Nearly $750,000 Awarded for Habitat Restoration

The Thorn Creek Trail System has nearly 30 miles of trails that connect multiple forest preserves, winding past lakes, wetlands and woodlands.

Restoration of wildlife habitat in and along the Chicago River system is essential to help wildlife, especially at-risk species, who suffer due to habitat degradation, lack of available habitat, and pollution. Since 2016, Friends has restored over 615 acres at river-edge forest preserves, removing invasive species and improving habitat. Restoration also improves stormwater infiltration; additional stormwater infiltration benefits for these completed projects are calculated at over 10 million gallons for each one inch per hour rain event.

Essential to these efforts are our partnerships and funders who provide vital resources and financial support for this important work. Three Friends initiatives received a total of nearly $750,000 in recent weeks.

Our Chicago River Schools Network (CRSN) has been awarded a Coastal Management Program Grant to support the next generation of stewards and advocates who will improve and protect habitat for native and plant and animal species. The CRSN offers K-12 students experiential, place-based learning to study what lives in and around the river as well as learn about the history of the Chicago River system, its adjacent lands, and current threats to its health. The funding will also support our work with 16 schools in the CRSN’s Adopt A River Schools network including students working at dedicated project sites on service learning projects to help heal the river.  The CRSN is celebrating in 25th anniversary and has impacted over 455,000 students since then.

Friends will lead the restoration of 118.8 acres of habitat in the Forest Preserves of Cook County at the Sweet Woods Forest Preserve, along the Little Calumet River’s Thorn Creek tributary. This project will remove invasive species, improve stormwater infiltration, enhance high-quality habitat for Illinois species of concern, and lead to a better experience for users of the Thorn Creek Trail System in the southern suburbs. This work is made possible by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Chi-Cal Rivers Fund which also funds our large-scale restoration work along the Crooked Creek tributary as well as funding our award-winning work reconnecting southwest suburban Mill Creek to the Cal-Sag Channel. Learn more about Crooked Creek by visiting our Inside, Out & About online resources. Administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Chi-Cal Rivers Fund is supported by BNSF Railway, Cleveland-Cliffs, Crown Family Philanthropies, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Hunter Family Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, the Walder Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service.

Friends and the Chicago-Calumet River Watershed Council will lead a multi-benefit ecosystem restoration project on Chicago’s Southeast Side at Indian Ridge Marsh – South which will serve as a model and catalyst for the Watershed Council’s collaborative approach, and is essential to addressing the multi-faceted challenges that communities and the environment face due to the climate crisis. In partnership with the Chicago Park District and the Southeast Youth Alliance and funded by the Walder Foundation, the project will restore this hemi-marsh wetland habitat and offset centuries of degradation through pollution, altered hydrology, climate change, and the introduction of invasive species. The restoration will provide far-reaching benefits including restoring a variety of native plant communities and improving habitat for wildlife including mammals, fish, native reptiles and amphibians, invertebrates, insects, and upland birds. The restoration will also expand upon the network of publicly accessible natural recreation areas and trails being developed in the Calumet region.

Stay tuned for more news about these education and restoration projects.