A woman checks her notebook while monitoring for monarch butterflies in a prairie with city buildings in the background
Monarch butterfly monitoring Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab students monitoring monarch butterflies in milkweed patches along the Burnham Corridor in Chicago on Friday, August 3, 2018. Students plants counted, eggs found (including life status of egg), caterpillars in various life stages and number of adults seen in area. © Laura Stoecker

Volunteer in Illinois

Volunteer Stewardship Network Illinois Regions

Volunteer Opportunities by Region 

Whether you are looking to volunteer or find colleagues who share your commitment to preserving nature, there is an opportunity near you! This page is broken up by northeast, northwest, central and southern Illinois regions.

Find a volunteer opportunity below or contact brooke.thurau@tnc.org.

Northeast Region Volunteer Opportunities - Cook County

Alliance for the Great Lakes

Adopt-a-BeachTM is the Alliance's premier volunteer program, with some 10,000 participants ranging from individuals and families to schools and businesses. More than just a beach sweep, Adopt-a-BeachTM teams conduct litter removal and monitoring and complete a beach health assessment that includes science-based observation and testing. The teams collect information and enter it into the Adopt-a-BeachTM online system, where it is used to educate the public, share with local beach authorities and improve beaches. For more information about volunteering with Alliance for the Great Lakes, please contact Sarah Neville at sneville@greatlakes.org.

BackYard Nature Center (BYNC)

BackYard Nature Center connects children and adults with the wonders of nature in New Trier Township. We provide habitat restoration and educational opportunities at the Skokie Lagoons, local parks, and schools, as well as opportunities for unstructured nature play. Part of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the Skokie Lagoons is a network of forest, artificial lagoons, channels, and islands that winds along the Edens Expressway between Winnetka, Northfield, and Glencoe. Volunteers work to restore healthy habitat by removing invasive species; conduct educational nature hikes; assist schools in creating learning opportunities in nature; and facilitate nature-based play programs. For more information, please visit our website, www.backyardnaturecenter.org, or contact Linn Carey at lcarey@backyardnaturecenter.org.

Barrington Area Conservation Trust

Barrington Area Conservation Trust (BACT) preserves the community's rare and exceptional open spaces for current and future generations. Working with community members, BACT provides tools for private land protection, conservation, and restoration. Programs include recognition of home, business, and school landscapes for success in demonstrating conservation focused practices. BACT is also committed to developing future stewards through a cooperative program with Barrington High School. Volunteer opportunities are abundant and include photography, marketing, fundraising, and outdoor field work. For more information please contact BACT at bactrust1@gmail.com or visit the website at www.bactrust.org.

Chicago Park District

Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The volunteers of the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Chicago's Lincoln Park are dedicated to maintaining, improving and creating a natural area on Chicago's lakefront. Restoring this area will provide a home to native plants and wildlife that would otherwise be missing from this urban environment, as well as provide essential migratory bird habitat. For more information about volunteer opportunities at Bill Jarvis Bird Sanctuary, please contact Charlotte Newfeld at cnewfeld@sbcglobal.net or Terry Schilling at terry@jarvissanctuary.org.

Burnham Nature Sanctuary at 47th Street

Burnham Nature Sanctuary is a 12.5-acre natural area that is part of the Chicago Park District’s Burnham Park. The nature sanctuary is located just west of Lake Shore Drive at 47th Street. Created in 1998 as the Burnham Prairie Path, the nature sanctuary includes native prairie and shrub plantings, wildflowers and a wooded path. It provides habitat for nesting and migratory birds, butterflies, dragonflies and other wildlife and is the southern anchor of the larger Burnham Wildlife Corridor. Volunteers have played an important part in creating and maintaining the nature sanctuary. For more information about volunteer opportunities at the Burnham Nature Sanctuary, please contact George Davis at kenwoodgwd@yahoo.com or Kathleen taylorkathl@aol.com.

Hegewisch Marsh

Hegewisch Marsh is a 127-acre natural area at the south end of Lake Calumet that includes a 30-acre hemi-marsh wetland. This marsh is a premier site for wetland birds in the Chicago Region. Some of these birds, such as the endangered yellow-headed blackbird, require this specific kind of habitat that the marsh provides. Visitors to Hegewisch can enjoy walking along the network of mulched paths that wind through the woodlands and meadows surrounding the marsh. Hegewisch Marsh is part of the Calumet Open Space Reserve. For more information about volunteer opportunities at Hegewisch Marsh, please contact Jason Steger at Jason.Steger@ChicagoParkDistrict.com.

Jackson Park – Bobolink Meadow

The Bobolink Meadow is an actively managed Chicago Park District Nature Area in Jackson Park. Over the past 150 years, the land has evolved from marshland to landfill to athletic fields to a NIKE missile base to its present status as a nature area. The northern portion of the meadow is being managed to create a native woodland habitat, and the open southern area is managed to create a tallgrass prairie habitat. The development of these habitats is an ongoing project that depends on the help of volunteers. For more information about volunteer opportunities at Bobolink Meadow, please contact Norm Bell and Gail Parry at parrybell@ameritech.net.

Jackson Park – Wooded Island

Created in 1893 for the World’s Fair Columbian Exposition, Wooded Island became the center of the Fair, surrounded by lagoons and over 200 buildings. Today, the island remains a tranquil space affording city dwellers an opportunity to stroll in the beauty and quiet of a natural landscape. Volunteers and the Chicago Park District have been working to restore this natural area. Last year volunteers planted 20,000 prairie plugs and trails were created through the wooded areas on the island. For more information about volunteer opportunities at Wooded Island, please contact Jerry Levy at sjlevy@jeromelevylaw.com.

Lincoln Park Conservancy

The Lincoln Park Conservancy offers a variety of volunteer programs at the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, Lincoln Park Conservatory and Gardens, and North Pond Nature Sanctuary. Each of these beautiful park sites is located in Lincoln Park near Fullerton Parkway and Stockton Drive. Whether you enjoy educating the public about nature and park history, or planting wildflowers and pulling weeds, there are volunteer opportunities for every level of commitment. They can accommodate large or corporate groups as well. List of volunteer opportunities: http://lincolnparkconservancy.org/volunteer/. To participate in any volunteer programs, please call (773) 883-PARK or e-mail volunteer@lincolnparkconservancy.org

Loyola Beach Dunes

Since 2003, Chicago’s lakefront has been protected from mechanical beach cleaning by large machines. This has allowed the gradual restoration of a native wilderness area in the city. The dunes of this natural area have slowly reformed and are now about six feet above the surrounding manicured beach. One by one, native plant species are returning, but they need protection from invasive species until they are strong enough to survive on their own. Volunteering at the dunes involves removing invasive species, planting natives, removing trash, or any other project that you envision. For more information about volunteer opportunities at Loyola Beach Dunes, please contact Ann Whelan at phida50@aol.com.

Montrose Beach Dunes

Located on the largest recreational beach in Chicago, this 14-acre natural area represents one of the best examples of foredune habitat along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Illinois. High-quality foredune is practically nonexistent nowadays due to pressures of coastal development, pollution, and intensive public use. Montrose Beach Dunes is the only Park District parcel to ever gain the state designation of Illinois Natural Area Inventory (INAI; 2005). Montrose Beach Dunes is rich native plants and birds, as the expanse of low alternating dunes and wetlands provide excellent habitat and food sources for both migratory and nesting birds. For more information about volunteer opportunities at Montrose Beach Dunes, please contact Jason Steger at Jason.Steger@ChicagoParkDistrict.com.

Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary

For decades, Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary has drawn people from all over the region and nearby states to witness the profusion of migrating songbirds found here each spring and fall. Originally what drew birders was the “Magic Hedge,” a 150-foot former fence line that was left unmowed and untended more from neglect than from a specific intent to attract birds. In the mid-1930s, a plan was created for the area that conveyed what was called a “naturalistic effect” with sweeping spaces and layered native plant materials emphasizing the long view as the point stretches out into Lake Michigan. In the late 1990s, the Chicago Park District undertook the ambitious project of expanding habitat for birds while retaining the historic integrity of the site. For more information about volunteer opportunities at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, please contact Jason Steger at Jason.Steger@ChicagoParkDistrict.com.

North Park Village Nature Center

North Park Village Nature Center features a 46-acre nature preserve and educational facility, which are situated within the 155-acre North Park Village campus. The nature preserve offers trails that wind through woodland, wetland, prairie and savanna. A discovery room, a hands-on table of natural objects, and interactive displays are highlights of the Nature Center. Volunteers find many ways to express their interests at the Nature Center, including helping lead field trips, assisting during festivals, greeting visitors at the reception desk and participating in ecological restoration efforts. For more information about volunteer opportunities at the North Park Village Nature Center, please contact Julie Sacco at Julianne.Sacco@ChicagoParkDistrict.com.

