|A Tallgrass Legacy|
Our First Big Issue!
January, 2009 - Vol 1, Issue 1
|Welcome to the first issue of "A Tallgrass Legacy"!
First, let me extend our thanks for your commitment to Tallgrass and for the passion you have shown for our environment. My name is Mike Fitzpatrick and I am the President of Tallgrass Restoration, LLC. We are extremely proud of the work we do on a daily basis to accomplish our mission: To restore the health, integrity, and beauty of our clients' land and water resources.
|About Tallgrass |
|Tallgrass Restoration, LLC is a registered corporation in Illinois and Wisconsin serving the Midwest for the past ten years. Our blueprint is simple: we hire and retain the best available talent; provide a stable, inviting, and safe work environment that contributes to our clients' success by allowing them to realize the best practices for a sustainable landscape. This winning combination yields positive results that allow us to prosper and perpetuate our business, while enhancing the overall environment.
Tallgrass works as a general contractor for large-scale ecosystem restoration projects with a diverse client base. Our partners include developers, corporate campuses, environmental engineers, construction companies, homeowners associations, landscapers, conservation and ecological not for profit groups, villages, forest preserves, and park districts.
Prairie, photo by Tallgrass Restoration staff
Our products and services consist of comprehensive ecological restoration, landscape architecture and design, native plant installation, erosion control and naturalized detention basins, prescribed fire, strategic planning and facilitation, vegetative assessments, environmental education, and environmental grant writing coordination services.
Improving the ecology and natural habitats found within the Midwest is a crucial focus of our experienced, dedicated professionals. Tallgrass staff utilizes best management practices to improve wetlands, woodlands, and prairies within both public and private settings. Paramount to us is the belief that our work benefits the larger environment in which we live and work, enriching the natural heritage of people, plants, and animals. Our environmental scientists and licensed professionals have the experience and qualifications to focus on restoring your property to its natural state.
Tallgrass' diverse staff is very active in community outreach sitting on a wide-array of committees including local ecosystem partnerships, Students in Free Enterprise, Illinois Contractors Association, the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, Chicago Wilderness Corporate Council, and the International Erosion Control Association.
For more than a decade, our personnel have dedicated themselves to bringing quality, award-winning ecological solutions to our client-base. More than any other factor, our reputation for quality, first-class service and integrity has been responsible for Tallgrass' continued growth and success.
Tallgrass' professionals are united by a common purpose: to enhance and sustain the Midwest's natural environments. I invite you to take a few minutes to explore our website, www.tallgrassrestoration.com
, to discover the diversity of our products and services and the quality of our projects, clients, and people.
|The Phenology of Restoration|
By Linda Yunker
Phenology is a segment of ecology focusing on the study of periodic plant and animal life-cycle events that are influenced by climate and seasonal change in the environment. Phenological events have been recorded, a tradition begun by Aldo in Leopold in 1936, at the Leopold family farm and shack.
Quotes from: A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There by Aldo Leopold.
January Thaw: "The months of the year, from January up to June, are a geometric progression in the abundance of distractions. In January one may follow a skunk track, or search for bands on the chickadees, or see what young pines the deer have browsed, or what muskrat houses the mink have dug, with only an occasional and mild digression into other doings January observation can be almost as simple and peaceful as snow, and almost as continuous as cold. There is time not only to see who has done what, but to speculate why."
January at Tallgrass finds the field crews out in the freezing, frozen landscapes of our public and privates lands clearing brush and applying herbicide to the cut stumps of invasive species such as buckthorn, honeysuckle, and multiflora rose. The frozen ground is conducive to bringing in the heavy equipment without damaging the areas. The Bobcat and its Timber Axe are working steady through the thick understory, clearing the way for new sprouts of bur oak, swamp white oak, and hickory trees to receive the sunlight they need to grow, flourish and reproduce. They are bundled up, layered in their winter clothes and personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure their safety and well being. The amazing part of January is to see how happy the crews are doing this work. The Operations guys cannot wait to get out there with their heavy equipment work, and the field crew's camaraderie during this time is an incredible testament to their commitment to our natural areas, clients, and Tallgrass. It is at this freezing, hardworking time of the year that the best of Tallgrass' people shine and flourish. They work to keep each other safe, stopping for breaks and lunches (homemade soup and pizza) so they are able to continue on through the forests and woodlands. This is a very visual time for them, as they can see the progress and healing every step of the way.
