Saving and restoring natural areas

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

The Environmental Law and Policy Center recently announced their successful court action to save the Saugatuck Dunes wilderness area. It is good to know of their success.

During Governor Ryan’s administration a billion dollar conservation fund supported the acquisition of natural areas throughout Illinois. Many significant natural areas were preserved during the funding period. We were pleased to be involved with other similar organizations in such acquisitions.

But acquiring such areas is only the beginning of the conservation effort. Recently we learned of a proposal by the Kohler company to secure part of the former Terry Andrae State Park, now Kohler-Andrae State Park, to build another golf course. Natural areas are often targets for new projects which are justified in the name of economic development, jobs and on some occasions as a means to combat climate change.

If the project is implemented a formerly protected area will be reduced in size and fragmented. Wetlands and forest would be lost. Some species diversity will be lost immediately and others will gradually die out. Fragmentation followed by invasive species is the leading cause of the loss of species diversity.

But climate change is emerging as an even bigger threat of species loss as it impacts all existing habitats around the globe leaving open the question of what will remain of them as climate change intensifies. In spite of the uncertainties over time, citizens remain active preserving natural areas, protecting them from surrounding developments and working to protect and restore native species.

Protecting species diversity is a major challenge given the human propensity to focus on instant gratification, being easily swayed by appealing advertising to consume products which are deliberately designed to last a short time, be difficult to repair and thrown away as waste.

This year’s Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair will highlight the many efforts in this area to protect our unique significant natural areas and species diversity inherent in them.

Nachusa Grasslands, with over 3,000 acres in natural areas, provides excellent examples of ecological restoration efforts. The reintroduction of bison there should reduce the human effort involved in restoring and maintaining prairie areas. Bison also effectively spread nutrients and seeds in their dung as they graze.

The Prairie Preservation Society of Ogle County, a small organization, preserves endangered sites. Sand Ridge, Owned by PPSOC, is considered the finest example of dry prairie in this part of the state.

The Wild Ones is a non-profit organization that teaches people how to use native plants in their home or business landscapes and the benefits of using them.

The Rock River Trail Initiative’s tree planting program focuses primarily on restoring or upgrading oak woodlands in the river basin. RRTI will both have a booth and make a presentation at the Fair.

John Zeiger and Jenny Solverson, Stewardship Fellows at the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo, will discuss phenology, the study of biological timing, in terms of phenomena that people can observe. These studies, begun by Leopold in the 1940s, provide a clear picture of the advance of global warming. Polar bears, glaciers and Greenland are “away,” but changing bird migration and flowering dates are concepts they can follow in their own lives.

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

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