Rainbow Beach Dunes

Located on the south side and with one of the best views of the city, Rainbow Beach Dunes is another natural gem. Similar to Montrose Beach Dunes, it has an amazing diversity of plant life. As you walk through the area, you will see new panne wetlands forming in response to the restoration efforts by volunteers. Community stewardship workdays are the fourth Saturday of most months throughout the year. For more information about volunteer opportunities at Rainbow Beach Dunes, please contact Alison Anastasio at alison.anastasio@gmail.com.

South Shore Cultural Center

South Shore Beach is part of the South Shore Cultural Center, which is considered to be the jewel of the neighborhood. The site is a 65-acre park with a golf course, tennis courts, a pool and an elaborate, refurbished clubhouse. The clubhouse is surrounded by the golf course, and sits back from the beach area. The site also has a circular beach house with concessions, restrooms, and showers, and it is located just to the east of the clubhouse on the beach. As of 2002, South Shore also has its own Nature Sanctuary, and visitors can walk along a boardwalk near the beach and observe the emerging sand dunes, a small wetland, prairie landscape and a variety of wildlife in the area. For more information about volunteer opportunities at the South Shore Cultural Center, please contact Jason Steger at Jason.Steger@ChicagoParkDistrict.com.

Van Vlissingen "Marian Byrnes Natural Area"

Blue flag irises, swamp milkweed, blazing stars, rattlesnake master and New England aster are among the 165 native plants thriving at Van Vlissingen Prairie, also known as the Marian R. Byrnes Natural Areas. Van Vlissingen contains several different natural communities including wetland, prairie, and woodland, and provides habitat for several endangered and rare plant species. However, some sections of Van Vlissingen are very degraded. This area is part of the Calumet Open Space Reserve and will rely heavily on the restoration work of volunteers over the coming years to restore it to its former health.. For more information about volunteer opportunities at Van Vlissingen “Marian Byrnes Natural Area,” please contact Jason Steger at Jason.Steger@ChicagoParkDistrict.com.

Washington Park

Located in the Washington Park/Woodlawn neighborhood, Washington Park totals 366.84 acres and features two gymnasiums, a photography lab, dance studio, racquetball court, fitness center, game room and multi-purpose rooms. Green features of the park include a nature area, a Harvest Garden and an arboretum. Outside, the park offers a lagoon, aquatic center, three playgrounds, basketball/ tennis courts, baseball, football, soccer, cricket, and softball fields. Many of these spaces are available for rental including our gymnasiums, fields, and multi-purpose rooms. Additionally, Washington Park features the renowned Fountain of Time sculpture by Lorado Taft. For more information about volunteer opportunities at Washington Park, please contact Madiem Kawa at (773) 203-3418.

Citizens for Conservation

Citizens for Conservation (CFC) is committed to saving space for living things through protection, restoration and stewardship of land, conservation of natural resources, and youth and community education. This group owns and manages 415 acres of land and has contributed to the preservation and restoration of more than 3,150 acres in the Barrington area. CFC has restoration workdays from 9:00 - 11:00 AM every Saturday, year around, and Thursdays from April through October. Volunteers are always welcome. CFC’s Habitat Corridors program provides site visits to area residents to advise on environment-friendly practices and native plantings. CFC also offers summer internships to college-aged students. For more information about volunteering with Citizens for Conservation, please contact cfc@CitizensforConservation.org.

Forest Preserves of Cook County

Bartel Grassland Volunteers

This group coordinates volunteer workdays at the Bartel Grassland Preserve in Cook County. Bartel Grassland needs active and ongoing restoration to enhance habitat value for native plants and wildlife and to protect water quality. Volunteer groups play a key role in the grassland’s stewardship efforts. By volunteering at Bartel Grassland, volunteers will join with others to increase the livability of the community, get outdoors in a beautiful natural area, connect to nature, and enjoy a hands-on learning experience. For more information about volunteer opportunities at Bartel Grassland, please contact Dick Riner at dickriner@gmail.com.

Friends of the Forest Preserves

The 2,000 members of Friends of the Forest Preserves work to protect, restore, and promote the forest preserves of Cook County for the benefit of people and nature. Volunteers are out every week throughout Cook County. Contact us and we can hook you up with a group or help you set up your own volunteer event. Volunteers remove invasive plants, collect trash, assist with prescribed burns, work on trails, and gather and spread seeds to restore the natural health of the ecosystem. We know you will love being outside, volunteering, and enjoying nature with some like-minded people. Help get something done and volunteer with us today! For more information, please contact Douglas Chien at douglas@fotfp.org.

Calumet Stewardship Initiative

Beaubien Woods Volunteers

Situated between the Bishop Ford Freeway and the Little Calumet River, this preserve is part of the Millennium Reserve: Calumet Core, an effort to protect 3,900 acres of natural habitat in the Calumet area. Beaubien Woods is part of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and contains a mix of prairie, woodland and wetland habitats, with Flatfoot Lake as the centerpiece. Recent ecological restoration efforts through The Calumet Stewardship Initiative have been successful in restoring some of the site’s original natural communities. Community volunteers, students and interns have cleared the prairies of invasive brush, collected and scattered native plant seed and removed litter. For information about volunteering at Beaubien Woods, please contact Laura Milkert at lmilkert@fieldmuseum.org or (312) 665-7444.

Friends of Dan Ryan Woods

One of the few forest preserves within the city of Chicago, the 257-acre Dan Ryan Woods is a popular and well-loved family destination on the South Side. While best known as a gathering spot for families and friends, Dan Ryan Woods also supports a large array of native plants, animals and migratory birds. For more than 10 years, volunteer groups such as Friends of Dan Ryan Woods, Friends of the Forest Preserves and The Calumet Stewardship Initiative have turned more attention from the playfields to the wilder parts of the preserve. The volunteers are removing invasive species, promoting native trees and wildflowers and restoring eroding slopes. To learn how to volunteer at Dan Ryan Woods, please contact Benjamin Cox at benjamin@fotfp.org or Larry Unruh at laruh@att.net.

Eggers Grove

Eggers Grove is a unique habitat, combining dry, wooded ridges where spring wildflowers thrive with long, narrow wetlands filled with sedges, marsh grasses, emergent forbs and waterfowl. The large marsh to the southeast is one of the few remaining local wetlands where Virginia rails nest. Volunteers with The Calumet Stewardship Initiative at Eggers Grove are engaged in activities that include removing invasive species such as garlic mustard, planting native seeds and cleaning up along the Burnham Greenway. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, please contact John Pastirik at (773) 991-0613.

Powderhorn Prairie Volunteers

Tucked between rail yards and neighborhoods at the far southeast side of Chicago, Powderhorn Lake Forest Preserve’s 192 acres of woodland, prairie and wetland reflect the ecological richness that survives in similar pockets across the industrialized Calumet region. The lake and surrounding lands are popular among anglers, nature lovers and birders. Powderhorn Prairie and Marsh Nature Preserve is a unique dune-and-swale landscape that is home to about 205 plant species, 2,500 insects and 40 to 100 species of the birds (depending on the season). The Calumet Stewardship Initiative and the Powderhorn Prairie Volunteers organize regular workdays to help restore and maintain the preserve. For more information about volunteering, please contact Doug Chien at dskchien@sbcglobal.net or Alice Brandon at alice@fotfp.org.

Deer Grove Natural Area Volunteers

Deer Grove Forest Preserve in Palatine was established as the very first forest preserve in the world. It is a part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County and is an Illinois Nature Preserve. The Volunteers’ goal is to restore the native plant and animal communities once found in the Deer Grove Forest Preserve area to pre-settlement conditions. Workdays are from 9:00 a.m. to noon on the first and third Saturday of each month. For additional information, contact the Co-Stewards Ron Vargason (847) 398-1853 or Pete Jackson (847) 577-4438. If the weather is poor (extreme cold or pouring rain) call Ron or Pete after 7:30 a.m. of the work day to find out if the workday is canceled. To get added to the email reminder list, send an email to Ron at barbandron@wowway.com.

Des Plaines River Valley Restoration Project

The Des Plaines River Valley Restoration Project protects the environment by preserving natural habitat in the western and northwestern suburbs of Chicago. Much of the work focuses on removing invasive species to make room for native plants, including threatened and endangered species. The Des Plaines River Valley Restoration Project is active in Brookfield, Des Plaines, Hodgkins, LaGrange Park, Lyons, Oak Park, Riverside, Schiller Park, Westchester, and Western Springs. Volunteer opportunities happen every weekend and cover a wide range of tasks. For more information, please contact Dave Lloyd at davelloyd@mindspring.com or (708) 485-2296.

