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Friday, September 23, 2022

Important Job Opening. Looking for best person.

Might you (or someone you know) be the right person to represent and build Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves in northeastern Illinois?

Please help spread the word.

The kind of person the Friends are looking for might surprise you. 

Yes, for sure, we're looking for someone who is deeply committed to biodiversity conservation. Yes, for sure, we're looking for someone who - if they don't already have it - can quickly develop various kinds of expertise (see job description).

But the most important qualities are 1) to be on the ball, 2) to be generous, likable, and friendly to new people who might want to be engaged as partners and volunteers, and 3) to be ambitious - in a save-the-planet kind of way. 

The Friends now have a Director and Southern Illinois Field Rep. This new position has huge potential for the right dedicated and ambitious person.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin was saved from destruction and restored to good ecological health by fine people doing the work that the new Field Rep will support and lead at many worthy natural areas. 
Photo by Mike Jeffers and Sue Post

The Job Description (in a somewhat shortened and clarified draft, we thought, by Eriko Kojima and Stephen Packard) is below:

Position Title: Northeastern Illinois Regional Field Rep (Full-Time) 

Reports To: The Director 

Summary: The Field Rep has a primary responsibility to protect and restore Nature Preserves (including Land and Water Reserves) in northeastern Illinois, principally by fostering the growth of dynamic, vibrant stewardship volunteer communities for key preserves.

The Field Rep will seek out opportunities to connect with residents of the region who may be interested in Nature Preserves, making personal connections with existing and potential leaders and other everyday people, with the goal of fostering a culture of learning and commitment. With the Field Rep’s help, such groups will attract other friendly, nice, and smart persons who are inspired by learning about ecosystem needs. 

The Field Rep reports to the Director and will be a part of a community of Friends leaders, most of whom are volunteers, who will be doing similar work along with the staffs of partner organizations, Nature Preserve landowners, and regional conservation leaders. 

This is a flexible 40-hour/week full-time position including some weekends and evenings, so that the Field Rep’s working hours match with those when volunteers tend to be available. 

 

Essential Job Functions: 

Leadership and Training: 

·       Train, empower, and mentor leadership volunteers following the “quick study” work-learn-lead approach to stewardship. Staff and volunteers work together, sharing insights, skills, and information, which causes us to grow and to find this mission compelling. 

·       Support new and existing volunteer leaders and community members in land management, restoration, and stewardship activities. Work with community groups and individuals (especially potential leader and catalyst volunteers). Examples of land management and restoration work may include removal of herbaceous and woody plants, herbicide application, prescribed burns, and seed collection and dispersal. 

·       Recruit volunteers for restoration and stewardship. Focused on having strategic, effective, educational, and fun work events. Pay attention to everyone who comes. Stay in touch between workdays by text, email, phone, or in person meetings as needed. 

·       Support public outreach educational activities at nature preserves.

·       Coordinate with staff and leadership volunteers in supervision of contractor work as requested. 

·       Attend and support public meetings, speaking on behalf of Friends and Nature Preserves. Collaborate with volunteers and other advocates to do the same. 

 

Organizational and Physical: 

·       Lead and train volunteer stewardship at Nature Preserves according to the approved management plans for each site. 

·       With the Director, volunteers, and others, find additional resources for ecological restoration and land management tasks at Illinois Nature Preserves and Land and Water Resources. 

·       This position requires the ability to work in wilderness situations, hike for miles, and perform physical labor. 

 

Other Duties: 

·       Assist the Director with the development of grant funding applications and work plans for grant- funded projects. 

·       Work with the Director and volunteer leaders to strengthen partnerships with conservation organizations. Identify potential partnership organizations in the region. 

·       As appropriate, facilitate and attend partnership-building meetings and/or events. 

 

Job Qualifications 

 

Desired Mindset, Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities: 

·       Passionate desire to make a difference in the world. Possessing a drive to facilitate a process by which large numbers of Illinois residents increasingly rally around and care for the Illinois Nature Preserves, biodiversity, and the planet.

