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Bobolink Meadow Designated Illinois Land & Water Reserve

an open meadow at Bobolink Meadow
Photo by Openlands.

Nestled next to Bartel Grassland Land & Water Reserve and in close proximity to the Important Bird Area-designated Orland Grassland, Bobolink Meadow joins a cluster of incredible natural areas that offer remarkable open space for plants and animals to thrive. Thanks to an extensive restoration project conducted in partnership with
Openlands, the Chicago Department of Aviation and the Chicago District of the US Army Corps of Engineers, the 918-acre Bobolink Meadow recently earned designation as an Illinois Land & Water Reserve.

“By building off of Bartel Grassland, we knew we were taking another big step in implementing a large-scale conservation plan, and we had very good reason to believe that Tinley Creek wetlands restoration would be highly beneficial both to grassland nesting birds, which are, as a suite of species, increasingly rare, but also would have significant benefits for migratory bird species,” says Joe Roth, Director of Restoration Programs for Openlands.

During the course of the nine-year restoration project, 14.5 miles of drain tiles were disabled. Because the site sits atop the Des Plaines River watershed, the hydrology work at Bobolink Meadow, combined with the stormwater benefits of Bartel Grassland, help prevent flooding downstream.

The site has also benefitted from the addition of approximately 216,000 native plant plugs, removal of invasive species and habitat management tools like controlled burns.

Today, Bobolink Meadow now provides home for 347 different native plant species and 142 different native and migrating bird species, as well as critical breeding habitat for a variety of grassland birds. And as its name suggests, Bobolink Meadow is home to the second largest population of bobolinks in the state of Illinois. Additionally, the restored site provides habitat for pollinators, including the Monarch butterfly.

This project aligns with the Forest Preserves’ Next Century Conservation Plan, which seeks to dedicate and register 20,000 acres with the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission by 2025. The Forest Preserves currently has 23 dedicated Nature Preserves and four Land and Water Reserves. The addition of Bobolink Meadow ILWR brings the FPCC’s total Illinois Nature Preserve Commission-protected lands to approximately 8,800 acres.

Dedication of a site as an Illinois Land and Water Reserve provides a high level of protection for land in Illinois, and is granted on to natural areas of important ecological quality.

Interested in learning more? Check out this recent article featured in the Daily Southtown: Illinois designates 900 acres as Bobolink Meadow Land and Water Reserve, indicating high quality wild life.