Protecting the Prairie

In 1993, when the U.S. Army decided it no longer needed a former World War II ammunitions facility in the Chicago exurbs, Openlands saw an opportunity to create a world-class urban open space in northeastern Illinois. We played a leadership role among the 23 members of the Joliet Arsenal Citizens Planning Commission in 1994, and prepared the 1995 Joliet Arsenal Land Use Concept Map that divided up the land into a blend of uses, including Midewin and the Abraham Lincoln National Veteran’s Cemetery.  On February 10, 1996, President Clinton signed the Illinois Land Conservation Act creating Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

Openlands today works not just to restore the landscapes of Midewin and the surrounding natural areas, but also to advocate for our goals of protecting the region’s natural resources and encouraging good land use planning. We helped shape the principles in our region’s comprehensive GOTO 2040 plan to protect the region’s agricultural heritage and nationally significant natural features, like Midewin and the Kankakee River. And we focus a coalition of 30 organizations to negotiate smart transportation and development solutions for the region. For instance, coalition members worked with Will County to adopt a freight plan that calls for consciously locating roads and development to preserve the natural and agricultural heritage in the Midewin area.

Drawing on our decades of expertise in advocacy and planning, we continue to lead dialogue with industry, local farmers, and government officials as to how our economic growth and industry in the Midewin area can support agriculture and coexist with our globally significant natural resources.

For more information on Openlands advocacy in support of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, please contact