Tallgrass Restoration, LLC
A Tallgrass LegacySummer News
July 2010 - Vol. 2 Iss. 3
Greetings!Tallgrass logo
Summer has finally arrived, and just like the Honey Bees, so has our busy season! Compass Plant, Purple Prairie Clover, Culver's Root and Michigan Lilies are in full bloom, and our diligent work crews are braving the hot and humid weather. We have many articles for you to read and exciting news to share! Thank you to all of our newsletter subscribers, and please feel free to send your comments to:
 - Your Friends
at Tallgrass
Client Profile: Whippoorwill Farm Preserve
Prairie VillageWhippoorwill Farm Preserve (WFP) is a seven acre restoration site located at the busy corner of Rt. 60 & Riverwoods Road (near the I-94 toll) in Mettawa, Illinois.
The Plant Corner
Virginia BluebellThis edition of The Plant Corner highlights the native species:
 - Blazing Star
and the Invasive Species:
 - Phragmities
The Food Corner
Recipes! Check out Tracy's Treats and this issue's Edible Plants article.

Tallgrass Prairie Open House 2010 

Guess???The Milton office hosted its annual Prairie Open House on June 12th. Guided prairie tours were the highlight of the event. More...    

Plant I.D. Quiz
ID QuizTake a minute to test your ability to recognize native plants.  The quiz is now "online" - try it as many times as you wish.  Good Luck!

Tallgrass Builds Bridges 

Guess???Tallgrass set out to build not one, but TWO wooden bridges at the Town of Linn Nature Park.

Nutrient Farming
In keeping with Tallgrass' aim to be in the forefront of emerging ecosystem markets, we have been lending help and expertise to the Chicago based not-for-profit The Wetlands Initiative in exploring the concept of nutrient farming. More... 
Make - A - Difference Day Rain Garden at Trippe Lake Park
A rain garden was planted Friday, April 30th at Trippe Lake Park Shelter in Whitewater, Wisconsin. The rain garden installation was planned for Make-A-Difference Day, which is a national day of helping others held annually each spring. More... 
Freshmen for Freshwater
fr729A group of college students volunteered to come out on a Saturday morning to learn about and actively engage in stream restoration as part of the new UW-Whitewater "Freshmen for Freshwater" program. More... 
Ask the Ecologist
Ask your friendly neighborhood Tallgrass Ecologist that eco-question you've always wanted to ask.
More Articles and Links 
Client Profile 
by Noelle Hoeffner. Photos by Tallgrass Staff.

Our clients are the backbone of our company and our existing partnerships help us to grow. To help maintain our consistently high level of client service and satisfaction, we will be highlighting a variety of client projects in this newsletter and editions to come. If you are a Tallgrass client, past or present, and would like to be featured in a future Client Profile, please contact: customer.relations@tallgrassrestoration.com.