·       Personal commitment to biodiversity conservation. 

·       Ability to present information in an organized and accurate manner. 

·       Verbal and written communication skills. 

·       Ability to build and work with teams and collaborate with others in a friendly and supportive manner. 

·       Highly effective in a team environment; thriving when collaborating with others; possessing insight into human motivations; empathetically relates to the hopes and dreams of other human beings. 

·       Strong social and interpersonal skills including the ability to bring together people of diverse backgrounds,thoughts, and inclinations to foster community.

·       Positive attitude, a self-starter, and patient when needed. 

·       Effective at working with others to solve problems

·       Computer literacy, including use of the internet. 

 

Desired Education and Experience or “quick study” needs:  

·       A general knowledge of the Illinois Nature Preserve system. 

·       Working knowledge of Illinois ecology and land management and stewardship issues. 

·       Familiarity with plant and animal communities typical of Illinois. 


For the current official job description, and to apply, click here

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Revis Hill Prairie - Not to Mourn - But to Celebrate - and Act!

It once was greater. At 412.7 acres, Revis Hill Prairie Nature Preserve is one of the largest and finest in the Prairie State, with many rare and endangered plant and animal species. Unfortunately, as of 25 years ago when Ken Robertson and colleagues studied it, 56% of the prairie had already been lost to brush. 

More has been lost since then. For example, two High Quality prairies mapped as part of Revis by the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory in the 70s (see aerial photo, below) have gradually become just brush. 

An event to honor Revis is planned for September 17th. Should we celebrate? Or mourn? 

By God! and Evolution! the answer is to celebrate the precious core that survives - and then act! Steward volunteers are needed.

Precious prairie fragments are filling in with brush. 
Volunteers could have a big impact here.
Photo by Lou Nelms.

Staff is spread too thin. With dedication, they have stopped the losses in some areas, but there are so many acres sliding away, year by year, day by day as the brush grows. Volunteers could help. We conservationists need to support all three of the initiatives below:

- Fill vacant staff positions in DNR and INPC. (See Endnote 1).

- Increase and improve contract funding. (See Endnote 2.)

- Welcome and empower more steward volunteers. (See Endnote 3.) 

Our attention and voices can make the difference. Revis deserves health and quality restored to the prairie - and for that matter to the adjacent oak savanna and woods, which have filled with brush and suffered too. This extraordinary preserve could be a model that lends visibility and sets an example for needy preserves nearby and statewide. 

If you live in Springfield or Peoria or Bloomington or Champaign, or anywhere nearby, might you want to support this effort? (More than half a million people live within about a half-hour's drive.)

We hope a "Revis volunteer stewards community" could emerge. If you have questions and/or might be able to help in any way, let us know. You can reach Friends here and Steve Packard through "Comments or Questions" here.  

To organize and educate, the informational tour on the 17th will start with speakers at Dickson Mounds at 10:00 a.m. Then we'll caravan and arrive at Revis for tour about 11:00. 

  • At Dickson, Todd Strole will summarize the importance and needs of Illinois Nature Preserves and Revis specifically. (Todd is the new Nature Preserves director. When this blog first reported on the Nature Preserves and announced the Friends, that position had been vacant for five years. Todd has an exciting and crucial job.) 
  • Amy Doll will do much the same from her (similarly new) position as first Director of the Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves. 
  • Philip Juras will offer his compelling perspective as naturalist turned painter. He recently mounted a much-honored show at the Chicago Botanic Garden and currently has an exhibit at Dickson Mounds Museum. One of his paintings of Revis is below: 

Loess Slopes, Revis Hill Prairie, by Philip Juras. 
It's a rare view, a part of Revis with no threatening brush. 
"Brush had been there within the last ten years. I could see the stumps," Juras wrote. 