Mowing buckthorn, photo by Doug DeWitt
In the shop, there is a flurry of activities going on during this "slow" time. We are getting ready for the spring burn season. Operations is seeing that the equipment is ready and in good repair. ATVs are having tune ups and tires replaced. Water tanks are being checked for leaks and the pumps are serviced as to be up and running for the season. Fleet trucks are getting safety inspections and general preventive maintenance. Chainsaws are being sharpened, inventories are being done, herbicides are being ordered and properly stored, and improvements in our OSHA requirements are updated and initiated. Safety topics for safety meetings are updated and new topics are created. Training matrices for the employees are being reviewed for employee development programs for the new year too. New programs, products, and initiatives are being planned, created, or tried out.
In the office, the new year's budget is being tweaked, changes are made to our reporting processes, and work on the 2008 tax season begins. Office equipment is purchased and/or repaired; burn permits are applied for to be ready for the spring as well as developing an in-house plan to prioritize those burns. Project managers are contacting current clients to address their needs for 2009. What will stewardship cost this year? What new projects are they planning? And, it provides a chance for the client to review the projects and how they feel they are coming together. New and potential clients are contacted and presentations given.
Staff is busy with the start of workshops, seminars, and trade shows. We are ordering marketing materials, researching new events and opportunities. Each year Tallgrass will sponsor events and bring the exhibit booth out to programs. Outreach efforts continue with staff working on partnership committees creating events and providing technical assistance. Throughout the Midwest, we continue to reach out to our clients, colleagues, and the community to educate and promote ecological restoration and the importance of native plants.
Requests for Proposals (RFP) will start coming in; it is time to look for the NEIWCA, and Chicago Wilderness' small grants program. Guidelines and applications are being researched and timelines are created. Clients are being consulted, which project would they like to see done this year? What needs to be completed before the grant writing can take place?
And, our front yard prairie lays brown, russet, and gray, dormant and waiting out the cold. Chickadees, cardinals, and juncos are regular visitors during this time.
Tallgrass' Front Yard Prairie, Doug DeWitt
Good Oak: " We let the dead veteran season for a year in the sun it could no longer use, and then on a crisp winter's day we laid a newly filed saw to its bastioned base. Fragrant little chips of history spewed from the saw cut, and accumulated on the snow before each kneeling sawyer. We sensed that these two piles of sawdust were something more than wood: that they were the integrated transect of a century; that our saw was biting its way, stroke by stroke, decade by decade, into the chronology of a lifetime, written in concentric annual rings of good oak."
February at Tallgrass there is clearing brush and fire preparations going on. The brush clearing will need to be completed this month, before the spring thaw. Fire preparations include creating the firebreaks and distributing fire notification letters throughout the neighborhoods and adjacent properties. Some sites may be able to be burned in these winter months, especially if one of the goals is to minimize the potential damage to reptiles and amphibians on a particular site. The field crews are enjoying standing by the burning brush piles to stay warm and using the fire to roast hot dogs for lunch and treading through the snow.
Prairie headfire, photo by Tallgrass Restoration staff
Equipment purchases are being finalized for the new year's needs. Ongoing maintenance and repairs are being finalized and ready for spring. Trucks are fixed, cleaned, painted, and are ready to go. PPE for the burn season is repaired or purchased.
Managers are working to create new training programs for employees, or investigating outside vendors for training opportunities. All staff will be certified in first aid and CPR during this month.
Marketing receives a lot of attention during this time also. Orders are placed to replenish stock; current marketing materials are scrutinized for updates and changes. New marketing materials are designed and created.
In the field, the crews are actually doing some seed installation behind the clearing work if the weather permits during this time. But mostly the morale is lifting because burn season is close. You should experience the elation on burn days here. Everyone is invited to burn if they want - management and office staff. This is an exciting part of their workload. Exciting- and meaningful as it is time for warmth, for the spring and its renewal.
Our front yard prairie is hosting the winter birds still, and the snow has it compacted and leaning towards the hard earth, we are all anxious now to see the spring and its renewal.
Baby cardinals outside our office, Doug DeWitt
The Geese Return: "One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring. A cardinal, whistling spring to a thaw but later finding himself mistaken, can retrieve his error by resuming his winter silence. A chipmunk, emerging for a sunbath but finding a blizzard, has only to go back to bed. But a migrating goose, staking two hundred miles of black night on the chance of finding a hold in the lake, has no easy chance for retreat. His arrival carries the conviction of a prophet who has burned his bridges."
