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Chicago Office Helps Organize Restoration of Grassland and Wetland Bird Habitat
Midwest Region, September 10, 2012
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Volunteer stewards assemble before one of many workdays held at the Spring Creek Headwaters.
Volunteer stewards assemble before one of many workdays held at the Spring Creek Headwaters. - Photo Credit: Photo contributed by Audubon of the Chicago Region, used with permission.
Volunteer stewards scatter seed by hand during a winterworkday in 2007 at Spring Creek Headwaters.
Volunteer stewards scatter seed by hand during a winterworkday in 2007 at Spring Creek Headwaters. - Photo Credit: Provided by Audubon of the Chicago Region, used with permission.
Grassland birds, like this Henslow's sparrow, will benefit from the habitat restoration project at Spring Creek Forest preserve in northwest Cook County, Illinois.
Grassland birds, like this Henslow's sparrow, will benefit from the habitat restoration project at Spring Creek Forest preserve in northwest Cook County, Illinois. - Photo Credit: Photo by Jerry Goldner, with permission

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Chicago Illinois Field Office played a key role in organizing a multi-partner effort to establish a large tract of habitat for grassland and wetland birds adjacent to a major retail and office center in Urban Northeast Illinois.

 

Beginning in 2007, the Chicago field office helped to assemble stakeholders and hosted initial meetings to identify roles that each could play to restore an approximately 160-acre tract of the Spring Creek Forest Preserve back to a mosaic of grassland and wetland habitat. The tract, known as the "Headwaters," is also potentially high-profile because it is adjacent to the corporate campus and headquarters of Sears Holdings, the parent company of Sears and K-mart. It was previously managed by the landowner (the Forest Preserve District of Cook County) by rotating row crop agriculture to control weeds until such a time that restoration could be started. It was clear that funds and labor would be needed to acquire and sow a large amount of native plant seeds on site. In addition to the Fish & Wildlife Service's Chicago Office, the partnership that came together included National Audubon's Chicago Office in the main role as on--the-ground project coordinator, as well as The Forest Preserve District of Cook County (the landowner), the Conservation Fund, and Citizens for Conservation of Barrington Illinois. Over the next five years, these partners variously contributed funds for contractual work and seed purchases, or mustered a large volunteer stewardship group to help during a series of several dozen work days. By summer of 2012, the implementation phase of the project was complete, and maintenance/management and monitoring activities were well underway.

"Thank goodness for the concerted and coordinated efforts of the many partners working to restore what we call ‘the 160,” said Justin Pepper, Acting Director of Audubon’s Chicago Office. “This summer was the first growing season following the hydrologic restoration and I shudder to think what we would have faced… most of the invasive weedy species you might expect to see are present, but none in overwhelming quantities. They are very much in retreat and we will remain vigilant in the years to come. "

Pepper added, "...it also appears that the site is particularly attractive to Henslow’s sparrows later in the breeding season. I was really surprised by how many we were hearing in August. They covered the place! I’m not sure whether these had moved in from beyond the region or if they were Barrington area birds responding to management nearby, but clearly they appreciate what we have accomplished out there. Thanks to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for your important contributions and partnership!"


Contact Info: Michael Redmer, 847-381-2253, Mike_Redmer@fws.gov



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