Fermilab Natural Areas awarded $12,000 to support grassland bird initiative

Fermilab Natural Areas (FNA) is very pleased to announce that we have received a grant of $12,000 from the DuPage Foundation to support a new project for the restoration of habitat along Eola Road for grassland birds.

Research has shown that the presence of trees and woody vegetation in grasslands can significantly reduce the usable area for grassland birds. In the Eola grasslands at Fermilab, the first step is to clear the open fields of woody vegetation and trees in order to maximize usable habitat. This grant will support the first phase of the project by allowing FNA to hire a contractor to remove trees from this area. After the trees are removed, various strategies for mowing and managing the grassland will be tested. Using past studies on grassland bird populations already completed, new studies will be initiated and completed to measure the impact of the restoration efforts on grassland bird populations.

Dupage Foundation's Dianne Engram presents the $12,000 grant to FNA Vice President Liz Copeland, with FNA President Penny Kasper. Photo courtesy of Liz Copeland

Dupage Foundation’s Dianne Engram presents the $12,000 grant to FNA Vice President Liz Copeland, with FNA President Penny Kasper. Photo courtesy of Liz Copeland

In the past, FNA has focused its restoration efforts on a combination of tallgrass prairies, oak savanna and woodlands. However, tallgrass prairies and woodlands are not suitable habitats for several species of grassland birds. Grassland birds are of particular concern because they have exhibited steeper and more consistent declines in the past several decades than any other group of North American birds. For example, the upland sandpiper, which is endangered in Illinois, has formerly nested at Fermilab and is sensitive to the size of available habitat, preferring large, open areas of short stature grasses. Other examples such as Henslow’s sparrow and bobolink are Chicago Wilderness priority species which also prefer shorter grasses for breeding.

The Fermilab Natural Areas organization, formed in 2006, is a not-for-profit, all-volunteer network dedicated to restoring, managing and enhancing the natural areas and resources of Fermilab in order to maintain and improve their ecological health and biodiversity. FNA does not receive funding from Fermilab or the federal government and depends on membership, donations and grants to fund its operations. Throughout the year, the organization conducts work events where volunteers come together to participate in organized restoration projects. FNA welcomes all volunteers, donations and memberships. To learn more about FNA’s work and how you could join the team, please visit www.fermilabnaturalareas.org.

Penny Kasper is the Fermilab Natural Areas president. Liz Copeland is the Fermilab Natural Areas vice president. Tom Mozer is the Fermilab Natural Areas treasurer.