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:  Jay Rutherford
Chapter contact: Susan Lipnick, 815-908-0483[email protected]

Facebook: Chapter page


What's New

July Note from NIPE’s President

We had a great program by Bev Paulan at our recent Hanley Savanna event.  Bev talked about the importance of native plants benefitting native pollinators.  Many of our native pollinators, which include insects and birds, are in a decline because of habitat loss and insecticides.  It’s so important to have native plants for our pollinators as they have evolved to coexist and thrive with each other. Some species have very specialized arrangements with their hosts plants and cannot exist without them. 

NIPE has been creating native plantings for years and has planted hundreds of acres of native prairie in northwest Illinois. When we look closely, it’s amazingly wonderful to see the variety of insect life living in these diverse plantings. NIPE does native plantings in a large style, but we can all do our part by planting native species in our home landscaping, as well.  Many of the non-natives we plant around our homes – cultivars, hybrids, or GMO-modified plants that can include pesticides – do not provide the quality of food needed for our pollinators. There are many native plants that work well in a landscape setting, including many shrub and woodland species. I encourage us all to incorporate more native prairie and woodland species into our yards and do our part to help our pollinators.  -- Laura Dufford, President, NIPE Board of Directors [email protected]


Return of Volunteer Seed-Picking Days  

After a year’s hiatus because of the pandemic, NIPE will call on volunteers this season to help pick prairie plant seeds. Volunteers will be notified by email about a week before each planned seed-picking session. If you are receiving emails and want to remain on the list, you will continue to receive notifications. If you are not receiving the emails or if you want to be added to or removed from the volunteer list, please contact Laura Dufford at [email protected].  


Native Pollinators Event a Success

On June 27, biologist Bev Paulan (photo to left by Susan Lipnick) presented the program “Native Plants Need Native Pollinators.” Attendance at Hanley Savanna was good, and the weather allowed participants afterward to identify some of the plants and their pollinators in the prairies.  NIPE’s Facebook page (link) has several follow-up posts on the information shared in the presentation.  NIPE has applied to the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation for expense reimbursement as part of the Amenities and Events grant.  Photo to the right by Susan Lipnick: Attendees trying to identify a native bumblebee out in the prairie.


Land Manager’s Report (Zoe Pearce)

During the spring burn season this year, March-May, we helped JDCF and NISC on multiple burns.  We will collaborate again to complete NIPE burns this fall. After burn season, weeding season started. We have been working to eradicate and push back the spread of invasive species on 15 properties, over 150 acres. Seed picking season is about to pick up for us. Currently, the land management staff is looking for workers to join our team.  Please contact me at [email protected]  if you are interested in part-time employment. Photo to the right by Zoe Pearce: John Arndt and Barb Wiesen working on the JDCF Horseshoe Mound's Richardson addition


Seed Coordinator’s Report (Barb Siekowski)

This spring, violet wood sorrel (Oxalis violacea) and yellow star grass (Hypoxis hirsuta) carpeted Elmoville Prairie, providing beautiful bloom and ample seed but a challenging harvest. It's always tricky collecting from small, delicate stems hidden under larger surrounding plants.

Heat and dry conditions in spring and early summer prompted earlier picking of some species like wild geranium (Geranium maculatum). Wetland species emerged and bloomed, though soils were parched, with no standing water or even muddy ground in some locations. On sandy sites the leaves of downy sunflower (Helianthus mollis) wilted at midday while other species seemed unfazed. In the past, our prairies have carried on despite harsh conditions. It remains to be seen if seed production will be impacted this year, especially if the drought continues.

Large populations of prairie blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium campestre) and prairie parsley (Polytaenia nuttallii) were found at two restorations and added to the harvest list. The blue-eyed grass proved amazingly resilient, returning to the site without seeding, following decades of agricultural land use.


Lonetree Goings On (Rickie Rachuy)

Meet Karen Reed (photo to right by Rickie Rachuy), our newest helper at Lonetree Farm. She is organized (after years in the corporate world), talented (after several years of Greenhouse experience), and motivated to learn all she can about native plants.

 Some successes in the rare plant gardens:

- The first blooms on Asclepias purpurascens (purple milkweed), started from seed in 2015!

- The first seedlings of Gentianella quinquefolia (stiff gentian) after three years of trying to get wild-harvested seed to germinate;

- The first flowers on Lilium philadelphicum (wood lily) from seed donated by Kathie Brock after the initial seedlings were uprooted by raccoons in 2017;  Photo by Rickie Rachuy: Wood lily blooming.  

- The first flowers on Cirsium hillii (Hill’s thistle) from seed donated by Tom Mitchell in 2019;

- Several healthy Clematis pitcheri plants from cuttings taken from the only known plant in northwest Illinois; and

- One seedling of Clematis occidentalis from Prairie Moon seed started Feb. 1, 2020.