Ok, here we go - springtime. No longer do any of us have time to dream, reflect and plan. It is time to go to work; time to execute the plans that will take us through the busy seasons to come. The project managers and foremen are busy prioritizing clients, scheduling equipment, and ensuring all employees have all the things they need to start the spring season. Do they have a current herbicide applicator or operator license? Have they been to training on prescribed fire? Which ones are new to the process and which processes will the foremen work with them on this year?
The crews will begin herbiciding cool season invasive species. It is time to hit the garlic mustard and reed canary grass. Native trees, shrubs and seed will be ordered and planted. The burn preparation continues, letters going out; permits being gathered; firebreaks created and the equipment is being scheduled for the jobs.
The crews during this time are also finishing up those clearing jobs, working to beat the spring thaw. They are working by hand using chainsaws and backpacks to ensure that sensitive areas are not damaged during the spring thaws by the heavier equipment. It is time to start the coir log installations too. Projects are double-checked to ensure the correct amount of materials is ordered. Calls are placed to check prices and availability of materials. When the coir logs are delivered at Tallgrass everyone jumps up to help. From the president to the consultants and office staff, we all help with the deliveries. Operations will direct it so that each project requiring coir logs can be separated and inventoried to ensure the crews will have what they need when they get to the worksite.
For our homeowners association clients, the project managers and sales managers are attending meetings and providing feedback on projects and next steps. Education programs are given to the residents at this time to convey what activities and results were accomplished in the past year, and what will be happening in their neighborhoods and natural areas in this year. It provides the residents an opportunity to talk to their project manager and the professionals in the field.
Bid preparation is an ongoing activity. Phone calls are made to ensure material costs and availability, certificates of insurance and bonding is being done. It is comforting to listen to the conversations that take place as sales and project managers pull together our bids. What is the project? What is the ecological focus? What is the scope of work? How many crew members would need to be on the job? Which ones would they like to lead it? How much does that cost? Do they agree with the specs on plant choices? Not always, but it is always discussed, and you learn more everyday listening to them talk about it.
I have a great seat, you see. In an office of six people, I look out at our front yard prairie and listen to the conversations. It is educating, inspiring, and comforting. We all breathe a sigh of relief when the bid goes out the door, and celebrate when Tallgrass captures the project!
Photo by Steve Phillips, Skunk Cabbage
And, the snow and ice is starting to melt, the front yard prairie looks dark, but it will not be that way much longer.
The Phenology of Restoration to be continued. . .
|The Plant Corner|
Welcome to the plant corner. We all work towards the eradication of invasive species and invasive weed control management. It is the purpose of this section of the newsletter to promote the use of native plants as well as educate about invasive species.
Invasive non-native plants are a serious threat to native species, communities, and ecosystems. They compete with and displace native plants, animals, and other organisms. They alter ecosystem functions and cycles significantly, hybridize with native species, and promote other invaders.
Native: Lobelia cardinalis
Lobelia cardinalis or its common name of Cardinal Flower attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. It is found in wetlands, stream edges, and wet spots in prairies. The unique, bright red flower blooms from late July to early October on a single flower stalk that may reach over 3 feet in height. There are multiple flowers on the stalk, each with an upright tubular structure holding the reproductive organs and five drooping petals below. The alternate, lanceolate leaves are up to 6" long and are coarsely toothed and sometimes curl upwards at the edges. The stems to leaves are rough to hairy.
Lobelia cardinalis, photo by Tallgrass Restoration staff
The structure of the plant looks similar to great blue lobelia when not in bloom. Fire Pink and royal catchfly both have bright red flowers but unlike cardinal flower these species of Silene have five petals arranged in a radially symmetrical pattern.
Invasive: Alliaria petiolata
Alliaria petiolata or its common name of garlic mustard will grow on sites ranging from full shade to light sun, moist floodplains to dry, sandy forests. Disturbed forest and riparian communities are most susceptible to invasion. Garlic mustard will spread from disturbed areas to colonize undisturbed sites. Floodplain areas are particularly vulnerable since seeds are easily transported in water.
