February 2017

Reflections on a February Afternoon 

Like a wayward homing pigeon coming home to the roost, I found my way back to the Slough after work today. It always happens that way. Rough day at the office, missing my best friend, can't wait to get there.

Life is beautiful here and this has been no ordinary February by any stretch of the imagination. It's mid-month and the sandhill cranes are winging their way back north for some odd reason. They were just completing their exit in mid-December.

Today, there is a profound silence that is punctuated by red-winged  blackbirds of all things, triangulating calls back and forth across the Slough that now more closely resembles a giant ephemeral pool than a fixed body of water. Clearly a full month too soon. An occasional dog bark pierces the bouts of silence, only to remind me that an ordinary world exists outside of this magnificent place that is the Prospect Heights Slough.
I'm leaning up against a building that is just on the penumbra of land meets water and snags have fallen all around me with the weight of one winter's snow and ice, or perhaps, the ground just gave way to the force of gravity. Corpses of expired elms uproot and surrender to becoming condominiums for the local inhabitants. Somehow, it's all perfect. Everything is as it should be; how it was always intended to be; by science, physics, best land management practices, metaphysics, or pure lyrical randomness.

Living on the Slough, has made me fortunate, privileged and some would say blessed. Whatever the belief structure is, it amounts to the same; absolute internal peace and harmony. At any given moment, I can cross the street and immerse myself in an evolving ecosystem that holds my heart in its hand. The fusion of art and science has always held great fascination for me. As an artist, I am an incurable romantic to the point of fault. As a restorationist and conservationist, I am analytical to the point of stagnation and sometime strangulation. Cementing a balance between the two, prevents me from going insane. It's like treading water between possibility and intention.
I wholeheartedly invite you to get outside, find the bliss and partake in the smaller nuances of nature that surround us here in Prospect Heights. Sit in silence and listen to the ambient. Let your eyes seek things you have overlooked your whole life. Immerse all of your senses into the microcosms of a timeout for nature. 

Nature Speaks - Abigail Derby Lewis Postponed
Doug Taron Up Next


Dr. Abigail Derby Lewis's Nature Speaks talk,  "Building Resilient Communities in a Changing Climate: Why urban nature (really) matters", has been postponed until July 11, 2017. 

Up next up for Nature Speaks will be our good friend Doug Taron, April 19th, to present his awesome talk “The Monarch and its Migration". This amazing presentation explores the life cycle and the incredible migration of this most determined and well know species of butterflies.

Making his second appearance for Nature Speaks, Mr. Taron is the Curator of Biology and Vice President of Research and Conservation at Chicago Academy of Sciences’ Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

The monarch is the best known butterfly species in the world.  Its life cycle is closely tied to its amazing migration.  Doug will explore both the life cycle and the migration as well as discussing the butterfly's behavior on its wintering grounds in Mexico, efforts both in Mexico and Illinois to track population fluctuations, and conservation issues surrounding the monarch.  Learn what you can do from your own home to aid in conserving this iconic insect.  The program is free but you must register. Click here to register.

Dr. Doug Taron

McCabe and DaPra Present the FPCC 100 Year Documentary

On January 26th, our good friends John McCabe and Kristin Da Pra visited Nature Speaks to present the Emmy award winning documentary  “Chicago’s True Nature: The Forest Preserves of Cook County.”

The project was produced by the The Forest Preserves of Cook County, in partnership with WYCC PBS Chicago and Juneteenth Productions and captured the sights and sounds within the Forest Preserves as it marked its 100th anniversary throughout 2015.

The documentary begins with discussion of renowned landscape architects Jensen and Perkins and their vision of what will eventually became the Forest Preserves of Cook County after a period of 10 years of incubation.

With a checkered past history in the early 1920's, over use by the public and political patronage caused enormous amounts of damage; events that resulted in 70% of the original holdings being preserved today.

Despite the problems of overuse, the system has always sought to include and remain open to the public. in 1929 the first commissioner, Charles G. "Cap" Sauers, fought hard to clean up the system, eliminating patronage and cronyism while applying science and common sense to the restoration of the degraded landscape.

Under his watch, thousands of workers from the civilian consignment core turned a former sedge meadow into what is now know as the Skokie Lagoons. American Indians routinely conducted Pow Wow's in the park and fishing and children's outreach programs were created. It was the matrix and foundation for what the Forest Preserves has become.

