The Northwest Illinois chapter works in the Driftless Area of Illinois. The area contains hill prairie, oak woodland, sand prairie, oak savanna, sedge meadow, oak barren, and tallgrass (black soil) prairie. We work to protect, restore and manage these fire-dependent habitats.
NIPE projects are primarily located within Jo Daviess, Carroll, and Stephenson Counties in Illinois. We invite you to join us!
As we head into the summer months, NIPE is busy working to maximize the funding it can receive through a grant pertaining to Hanley Savanna. The Illinois Clean Energy Commission’s Community Foundation awarded NIPE this 18-month challenge grant. As of May 1, we have the opportunity to receive up to $27,000 in cash disbursements and up to $5,000 in equipment purchase matching funds. Responsibilities include continuing prairie restoration and management efforts; obtaining private cash donations to take advantage of the 3:1 grant match; increasing volunteer work efforts at Hanley Savanna; and boosting publicity and community outreach efforts. Our first letter to members requesting monetary contributions will go out in June.
Yellow-breasted chats, to be specific, have made their home in a portion of Hanley Savanna currently referred to as “The Pines” for its former use as a white pine plantation. On June 1, a group of 27 bird enthusiasts from the Northwest Illinois Audubon Society, the Dubuque Audubon Society, the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation (JDCF), and NIPE members gathered “Chat with Chats,” taking a walk in that area in the hope of spotting these songbirds. We did not see them, but we certainly heard them! The presence of the chats is causing us to rethink how to best manage this area. We want to continue providing good habitat for these and other birds whose populations are on the decline. The photo below is of the birding group looking for chats.
Seed Picking A major summertime activity is prairie seed picking, an endeavor that requires many hands and is a favorite among our volunteers! If you are interested in helping this season, click on this link for the schedule. The schedule may change depending on weather and specific seed availability. We will do our best to keep every seed picker updated as to schedule changes. You may want to email Laura Dufford at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be put on the seed pickers list. She sends out group emails notifying everyone on that list about schedule changes.
In the meantime, prairie diva Barb Siekowski has begun looking for and collecting seeds from early-maturing plants, including pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta), wood betony (Pedicularis canadensis), prairie blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium campestre), balsam ragwort (Packera paupercula), wild geranium (Geranium maculatum), wild hyacinth (Camassia scilloides), Indian paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea) and a variety of sedges (Carex species).
Successful Spring Burn Season With the help of dedicated burn crew members from within and without NIPE, we burned 187 acres at 18 sites, excellent results this spring.
Tractor and Mower NIPE recently purchased an immaculately maintained second-hand tractor and mower to help with efforts in the west side of Jo Daviess County (sites include our own Hanley Savanna and JDCF properties Casper Bluff, Oneota, and Wapello). The tractor and mower will assist in creating and maintaining fire breaks, mowing select prairie sections, and herbicide spraying. This will take a significant burden off our ever-ready but well-used tractor that had been traveling throughout the county but will now be working just in eastern county properties.
Our prairies continue to draw researchers in their efforts to better understand the successes and challenges of prairie restoration efforts. This summer, Noah Haskin will start his mycorrhizal research detailed in the March 2018 update. NIPE has also hired Leanne Martin, Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, to inventory the plant communities in Hanley Savanna to help us determine where prairie restoration efforts have been more or less successful. Her data will help significantly in ongoing management of Hanley. Eric Chien, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, will be collecting multiple types of ecological data on present site conditions. Eric intends to create an assessment tool to help analyze the likelihood of success for proposed savanna restorations. He will be looking at prairie restorations of at least six years old across southeast Minnesota, southwest Wisconsin and northwest Illinois, including Hanley Savanna.