Midewin Tallgrass Prairie Attracts Community ‘Champions’
Staff stage trays of native seedlings for planting by volunteers
Photo credit: TWI
This year, a record five Joliet-area companies—DuPont, Ecolab, Exelon, Harrah’s Joliet, and Waste Management of Illinois—were recognized as “Prairie Champions” for supporting ecological restoration at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, in Wilmington, both with employee volunteerism and corporate donations.
The Wetlands Initiative (TWI), a nonprofit partner with the Forest Service at Midewin, led a Corporate Volunteer Day event on May 22, during which teams of employees from each company planted thousands of native seedlings to benefit the declining monarch butterfly and other rare insects, birds and wildlife.
To earn the Prairie Champions recognition companies committed to send a team of volunteers to the Corporate Volunteer Day and pledged $1,000 or more in donations to the prairie restoration effort in the past year. The Prairie Champions program began in 2016, benefiting the Lobelia Meadows Restoration Project at Midewin. In 2019, the companies supported a massive, new, seven-year restoration effort on Midewin’s west side. “We rely on these dozens of employees to expand the prairie restorations by thousands of plants each year,” says Allison Cisneros, The Nature Conservancy Midewin project manager.
The Wetlands Initiative, an Illinois-based nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring the wetland resources of the Midwest, has worked closely with the Forest Service to carry out on-the-ground habitat restoration projects at Midewin since 1997. Beginning in 2016, TWI has expanded its work at Midewin, tackling a $6.7-million restoration project in collaboration with the Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation that will ultimately transform 1,800 acres back to a rich prairie–wetland landscape. Once complete, the new restoration will create a vast corridor of wetland and prairie habitats that will also provide unique educational and recreational opportunities for the public.
“Our employee volunteers were very excited to work the soil and plant the plugs that will grow into habitats for the iconic monarch butterfly,” says Exelon Generation Braidwood Station Site Vice President Marri Marchionda-Palmer. “As a proud producer of enough carbon-free energy for more than 2 million area residents, we are strong environmental stewards, and we really appreciate our growing partnership with the Wetlands Initiative at Midewin.”
The Forest Service offers weekly volunteer opportunities, tours and other events throughout the year at Midewin. Visit fs.usda.gov/midewin for more information. To learn more about the Wetlands Initiative’s ecological restoration work at Midewin and elsewhere, visit Wetlands-Initiative.org.