Friends of the Bluff Spring Fen

Bluff Spring Fen, which is a part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, is a 100-acre Illinois Nature Preserve in Elgin that is named for its rich, calcareous fens. These unique wetlands are fed by springs coming up through the ground, delivering mineral-rich water. Rare and endangered species can be found here, such as the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterflies and the Elfin Skimmer Dragonflies. Volunteers are always welcome at Bluff Spring Fen. Contact Friends of the Bluff Spring Fen at bluffspringfen@gmail.com or (847) 464-4426 for more information.

Friends of Busse Woods

The Friends of Busse Woods was created to restore, protect and preserve the natural lands at Busse Woods. Situated on the flood plain and morainal uplands along Salt Creek, this area is one of the best remaining examples of mesic and dry-mesic upland forest in the Eastern Central Lowlands. It is a National Natural Landmark and is one of the most frequently visited parks in the state of Illinois. Volunteer groups assist the Stewards as they work to restore Busse Woods through a volunteer management plan developed in cooperation with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. To learn more about volunteering, please email bussewoodsvolunteer@gmail.com.

Habitat 2030

Habitat 2030 is a group of dynamic Millennials and Generation X'ers who care about the remarkable natural areas of the Chicago region. They are committed to continuing the long history of volunteer stewardship at these sites and helping to build a culture of 20-30-40-somethings who will understand and care about the preserves to the year 2030 and beyond. Habitat 2030 gathers at weekend workdays to remove invasive plants, gather and spread seeds, and lend nature a hand. After hard, satisfying work, they often gather around the brushfire for brats, s'mores, and laughter. This group will show volunteers the basics and help them discover the often overlooked ecological treasures within miles of Chicago. For more information about volunteering with Habitat 2030, please contact habitat2030@gmail.com.

Kloempken Prairie – Oakton Community College

Located near Oakton Community College’s Parking Lot C, Kloempken Prairie contains a wide variety of remnant natural areas, including prairie, sedge meadow, savanna, swamp white oak flatwoods, upland oak-hickory woodlands, and oak-maple forest, all in a 120-acre area. After being cleared and used by farmers during the 1800s, the area is now owned and managed by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. Through hard work and the reintroduction of fire through controlled burns, Kloempken Prairie has been restored to its current condition. Volunteers at Kloempken Prairie typically are involved in invasive species management, such as buckthorn and garlic mustard removal, and seed collecting and seed planting. For more information about volunteer opportunities at Kloempken Prairie, please contact Bob Hostettler at prairiebob@msn.com.

North Branch Restoration Project

The North Branch Restoration Project is an all-volunteer group comprised of dedicated citizens working in cooperation with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County to help protect and restore native Illinois ecosystems. Precious remnants of Illinois’ natural heritage still exists along the North Branch of the Chicago River; however, they need a little help to continue to thrive since it is in the midst of a busy metropolitan area. Volunteers help restore healthy habitat by removing invasive species, collecting and distributing native seed, participating in prescribed burns conducted by the Forest Preserve crews and leading educational tours. For more information on volunteering, please contact Jane and John Balaban at northbranch@comcast.net.

Orland Grassland Volunteers

Orland Grassland, a 960-acre site located on the edge of the Valparaiso Moraine, provides visitors with expansive views of rolling prairie, wetland, open ponds, streams, oak savannas, shrublands and woodlands. The area was once farmland, but is now filled with rare native wildflowers and grasses. The habitat supports endangered and threatened grassland and migrating birds, as well as hundreds of other species such as butterflies, dragonflies, insects, frogs, turtles and many others. The Orland Grassland Volunteers are dedicated to restoring the prairie and are always accepting new volunteers. Volunteers will assist with invasive species removal and ongoing monitoring. For more information about volunteer opportunities at Orland Grassland, please contact Patricia Hayes at ptihys@yahoo.com.

Palos Restoration Project

Palos Restoration Project was created in 1990 as a cooperative effort with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and The Nature Conservancy to preserve and restore the native ecosystems of the Palos and Sag Valley region. The Palos Preserves hold over 15,000 acres of woodlands and wetlands, tallgrass prairies and oak savannas, creeks and ponds and bluffs and ravines. These areas provide habitat for a variety of wildlife, birds, butterflies, insects, and native plants. Site stewards direct volunteer efforts to remove invasive species, as well as collect and scatter native seed. For information on volunteering in Palos, please contact us at palosrestorationproject@gmail.com.

Poplar Creek Prairie Stewards

The Poplar Creek Prairie Stewards began their work in 1989 as a joint effort between the Forest Preserves of Cook County, The Nature Conservancy, and the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission. The group has been working actively in the years since to return native plant communities to the Carl Hansen/Poplar Creek Forest Preserve in Hoffman Estates. Native tallgrass prairie and woodland communities are making reappearance on this former farm site thanks to the dedication of the stewards. The Poplar Creek Prairie Stewards are actively involved with the restoration and management of Shoe Factory Road Nature Preserve and Schaumburg Road Grasslands. Workdays are held every weekend and can be found on the group’s calendar on their website. For more information about volunteering with the Poplar Creek Prairie Stewards, please contact Jill and Steve Flexman at flexfolks@comcast.net.

Save the Prairie Society – Wolf Road Prairie Nature Preserve

Save the Prairie Society (STPS) was chartered in 1975 as a non-for-profit organization. Since then, dedicated volunteers have worked to preserve and restore the 80-acre Wolf Road Prairie and bufferlands in Westchester. STPS partners with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission to promote and protect the natural resources of Wolf Road Prairie and the Franzosenbusch Prairie House Nature Center and Museum, which dates to the 1850s, located at the north end of the preserve. Call or email at (708) 562-3280 or info@savetheprairiesociety.org for more information about volunteer opportunities.

Spring Creek Stewards

Spring Creek Forest Preserves are an ambitious ecological restoration project. With 3,910 acres, it’s one of only a few preserves large enough to sustain populations of rare animals, grassland birds and a rich variety of habitats. To learn more about how to get involved with field work, community outreach, or wildlife monitoring, email the stewards at springcreekstewards@gmail.com.

Friends of the Chicago River

The Chicago River is a 156-mile river that flows through the heart of downtown Chicago, past forest preserves and parks, and all kinds of urban and suburban communities. As the lifeblood of the region, it stands at the intersection of urban planning, biodiversity, architectural majesty, recreation, transportation, clean water and commerce. Since 1979, the Friends have been working to improve the health of the Chicago River system for the benefit of people and wildlife and by doing so, has laid the foundation for the river to be a beautiful, continuous, easily accessible corridor of open space in the Chicago region. For more information about volunteering with Friends of the Chicago River, please contact Sean Moloney at smoloney@chicagoriver.org.

Friends of the Parks – Dunning-Reed Conservation Area

Friends of the Parks (FOTP) is dedicated to preserving, protecting and improving Chicago’s parks and forest preserves for all citizens. Since 1975, FOTP has increased private and public commitment to Chicago’s parks through establishing park advisory councils, developing new parks, renovating playlots and presenting public workshops and lectures to create and informed citizenry. FOTP offers a Volunteers in Parks Program for individuals, groups, and corporations to work to improve parks, playgrounds, forest preserves, or the Dunning-Read Conservation Area. For more information about volunteer projects, please contact Rebecca Mayton at ramayton@comcast.net.

The Nature Conservancy - Indian Boundary Prairies

Indian Boundary Prairies, a cluster of four prairies just south of Chicago, comprise the largest remaining example of high-quality grassland in Illinois and one of the best in the Midwest. With more butterflies and plant diversity than almost any other prairie in the state, they are a storehouse of genetic resources and a globally important natural asset. Because of their importance, a portion of the Indian Boundary Prairies has been named a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. These 370 acres of prairie currently protected are owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy and Northeastern Illinois University and is located just south of Chicago, near the junction of US Route 57 and Interstate 294. For information about volunteering at the Indian Boundary Prairies, please contact Mary Anicich at manicich@TNC.org.

Santa Fe Prairie Volunteers

This 10.8-acre prairie is the rarest type of Illinois prairie, only two of its kind exist in the state. It was donated by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad in 1997 to the Civic Center Authority, which now owns and manages this special site. The Santa Fe Volunteers are very active and check on the site every day throughout the year. They pick up trash, cut invasive brush and participate in prescribed burns. Regular group workdays are from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. on the weekends. Children and well-behaved dogs are welcome with adult supervision. Call or text Gregg Starr at (708) 466-2715 to learn more about volunteering with the Santa Fe Prairie Volunteers.