Garlic mustard is a European biennial herb introduced as food or a medicinal herb. It was first recorded in the U.S. in 1868 in Long Island, New York. By 1991, this plant had spread to 28 Midwestern and northeastern states. Garlic mustard gets its name from its characteristic odor of garlic when the plant is crushed and its mustard-like appearance. Garlic mustard is self or cross-pollinated and a single plant can populate an entire site. Adult plants set and disperse seed in late spring (May-June) the second year and produce 165-868 seeds. The seeds are dormant for 20 months germinating in early spring of year four.
First year rosettes extend to 6 inches high and remain through the winter onto the second year, and are round to kidney-shaped on short stems. Second year flowering stems may reach 3 feet. Leaves on flowering plants are alternate and are large-toothed, triangular in shape and approximately 2-4 inches wide. Flowers grow in clusters at the top of the stems. Each flower has four white petals, blooming from mid-April to late May. Occasionally, some plants will bloom again in July-August. Fruit is a long, 1.0 to 2.5 inch green capsule which is produced in late spring to early summer. The capsules burst open when mature and a ballistic dispersal can send seeds several meters.
Invasive garlic mustard monoculture, photo by Doug DeWitt
Garlic mustard is distinguished from other woodland herb species by its characteristic garlic odor. As the odor gradually dissipates by autumn, first-year rosettes may be mistaken for violets.
Hand pulling is effective for small populations of garlic mustard, since plants pull up easily in moist soil. If plants have completed flowering, they should be bagged and disposed of to prevent seed dispersal. Care should be taken to minimize soils disturbance. Cutting is effective for medium to large sized populations. Cut stems when in flower (late spring/early summer) at ground level and obliterate the entire plant to prevent seeds from forming. This technique will result in almost total mortality of existing plants. Treatment should be continued annually until the seed bank is exhausted.
Herbicide is effective on populations where mechanical control measures are impractical. Apply a 2.5% solution of glyphosate (Aquaneat/Roundup). Do not apply so heavily that herbicide drips off the leaf surface. Treatment is effective and safest when applied to rosettes in the early spring or late fall when most other non-target vegetation is dormant.
Spring burns appear to reduce the density of adult plants somewhat more effectively than fall burns. A program of repeated seasonal burning over several years is most effective in deterring garlic mustard and enhancing growth of native ground-layer vegetation.
- Did you know that Illinois has a Conservation Stewardship Program administered through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources? Though this program a landowner could receive a reduction in real estate tax assessments in return for the commitment to not develop the land for the next 10 years and to restore and manage the property. Landowners who wish to receive the special valuation for unimproved land provided by this law are required to prepare a Conservation Management Plan according to rules developed by the Department of Natural Resources.
Land eligible for enrollment includes:
- Five or more contiguous acres of unimproved land-unimproved land means woodlands, prairie, wetlands or other vacant and undeveloped land that is not used for any residential or commercial purpose that materially disturbs the land.
- Land in a forestry management plan under Section 10-150 of the Property Tax Code
- Land registered or encumbered by conservation rights under Section 10-166 of the Property Tax Code.
Land NOT eligible for enrollment includes:
To read the rules determined by the IDNR, go to:
- Tallgrass Restoration Design has been created to provide our clients with an experienced team of designers and technicians to turn your dreams into reality. Our team has a vast array of experiences in campus planning, municipal site design, residential development and small scale garden and residential design. Services include site inventories and analysis, municipal code and ordinance research, tree preservations and surveys, concept and design development, construction documentation and specification, and construction observation and/or administration. You can contact Ryan Templeton at 847-925-9830 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the new Tallgrass Restoration Design.
The Northeastern Illinois Wetland Conservation Account (NEIWCA) RFP will be out mid-January. The applications will be due March 9, 2009 with site visits required by February 22, 2009. For more information, please contact Linda Yunker. Or you can find the RFP online at www.fws.gov/midwest/Chicago/NEIWCA.htm
- Congratulations to the Sanctuary of Lake Bluff, Lake Bluff, IL and to Valley Lakes in Round Lake, IL on receiving the Lake County Stormwater Commission's Watershed Management Board grants. Valley Lakes' grant will provide funding for retrofitting two ponds connected to a high quality wetland area that is being restored. Sanctuary's grant will help to fund the retrofitting of a retention pond. We would like to thank the Stormwater Commission board members and staff for their support with these projects.
