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Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie 25 Years of Restoration and Service - 1996 to 2021



Background Photo: Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. USDA Forest Service photo by Rick Short.

25 Years of restoring habitat for grassland birds and more

The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie community is celebrating 25 years in 2021. Whether you are a volunteer, partner, hiker, birder, student, contractor, owl spotter, photographer, staff member, bison enthusiast, horse rider or all of the above, this milestone belongs to you.

Since early 2020, volunteers, partners and staff have been meeting to plan activities and events that will be opportunities for you to learn and celebrate the past and be part of what is ahead in the next 25 years.

This web page will be updated regularly with news about educational programs planned throughout the year, including a series of panel discussions with some of the key partners who have been essential during the first 25 years of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

Happy Anniversary!

Silver Anniversary

Silver Anniversary

Gray Treefrog on Black-eyed Susans

Gray Treefrog on Black-eyed Susans, Photo by Penny Vanderhyden

Engage through Highlighted Anniversary Events

Throughout 2021, there will be opportunities to celebrate while learning more about Midewin NTP. Recordings from events will be linked on our Events page as they occur.


February 10, 6 p.m.

Celebration of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie’s 25th Anniversary

Bill Kurtis video - 25 years since the signing of the Illinois Land Conservation Act: “It’s Time To Praise The Prairie!”

March 3, 6 p.m.

Caring for the Land and Serving People

World Wildlife Day event

A Timeline of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie


A Vision of the Past

From the day that a bald eagle was spotted here – a pair, high up in their nest on the east side of Highway 53 – to the introduction of 27 bison in 2015 and more, the Silver Anniversary Timeline identifies many of the important milestone dates of the past 25 years. From involvement of the Youth Conservation Corps to the return of sandhill cranes, there are many reasons to celebrate.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was established on February 10, 1996 by the Illinois Land Conservation Act. Four key objectives for management of the land are identified in the ILCA legislation, including: (1) Restoration; (2) Recreation; (3) Agriculture; and (4) Research and Education.

Over time, land where the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant was instrumental during WWII, the Korean War and more, has been transferred from the U.S. Army to the USDA Forest Service. Approximately 18,500 acres of land have been transferred so far. Land transfers continue.

Visit the Timeline


Before the First 25 Years


Midewin NTP Oral History Project

- Coordinated by the Midewin Heritage Association

A Silver Anniversary is a transition point. We are looking back, but also looking forward. In order to consider the future for this land, we must first understand its past.

Who were the people who lived here before the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant became instrumental during WWII, the Korean War and more? Route 66 was one of the first highways in the U.S. highway system, and it crossed over this land. What was it like to live along old historic Route 66 as “America’s highway” took shape in the 1920s?

Hear their stories. Volunteers with the Midewin Heritage Association have interviewed some of the people who lived here many years ago, and created audio recordings and written transcriptions of their recollections.

In this series, you will hear first-hand accounts of people who grew up on farms that were once located here until the 1940s.



The Next 25 Years


Whether its contributing photos and information to the Midewin NTP library in the iNaturalist smartphone application or finding "your trail" or more, there are many ways that you can be a part of the future by helping to spread enthusiasm for this magical place.


The award-winning Midewin NTP Volunteer program is managed through a Partnership agreement with the USDA Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy. From planting to harvesting; seed cleaning and more, you are sure to find a way to be directly involved in the next 25 years at Midewin NTP. For information about the Volunteer program, visit Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie - Volunteering (


Involvement of young people will continue to be essential in the next 25 years. Students acquire skills and contribute in restoration projects at Midewin NTP through two summer youth employment programs. Students are with the USDA Forest Service's Youth Conservation Corps and the National Forest Foundation's Midewin Youth Corps, which involves students with North Lawndale Prep School in Chicago.

Silver Anniversary Poster

From bison and bunkers to big bluestem and more, a new poster commemorates 25 years of prairie restoration at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

The poster was sponsored by the Midewin Interpretative Association. The Midewin Interpretive Association was instrumental in planning the poster design.

See our news release for full information about the poster's design and inspiration.

A photo of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie 25th Anniversary Poster

The Midewin Silver Anniversary Poster was designed by artist Lynda Wallis. Click the image above to download a print-scale version (10.5 MB) and share your love of this special place.

USDA Forest Service Partners Commemorate 25 Years of Prairie Restoration at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Feature Stories, Panel Discussions and More

Sincere thanks to USDA Forest Service partners for sharing your stories in Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Silver Anniversary panel discussions, recorded messages, feature stories, interpretive programs and more. Here are stories and recordings of interpretive programs honoring 25 years of prairie restoration:

Videos Celebrating 25 Years

Discover your Prairie

Check back here for upcoming anniversary celebration events! If you or your organization would like to be involved please contact Veronica Hinke.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
Supervisor's Office
30239 IL State Highway 53
Wilmington, IL 60481