Skokie Park District – Emily Oaks Nature Center

The Skokie Park District has been part of the Skokie community for more than 85 years and dedicates itself to providing quality parks, recreational facilities, leisure services and social programs for families and people of all ages. One of the sites that the park district manages is the Emily Oaks Nature Center. This 13-acre savanna and nature center is an oasis full of native wildflowers, grasses, oak trees, a three-acre pond and trails. Residing and visiting urban wildlife includes great blue herons, coyotes, flying squirrels, northern water snakes, red foxes and Cooper's hawks. The indoor nature center offers classes, meeting rooms and the interactive Woodland Wander Inn. To learn about volunteering at Emily Oaks Nature Center, please contact Lee Hansen at LAHansen@skokieparkdistrict.org.


 

Northeast Region Volunteer Opportunities - DuPage County 

Downers Grove Park District

The Downers Grove Park District actively manages Belmont Prairie and Lyman Woods with the help of volunteers in the community. R.E.A.P. (Restore, Education, and Preserve) is a volunteer group dedicated to restoring these natural areas to their native state and maintaining their integrity for future generations. Land management activities include collecting and sowing native seed, restoring trails with wood chips, removing invasive brush and monitoring water quality and plant and animal species. For more information about volunteer activities, contact Shannon Forsythe at (630) 963-9388 or sforsythe@dgparks.org.

Fermilab Natural Areas

Fermilab Natural Areas was formed in 2006 to study and restore Fermilab's unique combination of ecological communities and to contribute to the preservation of global biodiversity. Prairies, savannas, sedge meadows and marshes can all be found in the ecologically diverse landscape that is located here. There are a wide variety of opportunities available for volunteers, including seed collection, species and rare plant monitoring, wildlife surveying, grant writing and trail upkeep. Other opportunities are available through the adopt-a-spot stewardship program. To learn more about volunteering at Fermilab Natural Areas, contact Ryan Campbell at ryancamp@fnal.gov.

Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage works to foster ecological conditions that sustain and preserve native plant and animal communities in the county’s prairies, wetlands and woodlands. District staff and volunteers work to remove invasive plants, sow native seeds and, in some cases, reintroduce native wildlife and plants in order to maintain the biodiversity of some of the county’s high-quality open spaces. Volunteer opportunities with the Forest Preserve District can be designed for families or for corporate groups. For more information on how to get involved, contact Cindy Hedges at chedges@dupageforest.com.

The Morton Arboretum

The Morton Arboretum is an internationally-recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to the planting and conservation of trees. Its 1,700 acres hold more than 222,000 live plants. The Morton Arboretum values and relies on the dedicated volunteers who help encourage the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. Volunteers at the Morton Arboretum can potentially participate in areas such as horticulture, monitoring, natural areas, research, and special events. For more information about volunteer opportunities at The Morton Arboretum, please contact Kurt Dreisilker at KDreisilker@mortonarb.org.

Springbrook Nature Center

Since opening its doors in 1980, Springbrook Nature Center has been a vibrant natural resource for education and conservation in suburban Chicago. Nestled in the heart of the Village of Itasca, the Nature Center has two miles of hiking trails through a shaded woodland, fragrant prairie and lush cattail marsh. The visitor’s center has free crafts, and aquarium and more for children of all ages to enjoy. Springbrook also offers a variety of programs for local schools, scouts and families that teach topics ranging from native plants and animals to environmental restoration. To learn about volunteer opportunities, please contact Bill Wickers at wwickers@itasca.com.

West Chicago Prairie Stewardship Group

The West Chicago Prairie Stewardship Group is a volunteer organization that aids in the management and preservation of the West Chicago Prairie Preserve, home of the Truitt-Hoff State Nature Preserve. Volunteers of the West Chicago Prairie Stewardship Group assist remove invasive plants, collect seeds of native grasses and forbs, and sow the collected seeds in recently restored areas and adjacent old-field areas. The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County does the necessary prescribed burning as well as other large-scale management. Knowledgeable leaders conduct field trips and birding trips on the Prairie. Individuals with the appropriate skills monitor and survey birds and flora in specific habitat areas. 


 

Northeast Region Volunteer Opportunities - Kane County

Dundee Township – Dixie Briggs Fromm Nature Preserve

Dundee Township, located in Kane County, owns eight sites totaling 862 acres of open space. Visitors and volunteers are welcome at the Dixie Briggs Fromm Nature Preserve, which contains rare prairie remnants, fens, sedge meadows and the endangered Hills Thistle. Regular prairie burns and invasive brush clearing are conducted throughout the year and volunteer help is always needed. For more information about opportunities at Dixie Briggs Fromm, contact Sue Harney at (847) 428-8092 X 1. Additionally, volunteer work day information for all of the sites is posted at www.dundeetownship.org.

Forest Preserve District of Kane County

The Forest Preserve District of Kane County’s mission is to acquire, hold and maintain lands within Kane County that contribute to the preservation of natural and historic resources, habitats, flora, and fauna, and to restore, protect and preserve these lands for the education, recreation and pleasure of all its citizens. The District has volunteer opportunities in natural areas management, environmental education, cultural preservation and public safety. Volunteer applications can be found on the website or you can get more information by calling the Volunteer Office at (630) 762-2741 or emailing volunteer@kaneforest.com.

Hawthorne Hill Nature Center

Hawthorne Hill Nature Center is the perfect place to enjoy rich fall colors, snow-frosted trees, spring wildflowers, summer amphibians and an ever changing host of birds near the pond, in the woods or even from the comfort of the nature center. The 67-acre natural area that flanks both sides of Brookside Drive is owned and managed by the City of Elgin and has a wheelchair accessible trail that leads to the pond and sedge meadow as well as wide, wood-chipped trails to access other areas For more information about volunteer opportunities at Hawthorne Hill Nature Center, please contact Greg Bruggeman at Bruggeman_G@cityofelgin.org.

St. Charles Park District

The mission of the St. Charles Park District is to enrich the quality of life of Park District residents through excellence in programs, parks, facilities and services. One of these facilities, the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, is a destination for families, groups, and scouting troops to engage with nature through various environmental educational opportunities. Restoration Work Days take place on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to noon and take place at Hickory Knolls Natural Area, Norris Woods Nature Preserve, Ferson Creek Fen Nature Preserve, and Persimmon Woods. To learn more or to sign up for a volunteer workday, please contact Denis Kania at dkania@st-charlesparks.org or (630) 513-4367.



Northeast Region Volunteer Opportunities - Kankakee County

Friends of Langham Island

Langham Island, one of the most unique sites to the State of Illinois coming in at just over 20 acres, is located in the middle of the Kankakee River to the West of Bourbonnais, IL. The island is a designated Illinois Nature Preserve in region 3. The habitat on the island can be divided into an unique dolomite bedrock upland with a savanna/mesic forest mix and an alluvial floodplain forest. Langham Island is home to many rare native wildflower including the Kankakee Mallow (Illiama Remota) which occurs naturally only here anywhere in the the world! The Friends of Langham Island group is dedicated to restoring the island ecosystem by removing invasive pressure and maintaining a consistent fire regime. The group is always looking for new volunteers and wisdom to help this project along. Volunteers are needed for brushcutting, herbicide, brush pile management, hand pulling, plant monitoring, planning and outreach. There is always a need for transportation to and from Langham Island on workdays so if you have a boat your always welcome. For more information about Langham Island or how to volunteer your time and resources, please contact Trevor Edmonson at trevoredmonson@gmail.com.

The Nature Conservancy - Kankakee Sands

Kankakee Sands is a prairie-savanna complex located south of Chicago. It harbors hundreds of unique and endangered species as well as some of the rarest habitat on earth: sand prairie and black oak savanna. These habitats once dominated parts of Indiana and Illinois, but 99.9% of the original prairie and savanna has been lost. Working with partners, the Conservancy is creating a mosaic of protected lands at the Kankakee Sands preserve that spans approximately 34,000 acres across the Illinois/Indiana border. Volunteers help to remove trash, control invasive species and collect seeds for land restoration. For more information about volunteering at Kankakee Sands, please contact Rob Littiken (rlittiken@TNC.ORG).



Northeast Region Volunteer Opportunities - Kendall County

Kendall County Forest Preserve District

Volunteers are indispensable in the care of the natural areas in Kendall County. Currently working in 15 preserves, they assist in restoration, the control of invasive species and with a variety of citizen science projects including Plants of Concern and the Calling Frog Survey. Volunteers also assist with operations and communications. For more information on volunteer opportunities, please contact David Guritz at dguritz@co.kendall.il.us or (630) 553-2298.



