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The Prairie State. The phrase evokes images of
broad, unbroken landscapes, sweeping vistas, and a dazzling display
of wildflowers and tallgrass that once covered most of the state.
Today, roads, buildings, and agricultural fields have changed the
prairie into a source of economic wealth for our society, and less
than one hundredth of one percent of the original prairie remains
in Illinois. Glimpses of the past, however, are revealed as one
drives down the highways or walks the country roads of this state.
The flat to rolling land, a defining characteristic of most of the
state, echoes the past, when the vast, treeless expanse of prairie
so impressed early explorers. Big bluestem, the state grass, and
prairie wildflowers appear occasionally at the edges of fields and
roads, and in small, uncultivated patches of land. The future of
the prairie landscape lies with those who will decide how to
preserve and restore it, carefully striking a balance between what
once was and the needs of modern society.
This web exhibit is about prairies, prairie development, and the persistence of prairie in the state of Illinois. The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is the focus of discussion. The restoration of tallgrass prairie is the goal of scientists, volunteers, land managers, and a society that is willing to make the commitment to heal and restore the land. Many of the native elements of the tallgrass prairie exist at Midewin, and the ongoing restoration at the site represents our nations commitment to the restoration of one of this countrys most impressive ecosystems.
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