Today, the system is comprised of 70,000 acres and a plan for the next 100 years is in place. It boasts camping, cutting edge wildlife monitoring programs to track movement, populations and zoonotic diseases in addition to a very robust volunteer management program, overseen by McCabe and DePra. "We invite and encourage everyone to come out and participate in the restoration of some of the most bio-diverse areas in the country," said DePra. Interested parties can learn more or register to volunteer by clicking here.  

A viewing copy of the documentary is available at the Prospect Heights Public Library and is occasionally shown on WYCC - PBS.

 NRC Commissioners Present at Wild Things

The Wild Things Conference happens every two years. It is a big deal. This year it was held at the University of Illinois Chicago's Forum and very quickly sold out the 1,700 person limit, leaving 320 people on the waiting list. That had never happened in the history of Wild Things. 

It had always been the dream of the commission to be held in enough regard to be considered as potential presenters. Never in their wildest dreams did the commission ever think it would become reality.
PHNRC Chairperson Agnes Wojnarski Presenting at Wild Things Conference.
"This is the stuff dreams are made of," said Wojnarski. "I have been coming to Wild Things for years and always been a little star struck with the luminaries of the field. Today, we find ourselves and all of the hard work we have accomplished with the combined efforts of our Commissioners, the Volunteers, the City and the Park District getting a nod of acknowledgment and approval form our peers. Needless to say, it is very humbling and an enormous honor.
Commissioner Dana Sievertson opens the Wild Things presentation.
"It is our hope, that in light of our presentation,"From Grassroots to Deep Roots; Small Organizations with Big Ambitions", that we could have inspired other people to accomplish similar things," said Commissioner Dana Sievertson.

Commissioners John Kamysz and Ed Madden joined Wojnarski and Sievertson to round out the roster. "In addition to presenting," said Madden, we also were attendees to the conference which meant we had the whole day to attend several presentations of our peers on a wide variety of topics pertinent to what we do. It was awesome to say the least."  Commissioners had entertained requests for further dialogues from attendees.
Commissioner Ed Madden Wild Things
Commissioner John Kamysz speaking at Wild Things
Sterilized plug cups get ready for their next assignment 

Greenhouse Program Gets Off to a Flying Start

The Greenhouse program has been silently underway since late last summer with the collection of native sedges. After a full cycle of seed collection, processing and stratification, the seeds and the program are hitting the germination trays. "We hope to have trays in the green houses by mid-March," said Commissioner Wojnarski. This years goal is to grow more than 100 species of plants and propagate some of the rarer species that are more difficult to grow, she continued. 

PNRC Partners up With Prospect Heights Kids Care

Meighan Newhouse, co-founder of Prospect Heights Kids Care and the Commissioners of PHNRC have agreed to partner together to create KIds Care events that will be based on nature, restoration and education. "We are looking to hold our first event in early June right after school gets out for the summer," said Newhouse. PH KIds Care is a not-for-profit organization created by Newhouse and her partner Jeannie Messer Leonard. This not-for-profit, grassroots organization is intended to provide unique life learning experiences for children and give them a sense of community.

"We will be looking to work with Kids Care on a special work day at one of our sites," said Agnes Wojnarski PHNRC Commissioner. "We will be getting work done but there will also be a big emphasis on education and having fun."

For more information on Kids Care visit their Facebook page here.

Restoration Progress at Heron Pond

The last work day of February was exceptionally warm and provided the perfect combination of balmy weather, soft ground and lots of volunteers. The Heron Pond project, brain child of Park District Executive Director Christina Ferraro and NRC Chair Agnes Wojnarski , was cleared of invasive trees and brush by the Park District early last fall. The NRC was waiting for the perfect opportunity to get native seed down and get it covered with erosion control blankets. "We were hoping to get this done last fall," commented Commissioner John Kamysz, "but the ground froze early on. Today worked out perfectly and we are expecting a good amount of rain to seal the deal here."  

The commission will be scheduling several more work days at the pond as weather permits in order to complete seeding and erosion control on the rest of the prepared areas. Summer will see native plugs installed on the vertical portions of the shore line for further stabilization. The day concluded with a spirited Kielbasa roast and local residents coming out to thank the NRC for their efforts.
Copyright © 2017 Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission, All rights reserved.

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