Whippoorwill Farm Preserve, A Mettawa Gateway Preserve
Mettawa Open Lands Association (MOLA)
Cheryl Pytlarz, President
103 Indian Ridge Rd
Mettawa, IL 60045
Whipoorwill Farm Preserve after buckthorn removal.
Whippoorwill Farm Preserve (WFP) is a seven acre restoration site located at the busy corner of Rt. 60 & Riverwoods Road (near the I-94 toll) in Mettawa, Illinois.  Every day, over 30,000 cars pass by the site.   For years, these travelers passed by a buckthorn thicket at a density of one tree per square foot.  Today the site, in the 4th growing season since restoration began, serves not only as protected open space, but also as an experimental project.  The seven acres have been divided into three sections. One-half acre is under scientific research by Research Professor, Liam Heneghan and graduate student, Lauren Umek from DePaul University. The remaining acreage, being restored by two distinctly different methods, is divided equally between Tallgrass Restoration, LLC (Tallgrass) and another contractor.  Tallgrass mowed down the buckthorn in their section and incorporated the debris into the soil (similar to farming practices), returning it to a healthy pasture as it was for decades past.  Native seed will be introduced this fall. As far back in time as a 1939 aerial photograph shows, this site was in pasture and grazed until 1993 when it was left fallow until restoration began in 2006.  
In 2006, Tallgrass' Project Manager, Doug DeWitt, was contracted to provide restoration for the site.  Since then, Doug has worked closely with the individuals of MOLA in order to restore its section of WPF according to the management plan provided.
Tallgrass client and president of MOLA, Cheryl Pytlarz is the site's director.  As a resident of Mettawa and a conservationist, she was interested in restoring WFP long before the restoration actually began.  "Cheryl has been great to work with," said Doug, "she understands the need for ongoing maintenance." When I asked her if she would summarize her feelings about our services she said "Tallgrass has been cooperative and flexible with this project."
As stated above, when the management plan was adopted for the site by MOLA, it consisted of three sections: DePaul University, Tallgrass and the other contractor.  The one-half acre DePaul University section is under research by Liam Heneghan and Lauren Umek.  In the DePaul University section, there is a total of 45 test plots, comprised of nine testing methods each being tested in five plots.  Liam and Lauren are testing the effect on the soil nutrients and microorganisms based on the different restoration methods.  Two of the methods include those used by the contractors.
Tallgrass is restoring their section in the fashion titled by Liam as "The MOLA Way."  This is the process of mowing invasive brush and destroying the roots and seed bank through their incorporation deep into the soil.  Non-native pasture grasses are then sown and the pasture is allowed to grow and be burned for four growing seasons.  Native seed will be introduced this fall after the pasture is killed.  This approach slowly returns the landscape back into a native plant community by having a pasture transition, rather than forcing the landscape from a dense buckthorn thicket into a native plant community.  This process is done to remove nitrogen from the soil.  Soils that were previously infested with buckthorn generally contain higher levels of nitrogen than soils with native species and the belief is that nitrogen-rich soils inhibit the growth of native plants.
The other section is being restored using the more traditional Best Management Practices (BMP) method that usually involves minimal soil disturbance by removing invasive woody brush by cutting, stacking and burning it on site. Native seed is then sown. Removal of invasive species by way of BMP also involves spot herbiciding and selective mowing of invasive species and periodically prescribed burns.
During the summer of 2008 Doug DeWitt from Tallgrass accompanied several others while participating in MOLA's "Spirit of Mettawa" Yard Walk.  The walk's goal was to educate the public about the restoration activities taking place at WFP.  Doug was able to answer any questions the residents had about the Whippoorwill Farm site and the restoration Tallgrass has been contracted to do at the Farm.
Doug DeWitt talking to a local resident at MOLA's "Spirit of Mettawa's" Yard Walk Summer 2008.
Client Pro
MOLA actively restores WFP in between contractor visits through its periodic "Spirit of Mettawa" Area work-days.  Community members and families, and HSBC  employees volunteer to help with the restoration efforts.  The work days for the 2010 growing season are listed below.  Bring your family and friends out this summer to help continue the management of the restored site and learn about all the great things Tallgrass, MOLA and others are doing to create a beautiful WFP landscape.





Wed, 7/21

Wood chip path

 1-4 PM

Wed, 9/8

Seed collecting

 1-4 PM

Wed, 10/6

Seed sowing


Sat. 10/9

Seed collecting

Visit Mettawaopenlands.org  for more details. 

In 2005, MOLA, in partnership with the Village of Mettawa, adopted the WFP site for research and restoration.  Stephen Christy of Lake Forest Open Lands Association has been MOLA's technical consultant through the life of the project.
MOLA is a not-for profit organization originally formed by a small group of interested residents and the 1989 Mayor of Mettawa, Ed Fitzsimons. Since then the organization has gained 35 Mettawa family members and four corporate donors. "Mettawa Open Lands Association promotes quality open space within the Village to maintain its rural use and encourages protection of public and private open lands."  Whippoorwill Farm is owned by the Village of Mettawa.  The Village funds 60% of the restoration costs, and MOLA funds 40%.

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The Plant Corner
by Noelle Hoeffner
Coefficient of Conservatism:
Plants of the Chicago Region contains numerical information regarding the "value" of specific plant species.  This numerical information is referred to as the "coefficient of conservatism" or simply as the "C value."  The number ranges from 0-10 and is representative of how likely a plant specimen is to be found in a remnant native community (undisturbed by any human action or catastrophic event).  The higher the number, the more probable it is that a specific species could be found in a remnant community.  It should be noted that this number is not an indication of how rare a species is, but rather it attempts to describe the probability of finding a certain plant growing in a remnant community.  Plants with lower C values, such as Fireweed (Erechtites hieracifolia), are more likely to be found in disturbed areas that have recently experienced events that negatively impacted the vegetative community such as a fire or a flood.  Plants with higher C values, such as Purple Prairie Clover (Petalostemum purpurea), are more likely to be found in stable plant communities that have not recently been subjected to disturbance.  It is important to note that these values are based upon plant communities as they appeared before settlement.  For this reason, invasive plants are not assigned a C value because they were not part of the native landscape prior to the period of settlement.  

Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya)
C-value = 8
Blazing Star 
Photo by Tallgrass Staff

This is a native perennial plant that can get up to 2-5' tall, unbranched.  The flower heads are in a dense spike on top of the flower and could be anywhere between 6-8" tall.  Blazing Star is often found in upland mesic to dry prairies and prefers full sun.  The flower head consists of 5-10 purplish pink flowers with cylindrical, stalk less flower heads.  The size and showiness of the flowers can depend on the local ecotype.  Their flowers are produced late July through September.  The flowers bloom from tip of the spike, downward.  This way you are always able to determine what stages the plant is at in bloom.  The leaves are linear and each leaf has a prominent central vein.  Both the leaves and stem have visibly short, stiff hairs. 
There are six different species of Blazing Star, all part of the Asteraceae family.  The flowers are pollinated primarily by long-tongued bees and butterflies. This plant is a goldfinch favorite.

Common Reed or Phragmities (Phragmities australis)
Common Reed 
Photo by Tallgrass Staff

Phragmities is a tall grass that can reach up to 20 feet.  This plant is commonly found in marshes or along road sides in swales and ditches.  It tends to form dense stands, displacing native species.  Although the seed head is dense, the seed production and viability has much less of an impact than the root systems as far as reproduction.  The roots grow by way of rhizome sending numerous up shoots per root, producing several different plants.  This is why this species poses such a threat to our native habitat and is so hard to get rid of.

There are many strains of phragmities, 11 are considered native to the United States.  The native species is rare and hard to differentiate from the invasive species.  Natives grow more scattered than the non-native strain. 

Phragmities can be great at stabilizing shores but also tends to clog waterways and shade out native aquatic plants.  The rapid spread of phragmities came with European colonization.  Water carries the root fragments downstream. 

Management: Aquatic - safe Glyphosate herbicides can be applied to the stumps after cutting down the stalks.  A hand-wicking method should be used when in the presence of native plants.  A prescribed burn will help facilitate the management of the phragmities.  

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The Food Corner
Tracy's Treats

by Tracy Runice 


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Guess???1 lb strawberries, fresh or frozen, sliced
1 lb rhubarb, fresh, diced
2 tbsp butter
6 tbsp sugar
1/8 c strawberry juice or water
1 ˝ tbsp cornstarch
7 tbsp sugar
1/8 tea salt
1 tbsp butter

Thaw berries if frozen, drain, saving 1/8 cup juice for later.
Sauté rhubarb in 2 tbsp butter and 6 tbsp sugar until softened.
Combine cornstarch and strawberry juice or water until smooth. Add to rhubarb and simmer until thickened.
Remove from heat, add sugar, salt and butter and combine until butter is melted. Cool completely.

Fill prepared pie pan, top with second crust, and bake at 425° for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cover outer crust with tin foil half way through baking to keep from becoming too brown.


Cool completely before cutting and serving. Top with fresh whipped cream.
Makes one-9 inch pie.


Blackberry Muffins

10 oz cake flour
Muffins10 oz all purpose flour, sifted
10 oz sugar
1.25 oz baking powder
0.25 oz salt
3 eggs, beaten
14 oz milk
0.50 oz vanilla paste
8 oz butter, melted
12 oz blackberries, fresh, whole
Measure and combine dry ingredients.
Measure and combine wet ingredients.
Combine wet and dry ingredients until mixed.
Fold in blackberries.
Bake in muffin tins at 400° for 30 minutes or until lightly brown.
Makes 3 dozen muffins
Chef's Bio: Tracy Runice received her culinary training and degree from the world renowned Kendall College in Chicago.
Tracy Runice
Edible Plants
by Matt Smith 
Common Milkweed (Asclepias Syriaca)
Milkweed blossoms are a great all-around green eaten by itself or in soups.  The blossoms should be collected young when fuzzy and unopened (i.e. not blooming).  If you are having trouble finding this plant, it is most common on roadsides or old fields.  Once you have collected enough of the young blossoms, you should throw them in a pot of boiling water for about a minute and drain the water.  Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to boil them a second or third time (Thayer, 2010).  Now you are ready to add them to a soup, serve them with butter, or eat them as they are.  If you really enjoy this recipe and are saddened with the waning of the harvest, have no fear. . . the emergent seed pods should be ready to eat soon and can be prepared in the same way; just harvest them young.
Nature's Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer, 2010

