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Restoration Plan Developed for Critical Wetland Habitat

a group of volunteers posing near wetland plants they just finished planting

The little blue heron used to be a frequent visitor at Eggers Marsh, a quiet wetland with plenty of fish, frogs and insects to eat, and marsh grasses providing places to hide. Located in southeast Chicago, this 40-acre wetland has long been a popular visiting and nesting area for a variety of birds including a number of threatened wetland species.

However, recent surveys of Eggers Marsh have shown a sharp decline in the nesting of these birds due to the altered hydrology, which has contributed to a loss of quality habitat and the spread of invasive plants.

Looking to reverse this declining trend, the Forest Preserves of Cook County secured a grant through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Coastal Management Program and worked with numerous partners to develop a plan to restore this important ecosystem.

Grant funds allowed the Forest Preserves to work with a contractor to conduct a thorough site investigation and analysis, as well as develop a hydrologic model that would guide restoration of the marsh. Additionally, partners including The Field Museum, Audubon Chicago Region and The Wetlands Initiative worked with Forest Preserves staff to help further assess how to best restore Eggers Marsh and welcome back marsh birds such as little blue herons, least bitterns and common moorhen.

The Field Museum, a long-time partner of the Forest Preserves at Eggers Grove, helped raise awareness and build support for the site and this project by organizing a series of volunteer days. One hundred community members came out to help install native wetland plants along the shoreline, as well as learn about the plants and animals that live at Eggers Marsh and Eggers Grove. (Learn more about volunteering at Eggers here).

With the hydrologic restoration plan completed, the Forest Preserves is one step closer to restoring and conserving this important habitat. Funding is now being sought to implement this plan, which would be completed in two parts: building structures to control water levels in Eggers Marsh, followed by continued ecological restoration. The end result of the completed plan is to make Eggers Marsh a healthy wetland and once again provide a destination for the little blue heron.

This Project was funded in part under the Coastal Zone Management Act, by NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Management Program.