Fermilab Natural Areas gets a Strategic Plan

Fermilab Natural Areas has been an Illinois 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation since 2008. The group recently adopted a Strategic Plan to support an aggressive fundraising drive.

Part of Fermilab’s “personality” is our pride in the land we occupy. Robert Wilson, the laboratory’s first director, instilled a sense of place that has continued for more than 40 years. In 1975, with the assistance of Robert Betz, we began our history of ecological land stewardship with the first handful of acres of tallgrass prairie reconstruction. Fermilab now boasts more than 1,100 acres of reconstructed prairie and a fully fledged philosophy of ecological land management.

In 2008, in the face of declining budgets and increased demands on our Roads and Grounds Department, a group of volunteers decided to create Fermilab Natural Areas, a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to caring for the land at Fermilab. The idea behind FNA was to enable an increase in conservation and restoration of the natural areas.

Since the first days of FNA’s existence, it has grown and accomplished much at Fermilab. Last year, the FNA Board of Directors decided that a comprehensive Strategic Plan was needed to focus the efforts of the group and to demonstrate to members, volunteers, and potential contributors and grantors that FNA’s goals were well-founded and practical.

At the core of the plan is our mission to carry out conservation practices and projects at Fermilab and to study our natural areas to help us and other land managers in the future. Projects that further the mission include maintaining existing land management practices, such as prescribed burning, controlling invasive species, and undertaking projects designed to improve habitat and increase biodiversity, like improving the quality of the oak savanna in the middle of the Main Ring.

The plan supports these activities with three additional goals: engagement, communication and fundraising. Because FNA is exclusively a volunteer-based organization, we must actively engage potential volunteers from our membership and others who are interested in improving natural areas at Fermilab. Planning regular programs such as nature walks and presentations like the popular “Hawk Talk” keep volunteers engaged. Communication about FNA and its opportunities is essential for attracting more volunteers and members. You can learn about FNA from our website or on Facebook.

The life blood of volunteer, not-for-profit groups like FNA is fundraising. Because we are not federally funded, we have the flexibility to solicit funding through grants that are not available to DOE or FRA. Over the last few years, FNA has received grants from The Boeing Employees Community Fund, DuPage Community Foundation, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and others to support our projects. FNA is supported substantially through membership fees and sales of FNA T-shirts, hats and recycled rain barrels. The Strategic Plan foresees a corporate donation program going forward to provide more funding and also to engage local businesses in the FNA mission.

Rod Walton