Northeast Region Volunteer Opportunities - Lake County

Alliance for the Great Lakes

Adopt-a-BeachTM is the Alliance's premier volunteer program, with some 10,000 participants ranging from individuals and families to schools and businesses. More than just a beach sweep, Adopt-a-BeachTM teams conduct litter removal and monitoring and complete a beach health assessment that includes science-based observation and testing. The teams collect information and enter it into the Adopt-a-BeachTM online system, where it is used to educate the public, share with local beach authorities and improve beaches. For more information about volunteering with Alliance for the Great Lakes, please contact Sarah Neville at sneville@greatlakes.org.

The Nature Conservancy - Chiwaukee Prairie (WI)

Chiwaukee Prairie is a 400-acre prairie and State Natural Area in Pleasant Prairie located south of the City of Kenosha along the Lake Michigan shoreline. The prairie was formed 4,000 years ago, when Lake Michigan receded and prairie plants followed the edge. As a former lake bed, the prairie is a rare ridge and swale formation and it is the most species-rich prairie in Wisconsin. The diversity of the vegetation is unequaled with more than 400 species of native plants, including five state-endangered and five state-threatened species. In addition to the plants, there are birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates, which create an impressive collection of diversity. For information about volunteering at Chiwaukee Prairie, please contact the Chiwaukee Prairie Consevation Fund, Inc. at cppf@chiwaukee.org.

Citizens for Conservation

Citizens for Conservation (CFC) is committed to saving space for living things through protection, restoration conservation of natural resources, and youth and community education. This group owns and manages 415 acres of land and has contributed to the preservation and restoration of more than 3,150 acres in the Barrington area. CFC has restoration workdays from 9:00 - 11:00 AM every Saturday year around and Thursdays from April through October. Volunteers are always welcome. CFC’s Habitat Corridors program provides site visits to area residents to advise on environment-friendly practices and native plantings. CFC also offers summer internships to college-aged students. For more information about volunteering with Citizens for Conservation, please contact cfc@CitizensforConservation.org.

Conserve Lake County

On the second Saturday of each month, Conserve Lake County organizes a restoration workday to steward one of two special sites owned by Libertyville Township. These places are so ecologically valuable they're part of the Illinois Nature Preserve system. Over the years, volunteers have made a huge difference in the ecological health of these sites. Workday activities range from seed collecting and trail maintenance to brush clearing and controlled burning. To find out more about upcoming workdays, check out the volunteer calendar at http://conservelakecounty.org/what-we-do/conserve-lake-county-events or contact Greg Rajsky at grajsky@ConserveLakeCounty.org.

Friends of Illinois Beach

Illinois Beach State Park in Zion covers about 4,000 acres, including Illinois' first Nature Preserve. There are 14 ecosystems within the park, including dunes, sand prairies, calcareous swales, oak forest, wetlands, streams, ponds and the Lake Michigan shoreline. It is also the last remnant beach plain in Illinois. It is one of the most diversified areas in Illinois, with over 650 species of plants, and home to several state threatened or endangered animals. Volunteers can participate in a variety of restoration and maintenance activities, as well as monitoring programs for birds, plants, dragonflies and frogs. For more information about volunteering with Friends of the Illinois Beach, please contact Illinois Beach State Park Office at (847) 662-4811 or Don Wilson at (224) 639-3158 or wilsondonaldm@gmail.com.

Friends of Volo Bog

The Friends of Volo Bog work to promote citizen awareness of the local natural heritage of Volo Bog State Natural Area, portions of which are dedicated state nature preserves, and to preserve these areas through special events, educational and training programs and additional acquisitions. In conjunction with the site, the Friends support monthly (sometimes bi-weekly) work days at Volo Bog State Natural Area. A similar group holds occasional workdays at Moraine Hills State Park. The type of stewardship varies depending on the time of the year. For more information about volunteering with the Friends of Volo Bog, please contact Stacy Iwanicki at dnr.volobog@illinois.gov.

Lake Bluff Open Lands Association

Lake Bluff Open Lands Association is dedicated to the protection, preservation, restoration and management of open spaces and natural areas, including wetlands, forests, ravines, beaches, beach bluffs, prairies, rivers and savannas in and around the Village of Lake Bluff. With the help of its volunteers, Lake Bluff Open Lands Association helps to protect and manage 12 different natural areas. For more information or to sign up for a volunteer workday, please contact Larry McCotter at lmccotter@comcast.net or (847) 234-2860.

Lake County Forest Preserve District

The Lake County Forest Preserve District (LCFPD) is the principal guardian of natural and open spaces in Lake County. The LCFPD strives to preserve a dynamic and unique system of natural and cultural resources and to develop innovative education, recreation and cultural opportunities. In order to achieve these goals, the Forest Preserve District uses the help of volunteers during restoration work days. Depending on the season, volunteers may be cutting brush, pulling invasive species, collecting seeds or monitoring species. Volunteers can also assist with the River Steward program and the Native Plant Nursery that is affiliated with the Natural Resources Department. For more information about volunteering with the Lake County Forest Preserve District, please contact Tom Smith at tasmith@lcfpd.org.

Openlands Lakeshore Preserve

Openlands, a regional conservation organization founded in 1963, owns and operates the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve in Highland Park.Once part of the historic Fort Sheridan military base, this 77-acre Illinois Nature Preserve features unique lakefront natural communities, including three ravines and a mile of bluff and beach. Seven state-endangered and threatened plant species are found here, and the Preserve offers resting habitat to over 100 species of birds annually as they migrate along the Lake Michigan flyway. Openlands has been carefully restoring the Preserve since 2008, and has developed innovative park amenities for visitors, including nearly three miles of ADA-accessible trails, scenic bluff-top overlooks, and an award-winning, art-focused interpretive plan. Volunteer stewardship and educational opportunities are available. For more information about volunteer opportunities at the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, please contact Aimee Collins at ACollins@openlands.org.

Park District of Highland Park

The Park District of Highland Park has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1909 when it managed only a 2-1/2 square mile parcel of land. Today, the Park District currently owns and manages more than 600 acres of land in 44 park areas. It also helps manage some land for other municipal agencies. One of the park district’s visions is to inspire environmental stewardship and education. Volunteer opportunities are available at the Heller Nature Center and are great ways to be a part of this vision with your family and friends. For more information on how to volunteer, please contact eettelson@pdhp.org.


Northeast Region Volunteer Opportunities - McHenry County

Crystal Lake Park District

The natural areas found throughout the Park District offer a variety of opportunities for volunteers to make a difference. Individuals or groups can benefit from the rewarding and educational experience of restoring our native ecosystems. Volunteers can participate in regular workdays held at Wingate Prairie Nature Preserve, Sternes Fern, or Butternut Nature Preserve. For more information, please contact John Fiorina at jfiorina@crystallakeparks.org or (815) 455-1763.

Friends of Moraine Hills State Park

From angling to hiking, from viewing rare plants to observing migratory waterfowl, Moraine Hills State Park offers many ways to enjoy nature. Located in the northeast corner of Illinois, the park is 3 miles south of McHenry in McHenry County. Roughly half of the park's 2,200 acres is composed of wetlands and lakes. Volunteers contribute in numerous ways to the programming and public relations at Moraine Hills State Park. For more information about volunteering with the Friends of Moraine Hills State Park, please contact Stacy Iwanicki at (815) 344-1294 or dnr.volobog@illinois.gov.

Friends of Volo Bog

The Friends of Volo Bog work to promote citizen awareness of the local natural heritage of Volo Bog State Natural Area, portions of which are dedicated state nature preserves, and to preserve these areas through special events, educational and training programs and additional acquisitions. In conjunction with the site, the Friends support monthly (sometimes bi-weekly) work days at Volo Bog State Natural Area. A similar group holds occasional workdays at Moraine Hills State Park. The type of stewardship varies depending on the time of the year. For more information about volunteering with the Friends of Volo Bog, please contact Stacy Iwanicki at dnr.volobog@illinois.gov.

Land Conservancy of McHenry County

McHenry County's landscape is richly diversified. It features glacial remnants such as kames, moraines, and outwash plains to the more woodlands, prairies, stream corridors, bogs and fens. Since 1991, The Land Conservancy has helped protect over 1,900 acres of McHenry County's prairies, wetlands and woodlands by working with private landowners, communities and other partners through the direct acquisition of property (through purchase or donation), or the establishment of conservation easements. Volunteers at the Land Conservancy can participate in a range of activities, including habitat restoration, oak tree plantings and seed collecting. For more information about volunteering with the Land Conservancy of McHenry County, please contact Linda Balek at lbalek@conservemc.org.

McHenry County Conservation District

Conservation District volunteers engage in meaningful work and learning opportunities that restore habitat and ecological diversity, educate people about the environment, promote public safety through recreation and keep local history alive. Volunteer opportunities include public restoration workdays, species monitoring, scout group service projects, and assisting with environmental educational programming. For more information about volunteering with the McHenry County Conservation District, please contact Denice Beck at dbeck@mccdistrict.org.

