining practical benefits with aesthetic appeal, the Green Roof Garden also provides an opportunity for research and education, serving as a living laboratory.” Green roofs are also known as “living roofs” which also serve some functional purposes such as “absorbing rainwater, providing insulation, creating a habitat for wildlife, and helping to lower urban air temperatures and combat the heat island effect.”
And these are only the few of the wonderful organizations that make their homes here in Chicago and make a difference. They provide us with many opportunities to learn about how easy it can be to be green and stay local.
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” ~John Muir