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Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

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Title: Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie  
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Subject: Central forest-grasslands transition, Prairie, Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge, Lincoln Trail State Memorial, Illinois Beach State Park
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Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
IUCN category VI (protected area with sustainable use of natural resources)
Photo of tallgrass prairie and woodlands at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
Tallgrass prairie and woodlands.
Map of the United States showing the location of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
Map of the United States showing the location of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
Location Will County, Illinois, USA
Nearest city Elwood
Coordinates [1]
Area 18,226 acres (7,376 ha)[2]
Established 1996
Governing body U.S. Forest Service
Flora of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie—MNTP.

The Midewin National Tallgrass PrairieMNTP is a tallgrass prairie reserve and United States National Grassland operated by the United States Forest Service. The first national tallgrass prairie ever designated in the U.S. and the largest conservation site in the Chicago Wilderness region, it is located on the site of the former Joliet Army Ammunition Plant between the towns Elwood, Manhattan and Wilmington in northeastern Illinois.


The tallgrass prairie reserve is in the central forest-grasslands transition ecoregion of the temperate grasslands, savannas and shrublands biome.

Midewin remains the only federal tallgrass prairie preserve east of the Mississippi River, where surviving areas of that habitat are extremely rare. With the adjacent Des Plaines Fish and Wildlife Area and a number of other state and county protected areas in the immediate area, Midewin forms the heart of a conservation macrosite totaling more than 40,000 acres of protected land.

The pre-European settlement vegetation map of Midewin shows most of the site was prairie prior to the arrival of European settlers.[3] The northwestern corner of the site along Jackson Creek was forest. Another small, forested area existed in the extreme southwest corner of Midewin along the Kankakee River and Prairie Creek.

Several not-for-profit conservation organizations have played active roles in the restoration of high-quality tallgrass prairie, dolomite prairie,[4] sedge meadows, swales and related communities at Midewin. These include the Wetlands Initiative, Openlands. and the Illinois chapter of The Nature Conservancy and several other members of the Chicago Wilderness collaborative.[5][6][7]


The name Midewin (mi-DAY-win) is a Potowatomi Native American word referring to the tribe's healers, who it was believed also kept the tribal society in balance.


The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was established by federal law in 1996. Major proponents of the park's establishment and restoration included World War II flying ace William J. Cullerton.[8]

The Illinois Land Conservation Act (Public Law 104-106) created the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, designated the transfer of 19,165 acres (7,756 ha) of land in Illinois from the U.S. Army to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service.

The Illinois Land Conservation Act mandates that Midewin be managed to meet four primary objectives:

  1. To conserve, restore, and enhance the native populations and habitats of fish, wildlife, and plants.
  2. To provide opportunities for scientific, environmental, and land use education and research.
  3. To allow the continuation of existing agricultural uses of lands within Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie for the next 20 years, or for compatible resource management uses thereafter.
  4. To provide recreational opportunities that are compatible with the above purposes.


The first land transfer from the Army to the Forest Service took place on March 10, 1997, and included 15,080 acres (6,100 ha) of land that was believed to be free from contamination. Subsequent land acquisitions place the current size of Midewin at about 20,000 acres (8,100 ha).

MNTP entrance.


After a period of ecological restoration, part of the prairie opened to visitors in 2004.

Today, over 7,000 acres (2,800 ha) acres of the reserve are open, with public trails for non-motorized recreation. The MNTP headquarters entrance is located on Illinois Route 53, near the center of the preserve.

See also


  1. ^ "Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie".  
  2. ^ "Land Areas of the National Forest System". U.S. Forest Service. January 2013. Retrieved December 22, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Pre-European settlement vegetation map". Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  4. ^ "Dolomite Prairie". Illinois State Museum. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  5. ^ "Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie". The Wetlands Initiative. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  6. ^ "Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie". Openlands. 1996-02-10. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  7. ^ "Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie | The Nature Conservancy". 2013-07-12. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  8. ^ Megan, Graydon (2013-01-16). "William Cullerton, 1923-2013 WWII pilot, entrepreneur, radio host and well-known outdoorsman championed conservation".  
  • Text of Illinois Land Conservation Act of 1995 — law establishing Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

External links

  • US Forest Service site for Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
  • "A Midewin Almanac", blog covering the restoration of the site
  • The National Forest Foundation: "Restoration and Conservation Plan for Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie" — (2011 plan)
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