Northwest Illinois

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!

Learn more on our About our chapter and Sites and Projects web pages.

Board representative:  Jim Rachuy
Chapter contact: Susan Lipnick, 815-776-0223 (no texts), northwestillinois@theprairieenthusiasts.org

Facebook: Chapter page


 

What's New

A Note from NIPE’s President:  

In a departure from typical practice, NIPE has not asked our volunteers to help pick seed this year. As noted earlier this summer, COVID-19 safety concerns made us decide to limit our seed pickers to paid staff and a few board members. So far, so good.   If we have a need for more help, we may send out an email to see if anyone is interested for a couple seed picking sessions. At this point, it is safest to keep our pickers to a minimum. 

BUT, we miss you!! It just is not the same out in the prairies without all of you and the great conversations, wonderful questions, and smiling faces that make the picking all the more enjoyable. We hope you'll take some time to get out and see the prairies during the rest of the summer and early fall. The flowers are quite showy now and the bees and butterflies are really ramping up. If you can make a trip to Hanley Savanna, you can check out our new educational signage in the shelter and have a nice quiet 'sit' on one of our new, well-placed benches.

If you have a moment, drop me a line and tell me how you're doing. This is the time of year when we normally get caught up with each other. I'd love to hear from you!  -- Laura Dufford, President, NIPE Board of Directors lauradufford@gmail.com

Land Management:

Despite the challenges posed during the year, the NIPE NINJAs have worked hard and safely to meet NIPE’s restoration and management commitments.  Memorable truckloads of invasive thistle and sweet clover were removed from JDCF’s Wapello Land and Water Reserve earlier this summer. Butterflies have been welcome company in workdays, as seen in the photo of a giant swallowtail butterfly on a patch of hairy mountain mint (Pycnanthemum pilosum) at NIPE’s Hanley Savanna. At the ending of August, weeding was just about done, and attention turned to cutting and dabbing unwanted woody plants.  Three burns have been scheduled for the fall.

Personnel changes are coming to NIPE’s land management crew.  Ed Strenski will retire as NIPE’s Land Manager at the end of this year.  Taking his place will be Zoe Pearce, who has worked for NIPE for the past several years, first starting as a student worker in high school.  She started apprenticing in her new role under Ed’s supervision on September 1 and will take over the Land Manager position on January 1, 2021.

Seed Coordinator’s Report:

It has been a busy harvest season thus far, thanks to a very willing and able crew who collect and dry our seed.  Every year brings challenges and opportunities. Since I began collecting seed for NIPE in 2004, I've observed the ebb and flow of plant populations and seed production according to fire frequency, the timing and duration of rainfall, and the intensity of insect predation. This year is no different. A hot, dry summer has meant many productive days in the field with easy access to sometimes mucky wetland sites. However, some species that require plenty of moisture have struggled, like Blue Flag Iris (Iris virginica var. shrevei) which produced very few blooms. Other species shrug off the stress.  Some populations of cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) had flowers that never formed or that turned black, while plants elsewhere were fine. Finally, sites that were burned this spring have seen flushes of flowering - and therefore plenty of seed to collect. We will continue to harvest and process seed through October. – Barb Siekowski, NIPE Seed Coordinator

Here we see NIPE staff member Becky Janopoulos dwarfed by some big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi) as she helps pick some rosinweed at JDCF’s Valley of Eden bird sanctuary.

Lonetree Goings On:  

Rickie Rachuy reports that NIPE is actively monitoring and picking seed from both rare species gardens as appropriate. She notes that seed is coming in at a slower rate and in smaller quantities than in past years.

Mice like the harvested seed but not necessarily to restore prairies!  Efforts continue to try to keep the seed shed rodent free during the harvest and sorting season. The seed shed now hosts a rodent-exclusion seed cage, guarded by an attack "cat."  The efficacy of the cardboard cat is still in question, but the cage works well.