Step one was restoring the land to the natural state prior to the interference of man. Now, officials for Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie are ready to introduce bison back on to the grasslands that have replaced part of the old Joliet Arsenal Ammunition Plant property.
The U.S. Forest Service will hold an open house to explain their plan and to gather public input on the idea on April 3 before proceeding. It will be from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Midewin Welcome Center, 30239 S. State Route Illinois 53.
What follows is a press release from the forest service about the open house and the concept of returning bison to that land where they were once plentiful.
"The Forest Service at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (Midewin) is proposing to establish a small herd of bison on the Prairie and will be preparing an environmental assessment for Bison Herd Establishment in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
In partnership with the National Forest Foundation (NFF), we are proposing to develop a bison grazing area on approximately 1,200 acres. A herd of bison would be established and allowed to graze on an experimental basis, to determine the success of prairie ecosystem restoration using bison grazing practices."
Establishing a herd of bison on Midewin will also bring more visitors to the site to view these iconic symbols of our heritage. The proposed project site is
located east of Illinois 53, in the pastures south of the Iron Bridge Trailhead and north of Prairie Creek.
Bison were removed from the tallgrass prairie ecosystem over a century ago. Public interest in bison on Midewin has been growing since the mid-1990s when Midewin was first established.
Scientific literature frequently refers to bison as a keystone species in the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The Midewin Prairie Plan provides guidance and direction to use bison on an experimental basis to meet habitat and restoration objectives.
Researchers also support bison establishment. Many partners and universities are interested in studying the effect of bison grazing when restoring grassland bird habitats.
The Open House will be held between the hours of 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM at the Midewin Welcome Center located at 30239 S. State Route Illinois 53, Wilmington, a few miles south of Joliet.
For more information, call 815-423-6370 or go to www.fs.usda.gov/midewin.