Keeping northern Illinois residents ‘engaged in nature’

The Nature Foundation of Will County works to protect nature and enrich lives

The Forest Preserve District of Will County currently manages more than 22,000 acres of land.

And its sister organization, the Nature Foundation of Will County, is eyeing habitat expansion of a sort.

Where, exactly? In locals’ back yards.

The Forest Preserve District focuses on land preservation, nature education initiatives, and providing recreational opportunities for the residents of Will County, Illinois.

The Nature Foundation helps to fund efforts, and offset costs, for some of the Forest Preserve District’s programs and projects—and its biggest fundraiser in support of the district is the annual Bringing Nature Home Native Plant Sale, which encourages the public to use native plants when adding to their landscaping.

“One of our main messages is to try and get homeowners to transition their yard into a more sustainable habitat and create an oasis for wildlife in their yard,” explains Cynthia Harn, Executive Director of the Nature Foundation of Will County.

This two-day event traditionally brings in around 1,000 attendees each year. And while the sale had to be moved to an online initiative this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harn explains: “We’ve partnered with other organizations that are offering free webinars on topics like pollinators and planting native gardens. We recognize we’re all in the same boat and right now we just want to reach people and keep them engaged in nature.”

The ultimate goal of the native plant sale—and all of the foundation’s work—is to fund projects that protect nature. Providing dollars for nature education programs, for example, presents an opportunity for younger generations to cultivate a respect and appreciation for the outdoors and the flora and fauna that call it home.

“One of the most popular educational programs that the Forest Preserve District has is a program called Whose Bones—where the students get to dissect an owl pellet,” says Harn.

“They also have a winter bird feeding challenge, and we help supply schools with bird feeders and seed. The classes set up their own bird feeding area at the school and monitor the birds throughout the winter,” she adds.

Through these programs and field trips, the Forest Preserve District reaches more than 15,000 students yearly and offers hands-on, discovery-based learning for schools and groups that visit the preserves.

Supporting habitat restoration in Will County is equally important for the Foundation. In the fall of 2019, the Forest Preserve District began one of its largest restoration projects to date at Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve, an 891-acre preserve located in Crete Township. This project is partly funded by the Nature Foundation’s Wetland Restoration Fund.

Goodenow Grove is home to state-threatened and endangered plant and animal species like the spotted coral-root orchid and black-crowned night heron. The restoration project will make the preserve more hospitable to vulnerable species.

At Enbridge, we’re committed to sustainability—helping to meet North America’s growing energy needs in ways that are economically, environmentally and socially responsible. We recently provided $7,500 to The Nature Foundation of Will County to support the Bringing Nature Home Native Plant Sale.

“It’s so important to create a legacy of people that appreciate nature and want to protect it for present and future generations,” says Harn. “I think the Forest Preserve District is doing a great job of that.”