Lake in the Hills Fen Nature Preserve

Lake in the Hills Fen Nature Preserve spans nearly 500 acres with unspoiled native Illinois landscape. Within the 500 acres is over a mile of maintained trail that winds through dry hill prairies, sedge meadows, and rare and beautiful fens. Lake in the Hills Fen Nature Preserve is owned and maintained by the Village of Lake in the Hills, McHenry County Conservation District and the State of Illinois. Volunteers at the site can help participate in trail maintenance and species monitoring of birds, butterflies and rare plants. For more information about volunteering, please contact Barbara Wilson at barb4nature@gmail.com.



Northeast Region Volunteer Opportunities - Will County

Forest Preserve District of Will County

The Forest Preserve District is dedicated to protecting, conserving, enhancing, and promoting Will County’s natural heritage for the educational, recreational, and environmental benefit of present and future generations. Volunteers at the district are known as Prairie People Volunteers and they include professionals, students, seniors, organized groups, and families. Their generosity allows the Forest Preserve District to provide services and programs that would not be possible without their assistance. The work they perform includes restoring natural areas, teaching children and adults about nature and the environment, monitoring trails and preserves, answering visitors' questions, assisting at the programs and special events and more. For more information on volunteering, go online to http://www.reconnectwithnature.org/about-us/volunteer or contact Renee Gauchat at rgauchat@fpdwc.org.

Joliet Junior College Natural Areas

The ecosystems on Joliet Junior College’s campus are remnants of a once vast wilderness of prairie and forest. Without regular management, these areas can be invaded by non-native plants, overtaking many of our remaining native species. During a restoration day, volunteers explore and discover the subtle changes taking place on the site, admire the seasonal activities of plants and animals, cut and clear invasive species, and plant native seeds and root stocks. For more information about volunteer opportunities at Joliet Junior College Natural Areas, please contact Andy Neill at aneill@jjc.edu.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was established in 1996 on the former Joliet Arsenal. Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, it is the first national tallgrass prairie in the country. Midewin represents a major effort to restore 20,000 acres of farm and industrial land to a unique American landscape and the complex ecology of the prairie. This makes Midewin the largest open space in the Chicago metropolitan area and northeastern Illinois and the largest tallgrass prairie restoration effort east of the Mississippi River. In the past, public access to Midewin was restricted during the Army’s cleanup of contaminants remaining from decades of munitions manufacture, but today, nearly 9,000 acres of Midewin and 33 miles of trails are open to the public. Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is located near Joliet, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago. Explore Midewin’s website to learn more about other volunteer opportunities, public tours and programs, recreation opportunities and Midewin’s wildlife.


 

Northwest Region Volunteer Opportunities

The northwest part of the state has its own unique beauty. Its rugged topography of forested ridges and mounds of dolomite limestone along the Mississippi River bluffs contrast sharply to the rolling glaciated land near the Rock River that once supported a mix of forest and prairie. 

Boone County Conservation District

Historically, Boone County was rich with a variety of ecosystems, including prairie and oak savanna, as well as pockets of wetland and dense forest along the Kishwaukee River and its tributaries. When neglected, these habitat types are overrun by invasive plants that stifle the diversity of local wildlife. Extensive efforts are in effect to return Boone County Conservation District (BCCD) lands to their natural integrity. These restored habitats provide a foothold for native wildlife and create a wide range of educational and recreational benefits for county residents.

Volunteers with Boone County can engage in a range of activities, including native seed collection, invasive species removal and wildlife monitoring. There is even a goat herd that volunteers can help with! For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact Aaron Minson at aminson@boonecountyconservationdistrict.org or Joshua Sage at jsage@boonecountyconservationdistrict.org.

DeKalb County Forest Preserve District

The DeKalb County Forest Preserve District was established in 1940 to provide recreational opportunities, to preserve and restore plant and wildlife communities and to protect the area’s natural heritage. Volunteer land stewards help with forest, prairie and wetland restoration and education projects at forest preserve sites. For more information about volunteering with the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District, please contact Terry Hannan at thannan@dekalbcounty.org.

Forest Preserves of Winnebago County

Encompassing 10,300 acres, 42 preserves, four rivers, 100 miles of hiking trails, four campgrounds and three golf courses, the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County provide endless opportunities. Since 1922, these areas have been dedicated to the preservation of forests and wildlife for recreation and education. For information on volunteering with the Forest Preserves of Winnebago, contact Kim O’Malley at komalley@wcfpd.org or (815) 519-2659.

Henry County Natural Area Guardians

Organized in 1983, the Henry County Natural Area Guardians is a sub-committee of the Henry County Soil and Water Conservation District. The Henry County Natural Area Guardians are devoted to protecting and preserving the natural areas in Henry County for future generations. Activities of the Natural Area Guardians include conducting prairie burns, holding an annual prairie walk at the Munson Township Cemetery, providing exhibits at conservation events and sponsoring workshops. In addition to organizing workdays, they also offer a scholarship for a college upperclassman majoring in a conservation field. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact Luanne Urban at urbancru@frontier.net.

Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation

The Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation (JDCF) is a locally-based 501(c)3 non-profit land conservation organization established in 1993. The group’s mission is to conserve and enhance the natural wildlife habitat, cultural heritage, scenic vistas and agricultural character of Jo Daviess County and the surrounding area for future generations.  Since 1998, JDCF has restored over 175 acres of prairie and woodlands and plans to restore an additional 145 acres over the next 5 years. JDCF currently owns several properties available to the public for outdoor recreation. These sites vary from open prairies with marked hiking trails to forested bluffs with rough foot paths. To keep these beautiful properties open, volunteers help clean up trails, maintain signage, inventory birds and plants, take care of trees and control invasive species. Stewardship volunteers also perform trash clean ups, seed plantings and shelter maintenance. JDCF has opportunities for individuals and organized groups to do both frequent activities and one-day events. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact Jeff Horn at jeff@jdcf.org.

The Nature Conservancy - Nachusa Grasslands Preserve

Nachusa Grasslands consists of 3,100 acres of prairie located between Oregon, Dixon and Franklin Grove, IL. Starting in 1986 with the purchase of 250 acres, The Nature Conservancy has gradually recreated a mosaic of prairie, savanna and wetlands that reflects what the land would have looked like in the 1800s. This result is the work of hundreds of dedicated volunteers who have collected native seed, controlled invasive species and helped perform prescribed burns. Today, Nachusa Grasslands is home to more than 700 native prairie plants, as well as many important birds, insects and reptiles. In the fall of 2014, bison were re-introduced at Nachusa.

Natural Land Institute

Since 1958, the Natural Land Institute has helped to preserve and restore more than 16,000 acres of natural land in northern Illinois in an effort to create an enduring legacy of natural land for people, plants and wildlife. Regularly scheduled workdays allow volunteers to participate in restoration work through the removal of invasive species, monitoring for wildlife and vegetation, conducting prescribed fires, collecting native seed and cultivating plants in the greenhouse. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact Kevin Rohling at krohling@naturalland.org.

River Bend Wildland Trust

The River Bend Wildland Trust protects and manages lands of significant natural value in the watersheds of the Mississippi and Rock River confluence, and provides ecological stewardship, education and initiatives aimed at creating a more sustainable environment. Each year, thousands of volunteer hours are spent removing invasive species, rehabilitating wildlife, restoring prairies and wetlands, improving forests and educating the public. For more information about volunteering, please contact Marilyn Andress at ma.prairierose@gmail.com

Whiteside County Natural Area Guardians

The Whiteside County Natural Area Guardians (NAGs) formally organized as a committee of the Soil and Water Conservation District in 1988. At the present time, through leases, easements, and management agreements, the NAGs carefully manage several natural areas and prairie restorations in the county. The group also works with several individual landowners who are caring for their own areas. For more information on volunteering with the Whiteside County Natural Area Guardians, please contact Charlene Knudten at cknu@me.com or (815) 631-0665.



Central Region Volunteer Opportunities

The central part of the state was once dominated by prairie with small groves of forests scattered across the land. The forested bottomland areas along the Illinois River Valley cut through the prairie and connect to a vast network of streams and rivers. On the western edge lay deep forested ravines with prairie openings and bedrock cliffs and outcrops of limestone that follow the Mississippi River.

Allerton Allies

Allerton Park consists of over 1,500 acres, including the Sangamon River, floodplains, lowland and upland forests, a meadow, a 30-acre demonstration prairie and over 14 miles of hiking trails. The park has long been recognized as one of Illinois’ most significant natural areas, as it is one of only three areas in central Illinois with more than 500 acres of contiguous forest. The Allerton Allies work hard to keep these beautiful and diverse natural areas from being overrun by invasive species. Volunteer activities include the removal of garlic mustard, honeysuckle, smooth buckthorn and osage orange, among others. To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Allerton Allies, contact Mindy Brand at brand@illinois.edu or (217) 333-3287, extension 113.