Tallgrass is proud to announce a three-year consulting contract with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) for eight sites located at various facilities throughout Cook County. These sites are in various stages of native prairie landscaping restoration and totals 60.75 acres. Tallgrass will make site management recommendations, provide contractor oversight, conduct annual vegetation surveys and Floristic Quality Analysis, and provide staff and community education programs. Tallgrass is very excited to have been awarded this prestigious contract and look forward to working with MWRD in the spring of 2009.
A very special congratulations to Stacy and Jordan Rowe from our Milton office for the birth of their daughter, Kayla Brooke Rowe. Kayla was born on November 15, 2008 at 11:47 a.m. Kayla weighed 6 lbs. and 10 oz. Both Stacy and Kayla are doing great, although we really miss Stacy and her expertise at the office, we wish them a great time together.
|Conferences and Workshops|
Prescribed Fire: Learning from the Past, Planning for the Future, January 28-30, 2009 held in Stevens Point, WI. Check out at www.prescribedfire.org
The Illinois Parks and Recreation Association's Annual Conference will be held at the Hilton Hotel, Chicago, IL on January 29-31, 2009. Check it out at www.ilparksconference.com
The Wild Things Conference will be held at the University of Illinois Chicago Campus on February 7, 2009. Check it out at www.habitatproject.org/wildthings2009/
The Invasive Plant Association of Wisconsin's 2009 Conference will be held in Madison, WI on February 21, 2009. Check it out at www.ipaw.org
The Midwest Land Trust Alliance Annual Conference will be held in Madison, Wisconsin on March 12-13, 2009. Check it out at www.lta.org
The 2009 Wisconsin Lakes Convention will be held in Green Bay, WI on March 18, 19, and 20th, 2009. Check it out at www.uwsp.edu/cnr/uwexlakes/conventions/
Partners in Conservation
Tallgrass works with many partners throughout the year. This corner of the newsletter is to be designated to recognize those partners and all the good works they do. This quarter's Partner in Conservation is Deb Perryman, Environmental Science teacher, at Elgin High School, in Elgin, IL.
Deb was the Illinois Teacher of the Year in 2005. She has taught at Elgin High School for 14 years. Deb believes in and supports Service Learning in the classroom. Some examples of the good work she does are:
- The Mighty Acorns Program. Deb's high school students are trained on the Mighty Acorns program and objectives, and then they teach the younger students and run the program. Deb has over 6,000 students a year come to Elgin High School for this program.
- Elgin High School supports a 40-acre nature area that is used by the environmental science students. Being in the Poplar Creek watershed, the students monitor the water quality yearly and document the data.
- Crisis in Center City. Every year, Deb's students are given a scenario that the local landfill is about to close. The students work in teams to determine the best solution for this issue. The kids then present their solutions to a mock village board, consisting of professionals in the municipal and environmental fields. They are then ranked by the board members on there knowledge, presentation, and solutions.
- Elgin High School and Deb Perryman were featured on PBS in the Edens Lost and Found: How Ordinary Citizens are Restoring Our Great American Cities. Edens Lost and Found focuses on the pathway to sustainability by chronicling the efforts of ordinary Americans doing their best to bring hope and beauty to our cities through grassroots restoration and care for the local environments.
- Each year Deb provides presentations and workshops for teachers and informal educators on Service Learning and on her programs at Elgin High School.
Elgin High School students speak 23 different languages and are part of the second largest school district in the state of Illinois. The challenges faced at the school are huge, but Deb overcomes them everyday with the help of nature, her passion for environment, and an internal need to make sure all her students leave her classes better prepared to take care of the earth, either by entering the natural resources field, or by being knowledgeable on important issues. After all, these are our future decision-makers.
This school will be the last year for Mighty Acorns and Service Learning at Elgin High School as all funding has been cut from District U-46's budget. It costs between $6,500 to $8,000 a year to run the programs for supplies and transportation. If you would like more information on Deb's environmental science programs, you can contact her at:
Photo by Jim Yunker, Tallgrass Staff attends an Eden's Lost and Found Workshop April 2008
Tallgrass is honored to be counted as a supporter and partner with Deb and Elgin High School. Our thanks go out to Deb Perryman and Elgin High School for caring for the Poplar Creek watershed, the City of Elgin, School District U-46, and our good earth.
|Tallgrass Contact Information|
We hope you have enjoyed reading this newsletter; we look forward to bringing you more in the upcoming months.
Your Friends at Tallgrass Restoration, LLC
© 2009 by Tallgrass Restoration, LLC. All rights reserved.