The retreat of glaciers 12,000 years ago and the evolution of tallgrass prairies that followed left Illinois with deep, rich soils. Many of the wetlands were drained, much of the prairie was plowed, and farmland now covers over 80% of our state in place of natural ecosystems. Over the decades, Openlands has developed strong expertise in cutting-edge ecological restoration in order to restore the diversity and beauty of native prairie, woodland, and wetland ecosystems.
Restoration is the process of returning the land to a healthy state for nature, wildlife, and people. We are actively restoring natural areas at the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Lake County’s Liberty Prairie Reserve, and at several sites in the Des Plaines River Watershed.
Wetlands Restoration Through the O’Hare Modernization Program
The Des Plaines River Watershed restorations are in conjunction with the Chicago District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Chicago Department of Aviation. Funding for these projects was made available by the O’Hare Modernization Program, which seeks to offset the impact on aquatic resources caused by the expansion of Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Following restoration, several of these sites were enrolled in the Illinois Nature Preserve System, acknowledging the high quality efforts. When the entire project is completed, this $25 million effort will support rehabilitation and enhancement of over 1,500 acres of habitat, and the project has already influenced the direction of ecological restoration across our region.