Champaign County Forest Preserve District

Volunteerism is an essential part of maintaining the facilities and programs at Champaign County's Forest Preserves. District volunteers develop meaningful relationships with the natural and cultural communities of the area, and aid in improving the quality of life for others in these communities. The diverse volunteer opportunities at the District will allow people to work outdoors, learn about natural area management and share their passion with others. Opportunities include trail and garden stewardship, seed collection, invasive species control and bluebird monitoring. Volunteers can also get involved with the Forest Preserve’s education department. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact Kristin Tetzlaff at volunteer@ccfpd.org.

Embarras Volunteer Stewards

The Embarras Volunteer Stewards help public and private landowners in their efforts to preserve and restore native prairie and woodland sites in Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Clark, Shelby and Moultrie counties in Illinois. The group holds workdays on approximately 25 Saturday mornings each year Volunteers help control invasive species, collect seed, perform controlled burns, plant trees, assist with trail maintenance, monitor plant and wildlife communities, and participate in tours and talks. Workdays last about two hours and are announced on the group's website, www.embarrasstewards.org. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact Larry Thorsen at thorsenhutton@gmail.com.

Friends of Rocky Glen

The Friends of Rocky Glen is a nonprofit organization working with Peoria Wilds and the Peoria Park District to protect the unique and historical geologic area near Peoria, IL. The site has a rich historical background with old coal mines throughout the area along with many ecological treasures such as ferns, wildflowers and native hydrangeas. The group has received express permission from the Peoria Park District, which owns Rocky Glen, to lead guided hikes on a monthly basis. Volunteers assist on guided hikes as well as participate in restoration workdays, staff fundraisers for the benefit of Rocky Glen, and quarterly roadside trash clean-ups. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact David Pittman at dvdpttmn@aol.com.

Friends of Sangamon Valley

The Friends of Sangamon Valley seeks to preserve the natural heritage of the Sangamon River watershed by acquiring, restoring and protecting ecologically significant lands. Many of the counties in the watershed do not have a local conservation district or other land trust organization dedicated to preserving land or restoring and maintaining natural areas. Volunteer activities include working in prairies, woodlands and wetlands in local natural areas. Depending on the season and management needs of the preserve, activities include seed collection, brush cutting, pulling or cutting invasive species and performing controlled burns. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact Vern LaGesse at vlagesse@fosv.org.

Friends of the Illinois River

The Friends of the Illinois River is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to conserving, enhancing and promoting the cultural and natural resources of the Illinois River and its watershed.. Most of their activities are based around their annual Illinois River Sweep, which occurs on the third Saturday of September. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact JD Russell at jdrussell_01@hotmail.com.

Grand Prairie Friends

Grand Prairie Friends is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit, conservation organization composed of people from many walks of life who share a commitment to protecting and restoring tallgrass prairie and woodlands in east-central Illinois. The Friends preserve and restore natural communities by acquiring and managing land with prairie and woodland remnants, as well as assisting private landowners and public agencies with natural areas protection and management. Volunteers conduct prescribed burns, plant native species, and generate interest in prairies and woodlands through a variety of educational programs. Volunteer opportunities range from natural area workdays to community outreach and educational programming.

Hopewell Hill Prairies Nature Preserve

Hopewell Hill Prairies Nature Preserve is located in Marshall County on the west side of the Illinois River. The preserve is made up of a series of privately-owned lots in the Village of Hopewell near Sparland, Illinois. Restoration has been underway and relies on a combination of support from Nature Preserve staff, Department of Natural Resources personnel and volunteers from the community. For information about accessing Hopewell Hill Prairies or about volunteering, please contact Maury Brucker or Emiko Yang at (309) 696-4590.

Jubilee Prairie Dawgs

The Jubilee Prairie Dawgs is a hands-on volunteer group that has been conserving prairie continuously for 38 years, mostly in the northern part of Jubilee College State Park. The group also maintains the Brimfield Railroad Nature Preserve, now owned by Peoria Audubon. Volunteers meet the first and third Saturday mornings of the month, except when there is snow on the ground. Volunteers assist with control of invasive species, seed collecting and processing, seed broadcasting and controlled burns. The Dawgs also participate in Earth Day celebrations, school environmental fairs and conduct an annual public tour of the prairies. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact Doug Frank at franks.doug@gmail.com or (309) 868-9180, or Jim Alwill at jim_alwill@yahoo.com or (309) 238-9911.

Macon County Conservation District

Every year, hundreds of volunteers make an invaluable contribution to the operation of our conservation areas and historic sites. Whether greeting visitors or assisting with programs, our volunteers help the Conservation District serve the residents of Macon County. There are more than 3,200 acres of natural areas and hundreds of school programs, special events, and workshop presentations at the Macon County Conservation District in Decatur, IL. Indoor and outdoor volunteer opportunities are available year-round in the many Conservation areas. For more information about volunteering with the Macon County Conservation District, please contact Mitch Lovgren at mlovgren@maconcountyconservation.org.

Meredosia Hill Prairie Nature Preserve

Marais d'Osier, meaning willow swamp, was the original French name given to the area in the early 1800s. At that time, the dissected uplands supported both mesic and dry oak-hickory forests, while wet prairies occupied the floodplains and hill prairies dominated the steep, loess covered slopes. Today, Meredosia Hill Prairie remains one of the least disturbed areas within the glaciated section of the Middle Mississippi Natural Division. Limited volunteer opportunities are available at Meredosia. People interested in getting involved or taking a tour of the Nature Preserve can contact Deb Burrus at (217) 997-5920.

The Nature Conservancy – Illinois River

The Nature Conservancy’s projects and preserves along the Illinois River help protect the region’s lands and waters, as well as influence freshwater conservation across the country and even the globe. Emiquon, located near Havana, is one of the largest floodplain restoration projects in the Midwest. It is the premiere demonstration site for The Nature Conservancy’s work on the Illinois River and within the Upper Mississippi River system. The Merwin Preserve at Spunky Bottoms is where the Conservancy’s Illinois River work began. The preserve was transformed from farmland to a thriving wetland, and today Spunky Bottoms is home to many species and is one of the most abundant populations of northern cricket frogs in Illinois.

Oak Bluff Savanna Nature Preserve

Oak Bluff Savanna Nature preserve is located west of Henry, Illinois. The savanna, or barrens, plant community is on 22 acres, which include some hill prairies on several slopes. More than 15 years ago, three acres of land were converted into prairie restoration using species that were already found at Oak Bluff. Restoration has been underway and relies on a combination of support from Nature Preserve staff, Department of Natural Resources personnel and volunteers from the community. For information about accessing Oak Bluff Savanna Nature Preserve or about volunteering, please contact Maury Brucker or Emiko Yang at (309) 696-4590.

Parklands Foundation

ParkLands Foundation protects and restores natural lands in the Mackinaw River valley of McLean and Woodford counties. Since its founding in 1967, the organization has helped protect and restore more than 3,200 acres pf prairie, savanna, floodplain forest and river habitat in the Mackinaw River valley and in other watersheds within McLean County. This includes two Illinois Nature Preserves that are owned by ParkLands, one that is managed in conjunction with Weston Cemetery Nature Preserve and the Merwin Preserve Nature Preserve. Volunteers at ParkLands play a large role in the removal of invasive species and by providing help at regularly scheduled work days, as well as being volunteer stewards at different sites. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact Jason Shoemaker at shoemaj@hotmail.com.

Peoria Wilds

Peoria Wilds is a grassroots organization dedicated to the restoration of biological diversity in the Peoria area. Volunteers remove woody brush, collect and sow seed, monitor vegetation and butterflies, research local presettlement conditions, educate the public and perform prescribed burns. Restoration sites are all publicly owned by either the Peoria Park District or Springdale Cemetery Management Authority. To learn more about upcoming workdays, please contact JD Russell at jdrussell@peoriaparks.org.

Prairie Land Conservancy

Prairie Land Conservancy (PLC) works with local landowners in west-central Illinois to help conserve our region's natural areas, open spaces, farmlands and forests. Volunteers can help with the management of invasive species at Stony Hills Nature Preserve and Wigwam Hollow Bird Sanctuary. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, please contact David King, Executive Director, at 309-833-4747 or email prairie@frontier.com.

