The following blog post is written by National Forest Foundation (NFF) Executive Vice President, Ray Foote.
The National Forest Foundation’s (NFF) mission is to engage Americans in promoting the health and public enjoyment of our national forests. Recently, I had an opportunity to travel to the 21,000 acre Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Illinois to visit a large-scale restoration project made possible by NFF and Southwest.
History of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
Midewin has a long history and is now coming full circle. In the 18th century, it was oceans of tall grasses and a rich wet prairie; in the 19th century, the land was cultivated and converted to farmland; and in the 20th century, the area was used for TNT manufacturing which negatively impacted the landscape. The land was given to the United States Forest Service after recognizing the need to restore this area.
Since then, the NFF has worked with partners like Southwest to plant native species, remove legacy industrial infrastructure, and more. Today, with the help of the NFF and our partner organizations, the tall grasses are returning. The NFF, the Forest Service, and many partners are systematically removing old concrete bunkers and replanting native plants to restore Midewin. Named for the Potawatomi word meaning “place of healing,” Midewin has a new lease on life.
Volunteering to Restore and Protect our Environment
Our task for the day at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was to plant prairie violets. These violets are just one of the many plants that comprise a complex prairie and provide critical food for the regal fritillary, which transform into stunning butterflies.
The day I volunteered at Midewin, I worked alongside a wonderful array of passionate people—Southwest and other NFF employees—who gave their time to improve this land and positively affect the local environment. I spoke with a Southwest Employee volunteering his time and he shared, “Being able to get out here and give back means a lot to me—it makes me feel alive.”
Southwest is helping the NFF staff across the United States achieve even more environmental impact through financial and travel support too. Support off NFFs efforts will improve the Earth today, and for future generations to come.