Striving to preserve biodiversity

By Robert and Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President,
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

As human populations increase and consumption accelerates substantial damage is being done to the planet both locally and globally. Problems grow as we ignore many of the environmental consequences of our consumption. While climate change draws the most attention other damage is increasing. Harvesting marine life continues with limited efforts at renewing the resources as dead zones within the ocean expand. The global loss of biodiversity continues at a high rate which some scientists have called the Sixth Great Extinction.

The loss of species diversity has long been a topic of interest in this area; citizens have responded in various ways. The region is recognized as a rich source of biodiversity; major state parks have been established over the years. Non-profit organizations continue the efforts of protecting and restoring natural areas.

A representative of Nachusa Grasslands, a large scale restoration project in Lee and Ogle Counties, will have a display at the Renewable Energy and Sustainability Fair highlighting their efforts and will answer any questions. With over 3000 acres in various stages of restoration a new element has been added with the arrival of the American bison. Their consumption of grass is expected to restore the balance between native grasses and forbs.

The Ogle County Prairie Preservation Society, owners of two prairie parcels, will have a display highlighting their work. One parcel is located just northwest of the Byron Forest Preserve. A second larger parcel contains high quality prairie remnants which are being expanded as overgrown Christmas trees are removed. The organization continues to sell Christmas trees to fund their efforts.

The Wild Ones, an organization dedicated to the preservation of native species, will have representatives who will explain their work which includes organizing tours to various natural areas in the region.

For those interested in securing high quality native plants for their own restorations Red Buffalo nursery will have stock for individual or group purchase.

A leader of the Rock River Trail initiative will explain their efforts. They are recognized as a National Trail which encourages exploration of the Rock River by canoeing, kayaking, biking, hiking or driving on its trail systems. The organization provides free oak trees in spring for transplanting within the Rock River watershed. The abundant oak woodlands and savannas once characteristic of the river valley have declined and the availability of the trees is a worthwhile restoration project.

Steve John of the Agricultural Watershed Institute will present Biomass energy and a new agricultural paradigm, focusing on perennial cropping including using native grasses for forage and biomass. He will explain how farmers can be change agents for a more resilient agricultural landscape based on 20th century landscape transformations that provides environmental benefits along with products.

Retired biology professor and researcher Philip Whitford will explore human impacts on the world’s oceans and reefs and the effects of pollution, oil drilling, tourism, over-fishing, carbon dioxide release and spreading new invasive species on the sustainability of ocean resources.

Major sponsors of the Fair are the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Rock River Times, Northern Public Radio and the Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department.

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