Image Credit: Emily Kapler for Plants of Concern
In response to the Chicago SunTimes op-ed, For conservation’s sake, transfer Joliet Training Area to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie:
A team of five volunteers spread across the open prairie on an early-May morning scouting for and counting a small-statured annual plant with small white flowers, the slender sandwort, at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. A few of these dedicated volunteers for Plants of Concern, a community science rare plant monitoring project of the Chicago Botanic Garden, have repeated this event every year since monitoring of this Illinois threatened plant began at Midewin in 2001. Plants are rare for different reasons. Slender sandwort’s scarcity stems from the rarity of the conditions it requires to survive. This plant grows in shallow soils atop pavement-like exposures of dolomite bedrock in a habitat called dolomite prairie. The team will return later in the season to ensure the persistence and survival of other rare plants that rely on this habitat, like the endangered limestone hedge-hyssop and glade quillwort. Dolomite prairie is rare in Illinois and is considered a globally imperiled habitat. With destruction from development and mining, less than 100 acres (0.1% of the area of Chicago) remain in Illinois. The Joliet Training Area is home to the slender sandwort and some of the precious few acres of dolomite prairie that support it.
A voice for the slender sandwort, Plants of Concern joins the leaders of Openlands, The Wetlands Initiative, and Sierra Club – Illinois in the call for Congress to “embrace a vision for healthy ecosystems, communities, and economies and steward the transfer of the Training Area to the U.S. Forest Service at Midewin” (Jan 5 Chicago Sun Times op-ed). This transfer would protect the slender sandwort and the imperiled dolomite prairie. It is time to act for the health of plants, people, and the planet.
Author: Gretel Kiefer - Manager, Plants of Concern