  • Then we'll caravan to Revis (arriving around 11:00 a.m.) and hike with experts - including Michael Wiant of the Illinois State Museum - through the preserve to the drop-dead-beautiful views from high-quality prairie at the top.
  • On the way back down we visit a brushed-over prairie area with long-time volunteer Lou Nelms. 

Can the losses at Revis be reversed? Some say it would take miracles. But such miracles are under way at other preserves, for example Langham Island and Somme Prairie Grove and potentially Bell Bowl Prairie, for three examples where the "M" word has recently been invoked. 

Would you like to be part of it? If so, you are so welcome!

This aerial outlines Revis as mapped by the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory.
A prioritized update is needed. Are there people who could and would want to help with that? 

Zed Moorehouse in the pristine center of Revis. Much of this fine rare prairie 
has been lost under the killing shade of invasive brush.
To recover and survive for the next generation, Revis needs our help.
Photo by Susan Hargrove 
White-banded crab spider on pale purple coneflower at Revis. When acres are lost to brush, animal and plant populations drop out. Restoring quality acreage increases sustainability. 
Photo by Angella Moorehouse. 

Dear busy, experienced stewardship volunteers and professionals, please let us know if you could help train people in preserve needs and techniques at Revis. A few dedicated people can make a huge difference.

Dear everyone else, please let us know if you might like to work at Revis.

Zed and Angella Moorehouse at Revis Hill Prairie.
Angella is Illinois Nature Preserves Commission staff for Region 4. But Revis in in Region 5, where she monitors butterflies as a volunteer, like you and I could be. It's fun and rewarding to build community to help nature. Otherwise, what will be left for Zed's generation and beyond? Let's do it!
Photo by Dan Moorehouse. 

The more than 600 Illinois Nature Preserves are the responsibility of nine regional staff. That averages more than 60 preserves each. Existing resources are not remotely sufficient to provide what's needed in most cases. Some preserves are owned by conservation organizations that may have staff, typically also spread very thin. If you are a potential stewardship volunteer, Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves and partner agencies will try to find time and resources to work with you. But we are spread thin ... doing our best ... which increases with your help.

Following the informational event on the 17th, a kick-off stewards event (cut brush and gather seeds) will be planned in coordination with interested people. Let us know your interests: You can reach Friends here and Steve Packard through "Comments or Questions" here.  

Endnotes
Endnote 1
We can blame or credit the founders of the Illinois Nature Preserve System. Nature was being lost so fast ... so little was left ... that they gambled. They rushed to create a system that would unite the efforts of state and local agencies, organizations, and individuals who care ... and to enroll sites in that system. Resources to manage the system would come, with public support. 

We citizens of Illinois can now be proud of more than 600 prairie, woodland, and wetland preserves, spread around this diverse state. But there are not remotely enough staff and resources to provide the care they badly need. 


Endnote 2
Ecosystem management is an emerging discipline. It needs more planning and supervision that it gets. More funding is very much needed, and yet there are also frequent reports of poorly executed contracts and lack of needed follow-up. More accountability is needed than is possible from over-burdened staff, who each need to supervise sixty or more preserves.  

Endnote 3
Expanded volunteer steward communities could contribute much more. Part of the problem is, again, lack of staff with the time and motivation to facilitate. A change in conservation culture is needed. Where successful, volunteer communities are key to much-needed conservation constituency. This new culture is emerging through sites and organizations like Shaw PrairieLangham Island, Plank Road PrairiesSomme Prairie GroveCitizens for Conservation,  and many others.

Acknowledgements
Thanks to Todd Strole, Eric Smith, Michael Wiant, Jim Herkert, Christa Christensen, Philip Juras, Amy Doll, and Lou Nelms for planning the event and holding the world together.  

Thanks to many for comments helping to improve the language and ideas in this post. 

Thanks for photos to Lou Nelms, Susan Hargrove and Angella and Dan Moorehouse.

Thanks to Cathy Garness, Eriko Kojima, and Amy Doll for proofing and edits.