ILLINOIS – The Environmental Protection Agency recently recognized the U.S. Army and the USDA Forest Service - for strides in reuse of the land that once housed the former Joliet Army Ammunition Plant. In many instances, unified efforts and coordination between both federal agencies helped transform the historic JOAAP into multiple beneficial use areas for the community. The largest of those areas is the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie; the first National Tallgrass Prairie officially established in 1996.
On Tuesday, March 20, Midewin Prairie Supervisor Wade Spang and USDA Forest Service staff presented Art Holz with a commemorative framed collage of photos of Midewin in three distinct stages representing the restoration progress that the land has experienced so far. They talked about the focuses the agencies have shared throughout the years – and how, many years from now, the cycle that was set in motion over 20 years ago might one day result in bringing the land where Midewin is now located back to what native Illinois prairie might have looked like.
EPA 5 Regional Administrator Cathy Stepp presented the award to U.S. Army civilian Commander’s Representative Art Holz.
Midewin received a Certificate of Federal Facility Excellence from the EPA. The U.S. Army received an Excellence in Site Reuse award in the National Priorities List category for exemplary work transforming the JOAAP into a site with a variety of beneficial uses.
The JOAAP/Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie site was chosen from 28 entries competing for the first-ever presentation of the “National Federal Facility Excellence in Site Reuse” award. This award was established in 2018 to recognize those who have supported the reuse and restoration of Federal Facility sites through outstanding efforts. On the land where the JOAAP once operated, an ambitious cleanup deadline was met in 2008 – three years ahead of schedule. Robust native Illinois prairie restoration remains underway at Midewin. In 2016, The National Forest Foundation and The Wetlands Initiative launched an accelerated plan to restore more land than ever at Midewin, in partnership with the USDA Forest Service. This strategic effort includes managing invasive vegetation; replanting native grasses and wildflowers; and removing infrastructure across 1,800 acres to link together a nearly contiguous 4,000-acre native landscape on the west side of Highway 53.