It took longer than expected, but the formal approval of the introduction of bison to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie has been announced.
There is no firm date yet for the introduction because much infrastructure is needed before the bison may roam the landscape at the sprawling site near Wilmington in Will County.
Here is the announcement from the U.S. Forest Service, which also deserves credit for the photo:
U.S. Forest Service to Welcome Bison to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
WILMINGTON, IL. (March 26, 2015) – Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Supervisor Wade Spang announced he has signed the final decision notice and finding of no significant impact (DN/FONSI) for the bison introduction and grazing project experiment. The selected alternative (Proposed Action Alternative 1 as described in the Bison Introduction and Grazing Project EA) paves the way for introducing bison to graze on pastures on an experimental basis at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Additional project works includes constructing related facilities on approximately 1,200-acres of non-native grassland/pasture within Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. The experiment will introduce a mix of younger and mature animals to begin the small herd.
Supervisor Spang said, “This project is the result of a partnership with the National Forest Foundation (NFF) and other partners. The NFF’s sponsorship and help has been instrumental in providing the opportunity to bring bison to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. All of us have been working on this project for a long time. Through public meetings and comment periods, we have heard from the public and incorporated their comments into the environmental assessment (EA). Public support for the bison project has been overwhelmingly positive. ”
Spang also added, “Now the on-the-ground work can start. We are looking forward to continuing to work with the NFF, other partners and local contractors to install the needed infrastructure to safely introduce bison and provide the public with opportunities to view these magnificent animals.”
Pasture fencing, all-weather water sources, corrals, handling facility access and storage buildings need to be constructed. In addition, trails and overlooks need to be built for visitors to view bison and the prairie. Prairie restoration efforts are also included in the project. Pastures will be restored to a more desirable native grassland community through seeding and planting native prairie species, which will improve habitat for both the bison and native grassland birds.
“Bringing bison to Midewin has been a goal of the NFF since we began working at Midewin in 2012 through our Treasured Landscapes conservation campaign,” said Bill Possiel, NFF president. “We are confident that bison will be a big draw for Chicago residents and will offer an exceptional opportunity to introduce people to Midewin.”
“After the infrastructure is in place, we can start discussing when the bison will arrive at Midewin. Until then there is much work that needs to be accomplished,” noted Spang.
Detailed records of the environmental analysis for the bison introduction and grazing project are available for public review at the Midewin Supervisor’s Office, 30239 S. State Route 53, Wilmington, IL 60481. More information is also available at: http://data.ecosystem-management.org/nepaweb/nepa_project_exp.php?project
For more information about Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, an on-going lecture series, volunteer opportunities, or other planned projects at the Prairie, go to http://www.fs.usda.gov/midewin
About the U.S. Forest Service
The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Forest Service’s Eastern Region includes 20 states in the Midwest and East, stretching from Maine, to Maryland, to Missouri, to Minnesota. There are 17 national forests and one national tallgrass prairie in the Eastern Region. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/R9.
The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/.
About the National Forest Foundation
The National Forest Foundation promotes the health and enjoyment of the 193-million-acre National Forest System. By directly engaging Americans and leveraging private and public funding, the NFF improves forest health and Americans’ outdoor experiences. Since 2008, the NFF has achieved $104 million of its $125 million goal in conservation impact to restore America’s national forests and expand community engagement nationwide. Learn more at nationalforests.org.
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