Nachusa Grasslands

A Story of Transformation

Vast grasslands once swept across Illinois, providing homes for bison, badgers and birds alike. © Robert Shaw

But, over the centuries, the prairies were developed into farmland, replacing these grasslands with corn and soybean fields and grazing land. © TNC Archives

Fortunately, parcels of the land that is now Nachusa Grasslands was too rocky and wet to be farmed, and it was spared from the plow. © Chris Helzer/TNC

Prairie enthusiasts saw great potential in the land, and in 1986, The Nature Conservancy purchased the first parcel of the preserve. © Chris Helzer/TNC

Restoration efforts naturally move at a slow and steady pace. As Nachusa’s Preserve Manager Bill Kleiman says, “The landscape at Nachusa that inspires us today was more one of vision and hope--some said naiveté.” © TNC Archives

So, what has happened in 25 years? © Ami Vitale

Thanks to 200,000 hours of volunteer work and consistent, generous donations, Nachusa is one of Illinois’ largest and last surviving prairie landscapes. © TNC Archives

Implementing prescribed fire, weed eradication, seed harvesting, planting and replanting native species has enabled the native prairie to return. © Andrew Simpson/TNC

Now in its 25th year, Nachusa extends nearly 3,000 acres and is home to 700 native plant species and 180 species of birds. © Ami Vitale

It is home to rare animals such as Blanding’s turtles… © Michelle Kalantari/TNC

…bobolinks and Henslow’s sparrows… © Ernie Mastroianni

…and Illinois’ largest population of federally-threatened prairie bush clover. © TNC Archives

Come see for yourself the amazing transformation that is now the Nachusa Grasslands Preserve! © Ron Cress