Springdale Cemetery Prairie Natural Heritage Landmark

Springdale Cemetery Savanna is a rare remnant of tallgrass oak savanna, a natural community that was once dominant along parts of the Illinois River Bluffs. The savanna has historically sheltered many diverse and uncommon species; thousands of volunteer hours over the past 15 years have resulted in the recovery of some of the savanna’s former glory. Volunteers assist with removing woody brush, collecting and sowing seed, monitoring vegetation and butterflies, researching local presettlement conditions, educating the public, and performing prescribed burns. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact Mike Rucker at (309) 692-0621 or mikruc@aol.com.

St. Mary’s Cemetery Prairie Natural Heritage Landmark

The St. Mary’s Cemetery Prairie Natural Heritage Landmark is a high-quality Illinois Natural Area Inventory site with 2.5 acres of rare glacial hill prairie. The majority of the prairie falls within the Cemetery grounds, while some of it is located nearby on land owned by the Greater Peoria Sanitary District. All sites welcome volunteers for workdays. For more information, please contact David Pittman (309) 573-2354 or dvdpttmn@aol.com.

Sugar Grove Nature Center – Funks Grove Nature Preserve

Sugar Grove Nature Center is located just south of Bloomington-Normal in Funks Grove. At 1,200 acres, Funks Grove is the largest remaining intact prairie grove in the state of Illinois. Much of this high-quality natural area is protected as registered Illinois Land & Water Reserve or dedicated Illinois Nature Preserve and portions have been designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior. Volunteers engage in a variety of stewardship activities every other Saturday throughout the year. Stewards are welcome to join the group on a regular basis or stop out on occasion to assist with projects. Projects include invasive species removal, prairie seed collection, tree planting and other management projects. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact info@sugargrovenaturecenter.org or (309) 874-2174.

Urbana Park District

Volunteering is a great way to learn more about local natural areas and assist in their care. There are ongoing volunteer stewardship days at several natural areas within the Urbana Park District, including Busey Woods, Meadowbrook Prairie, Commissioners Grove and Wetland in Weaver Park and Perkins Road Wet Prairie. Volunteers will plant and seed native plants, remove invasive species and conduct prescribed burns. If you plan on attending a work day, please call 384-4062 in advance. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Learn more about each of these areas and how to get involved at www.urbanaparks.org/parks/natural_areas/.



Southern Region Volunteer Opportunities

The southern portion of the state is a unique mix of natural areas. The northern reaches are relatively flat terrain with a predominance of clay soils, which support a mixture of prairie and forest. By contrast, the Ozark region east of the Mississippi River is characterized by steep bluffs, forests and hill prairies. Farther south, the Shawnee Hills region is known for its sandstone and limestone rock, while the most southern portion of the state is home to the distinctive swamps of bald cypress, water tupelo and diverse hardwood forests.

Conserving Lands in Farm, Forest, Talus or Prairie (CLIFFTOP)

CLIFFTOP‘s mission is to promote the conservation, preservation and protection of the Mississippi River bluffs corridor in Monroe, Randolph and St. Clair Counties. In addition to working with county, state, federal and non-governmental agencies, CLIFFTOP also co-owns and manages the 465-acre White Rock Nature Preserve and Land & Water Reserve in Monroe County, the 115-acre Mill Creek Natural Area in Randolph County and the 535-acre Paul Wightman Nature Preserve in Monroe County. Volunteers that get involved with CLIFFTOP can expect to help with prescribed burns, brush clearing, trail maintenance, control of invasive plant populations, and, with special permits, collecting seed for and restoring native plant populations. Photography, species monitoring,and public outreach are also ways that people can get involved with CLIFFTOP. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact clifftop@htc.net.

Friends of the Cache River Watershed

The Friends of the Cache River Watershed is a non-profit citizens’ group that promotes natural resource conservation throughout the Cache River Watershed in southern Illinois. The Friends share a common goal with their local and national partners, such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy and others to protect and restore 60,000 acres along a 50-mile corridor of the Cache River. Volunteers are very important to the work being done along the Cache River and they participate in a range of activities, from restoration workdays to bird counts. Nature Fest, an annual event in May, always requires 75-100 volunteers to work in various booths, as well as conduct nature hikes, bike rides and various activities for young children. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact friendsofthecacheriver@gmail.com.

Friends of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge

Located west of Marion, Illinois, on the northern edge of the Ozark foothills, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest refuges in the Great Lakes/Big Rivers Region. Established in 1947, the 43,890-acre refuge includes three man-made lakes, hardwood and pine forests, croplands, grasslands, wetlands, rolling hills and rugged terrain. The Friends of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and community to achieve the optimum use of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge for wildlife conservation, recreation, agriculture and industry. One of the functions of the Friends is to support education at the Refuge. Every year they donate funds for bussing that allows students to visit the refuge at no cost. To learn about volunteer opportunities at Crab Orchard, please contact Anne Johnson at ajohnson2@siumed.edu, Laura Wendt at l_wendt@msn.com or Rosemarie Howenton at roho130@frontier.com.

Friends of Giant City State Park

Giant City State Park is a natural resources gem in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois, just south of Carbondale. Named for its massive sandstone bluffs, Giant City is home to hundreds of wildflower and bird species and more than 100 tree species. Volunteers with the Friends group are highly appreciated at Giant City as they help to keep the park beautiful, the trails open and the Giant City Visitor's Center functioning. Volunteers can help out by being a docent in the Visitor's Center, monitoring bluebirds, adopting a trail and controlling invasive plants. For more information, please contact Ruth Kelley at rth_kelley@yahoo.com or Jennifer Randolph at Jennifer.Randolph@illinois.gov.

Friends of Pyramid State Park

Pyramid State Park is the largest state park in Illinois and is full of history. About 950 acres consists of reclaimed strip land mined in the 1930s through the 1950s. The remainder of the park consists of a blend of tillable acreage, native wooded acreage and reclaimed and restored land. The Friends of Pyramid State Park aids and facilitates the development of the park through public awareness and access. Volunteers are an essential part of Pyramid State Park and have completed a wide range of tasks, including upgrading the campground and creating butterfly habitats. For more information about volunteering with the Friends of Pyramid State Park, please contact Bill Roe at Ita@onecliq.net or (618) 357-8773.

Friends of the Shawnee National Forest

The Friends of the Shawnee National Forest is a not-for-profit organization that supports and promotes land stewardship, responsible recreation, economic sustainability, and connecting people and communities to nature, especially kids! The Friends are always looking for volunteers of all ages and skills to share their times and talents. The Shawnee National Forest is owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service. For more information about volunteering at Shawnee National Forest, please contact FriendsOfTheShawnee@gmail.com.

Friends of Stemler Cave Woods Nature Preserve

The Friends of Stemler Cave Woods is a group of volunteers that work under the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to plan and conduct stewardship work in Stemler Cave Woods Nature Preserve and surrounding natural areas. Activities include trail maintenance, removal of invasive species, monitoring, conducting prescribed burns and some bio-inventory work. To learn more about volunteering at Stemler Cave Woods, please contact Bob and Nancy Weck at bnweck@htc.net.

Green Earth, Inc.

Green Earth owns and maintains six preserves in the Carbondale area, totaling over 220 acres, which are open to the public for hiking during daylight hours. There are many opportunities throughout the year for anyone interested in lending a helping hand at Green Earth. Trail improvement or habitat restoration workdays are held on the third Saturday of each month. Special workdays for groups or individual projects are welcome; Green Earth will help with logistics and support. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact Stephanie Eichholz at director@greenearthinc.org.

Montgomery County Natural Area Guardians

The Montgomery County Natural Area Guardians provide an organized means for locating and preserving natural areas and open lands in Montgomery County. They encourage and aid landowners in managing natural areas and open lands, as well as provide educational programs and obtain funding to assist with management of natural areas and open lands. To learn more about volunteering with the Natural Area Guardians, please contact Angie Karban at angelakarban@gmail.com.

Salt Lick Point Committee

Salt Lick Point Committee is a small volunteer group that assists with the Salt Lick Point Land and Water Reserve, which totals 600 acres on the bluff corridor owned by the Village of Valmeyer. The Reserve contains 5 miles of hiking trials and has a number of unique glades and hill prairies that the Committee is actively working to restore with the help of volunteers. In addition to restoration, the Committee does trail maintenance and invasive species removal. For more information about volunteering, please contact the Salt Lick Point Committee at Saltlick@htc.net or the Village of Valmeyer at (618) 935-2131.

Shoal Creek Volunteers

Shoal Creek Volunteers have primary management responsibility at the Shoal Creek Conservation Area, which is owned by the City of Litchfield, and the Blooming Grove Cemetery Natural Area, which is owned by Montgomery County. Management activities have consisted of prescribed burns, control of brush, removal of invasive species and recovery of native plants grown and/or collected by our volunteers. Scientific surveys have been carried on to document the presence of fungi, flora, invertebrates and breeding birds. For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact Henry Eilers at heilers@consolidated.net.