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midewin national tallgrass prairie

Where the People and Prairie Restore Each Other

Meandering along a rustic trail surrounded by towering prairie grasses and blooming flowers, you feel a sense of simplicity as you come to a quiet overlook that slopes onto a bench where you can observe the activity of birds and small mammals surrounding a still pond. This beautiful prairie landscape leaves the viewer with an appreciation for nature’s wide open spaces.

And, amazingly, you’re in the middle of one of America’s most populated regions because this could only be the Midewin (mi-Day-win) National Tallgrass Prairie, the largest piece of contiguous open space in the Chicago metropolitan area, located just an hour’s drive from the heart of the Windy City.

National Grasslands - Celebrating and Conserving Open Space

Many know about America’s Great Plains, the vast, far-as-you-can-see mostly flat lands in the country’s interior west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains, consisting of prairie, steppe and grasslands. The 20 national grasslands and the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie are part of this heartland tapestry, rich in stories about history, ecological health, business and job opportunities, adventures in recreation, and now—part of the U.S. Forest Service’s urgent mission to conserve open space.

During America’s westward expansion in the 1800s, a once teeming herd of bison was largely eliminated as ranchers, soldiers, prospectors and railroad builders pushed back the last frontier. The Homestead Act of 1862 brought almost six million settlers who replaced grass with crops more beneficial to their economic aspirations.

USDA, Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Invite You to Get Involved in Conservation Efforts

America’s farmers, ranchers and forest owners have a great tradition of stewardship of our natural resources and environment. The U.S. Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other USDA agencies work in partnership with farmers, ranchers, forest owners, conservation groups, sportsmen, local communities, businesses and many others to encourage the conservation of both our public and private lands. This month – National Conservation Month – the Forest Service and NRCS are making several announcements that highlight the commitment of USDA and its partners to natural resource stewardship on public and private lands.

Later today, Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce the latest round of recipients for the NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants program (CIG). These grants stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches that improve the productivity of farms, ranches and forests while enhancing the environment. For example, last year the University of Delaware used a CIG grant from NRCS to assist poultry producers in improving their operations and their environmental performance, and helping them comply with federal and state environmental quality requirements.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Program Brings Kids Closer to Nature

The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie offers lots of unique educational experiences and opportunities to get involved throughout the year – through public tours, volunteer days and special events.

As part of the “Midewin for Kids” activity series, kids are invited to the prairie for an exploratory hike with a Forest Service environmental education specialist.

Forest Service Prairie May See Bison Again

Today, roughly half-a-million bison dot the nation’s landscape, a far cry from the more than 20 to 30 million that once roamed much of North America.

And while they have not been part of the Forest Service’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie ecosystem for more than a century, the habitat here will soon be home for 20 to 30 of the animals, perhaps as early as December 2013.