Sweet Home, Wild Things Style

Tiger Swallowtail on Milkweed - Naperville Backyard, 7/20/2015, © Marilyn L. Schweitzer.
Tiger Swallowtail on Common Milkweed – Naperville, 7/20/2015, © Marilyn L. Schweitzer.

My interest in environmentally friendly landscaping began when my husband and I moved near Denver. Being from the Midwest, I had prepared myself to live in a far more arid area, (Denver gets about 1/3 the rainfall of Chicago). I discovered instead that over 50% of the residential water use went to maintaining landscapes, primarily bluegrass lawns. Being a bit of a lazy and frugal sort, I decided to invest in native and other drought resistant plants rather than watering a lawn or installing a sprinkler system. I found this venture both challenging and rewarding in terms of the success of the plantings and my neighbors’ approval.

When we moved to the Chicago area in 1987, I looked forward to a new urban landscaping adventure—one starting afresh with the general principles I had learned in Colorado. Over the last 28 years I have found people to be much more accepting of environmentally friendly landscaping. While weeding dandelions from my parkway it’s gone from being told, “You can’t control those without herbicides!” to “Don’t pull those—those are early pollinators for bees!”

My approach may not be for everyone, however, here are my tips towards going native in an urban/suburban environment:
Continue reading Sweet Home, Wild Things Style

Bison and People — A Remarkable Journey

Wild Things 2015 Keynote

Nachusa Grasslands in Ogle County, Illinois is a sample of how extraordinary leadership by both volunteers and staff, restored a quality habitat unprecedented in ambition, scope, and diversity. Preserve Manager Bill Kleiman recalls, “When Nachusa first started out, the prairie remnants were dingy, brush filled, bisected by fences and fence row trees. Some of the prairies were so heavily grazed they looked like lawns with thorn bushes for cattle shade.” In 1986 the Nature Conservancy acquired 400 acres of small prairie remnants scattered among cornfields. In 2014, 25 years and 3,000 acres later, it is home to 700 native plant species, 180 species of birds — and now wild bison:

Wild Things 2015 Keynote: 0.01 Pat Hayes, introduction; 6:45 cook county board president Toni Preckwinkle, welcome; 16:45 Bill Kleiman, keynote speaker

Both volunteers and professionals remain crucial to this important and unpredictable drama.

Welcome to the Wild Things Community

Welcome to our community of inspiring souls who live and breathe nature in the greater Chicago region called the Chicago Wilderness!

Lake Herrick Forest Preserve - 4/19/2008, © Marilyn L. Schweitzer
Lake Herrick Forest Preserve – 4/19/2008, © Marilyn L. Schweitzer

Wasn’t the 2015 Wild Things Conference terrific? (Read about it and some of the other the past  Wild Things conferences.)  The volunteers who brought you the 2015 conference, plus new volunteers are creating this community website and blog to keep you abreast on the latest happenings—we  invite you to join the conversation.

Readers of our blog will find feature articles on a wide range of topics:

  • Arthropods, Birds, Fish, Herps, Mammals, Reptiles, Plants
  • Dunes, Lakes/Ponds, Prairies, Rivers/Streams, Savannas, Wetlands, Woodlands
  • Backyards/Gardens, Neighborhoods, Urban Environment
  • Advocacy,  Citizen Science, Monitoring, Restoration, Stewardship, Volunteering
  • Climate Change, Conservation, Ecology, Invasive Species, Native Species, Rare Species, Research, Rewilding, Sustainability
  • Arts, Culture, Heritage, Tools for Educators, Youth

Individuals really can make a difference, as the 2015 conference presentation “Wild Things – People make the difference”  iconpdf 17mb, prepared by Pat Hayes and Karen Tharp beautifully illustrates.

Through citizen science, volunteers monitor wildlife such as birds, frogs and plants, working with best practices developed and supported by professionals from a wide range of institutions.

Similarly, volunteers also work to restore wildlands habitat  in conjunction with organized volunteer groups and agencies. Please join and support them.

To also help you on your way, we have a long list of conservation-minded resources.

And, oh, the 2017 Wild Things Conference is already on our minds!