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Tallgrass Prairie Open House 2010

by Tracy Runice. Photos by Nick Bisco.
The Milton office hosted its annual Prairie Open House on June 12th. Guided prairie tours were the highlight of our event with over 100 guests venturing out with our plant identification experts through the farm's 220 acres of tallgrass prairie. Guests had the option of taking the standard one hour tour or a speedier 30 minute version. Surprisingly, many opted to take both! Staff Greeter, Cindy, said she met guests who have made our prairie walk an annual outing, attending each of the last four years!
A tour in progress. 
Steve Yost, Peter Layton, Erin Kocourek, Chris Kaplan and Ron Adams (from left to right) getting ready to lead a prairie tour.
Some local exhibitors joined Tallgrass in the effort to educate about ecological restoration. They included Hoo's Woods, The Prairie Enthusiasts, the Wisconsin DNR, and the Wisconsin Woodland Owner's Association.  The Milton FFA club also attended and sold snacks and drinks.
Tallgrass employee Catherine Haigh and Smokey the Bear greet the public.
A scavenger hunt sent the guests on a search for answers at each of the exhibitors' booths. Completed cards were turned in for a chance to win a hand crafted blue bird box.
Chris Kaplan points out and describes the native prairie plant Spiderwort.
Native prairie plant samples were handed out as a Thank You to all our guests.  Guests had the choice of Lavender Hyssop, Nodding Pink Onion, Wild Senna, and the always popular, Red Milkweed.   Any of which would be a colorful addition to their own native garden and a reminder of their visit to ours.
Guess???First time staffer, Erin, stated, "Assisting with the prairie tours gave me a chance to share Tallgrass' passion with the public, and to pass on precious knowledge about a rapidly disappearing habitat. I can't wait until next year!"
Thanks to all who made this year's event happen! See you next year!
Raffle prize winners of hand crafted blue bird boxes:
Craig & Julie Fischer, Janesville, WI
Art & Elaine Koenig, Burlington, WI
Kim Karow, Fort Atkinson, WI
Ben Oster, Oak Park, IL

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Tallgrass Builds Bridges

by Tracy Runice. Photos by Tallgrass Staff.
Tallgrass set out to build not one, but TWO wooden bridges at the Town of Linn Nature Park. The following is an excerpt from our Facebook photo gallery which can be found HERE.
A small creek circling through Nature Park is prepped for the installation of two bridges. The bridges will be able to accommodate hikers and horseback riders as they venture through the park.
Footpads are planted firmly on either creek bank and steel support beams are maneuvered atop. The disturbed soil from the installation and the remaining footprint of these bridges will be minimal, perfect for a natural area.
Next the lumber. It's starting to take shape!
415 pieces on each bridge. Seen here volunteer Chris M. (left) and Tallgrass' Ron Adams (right).
Our own master carpenter, Aaron Hocking, finishes up the railings.
Done! Two solid additions to the park. Amazing!
Double amazing!!

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Nutrient Farming
by Clare Kralovec
In keeping with Tallgrass' aim to be in the forefront of emerging ecosystem markets, we have been lending help and expertise to the Chicago based not-for-profit The Wetlands Initiative in exploring the concept of nutrient farming.  A nutrient farm is a large scale, restored riverine wetland managed to reduce nutrient levels.  Managed in a particular way, the wetlands remove nutrients from the water.   It is an alternative and natural way to remove excess nutrients from our waterways, rather than steel and concrete plants. 
Nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, conveyed by streams and rivers to the Mississippi River and thence to the Gulf of Mexico cause hypoxia in coastal ecosystems such as the Gulf of Mexico and other human health problems.
Nutrients are powerful elements; they can radically increase our agricultural productivity and keep our lawns green.  However, when too much of them reach our rivers and streams, they threaten human health and choke out aquatic life.  High levels of nitrogen and phosphorus can cause algal blooms.   In turn, these blooms can produce "dead zones" where most aquatic life cannot survive.  Scientists have also linked high level nutrients in waterways to bladder cancer and blue-baby syndrome.
Although a large percentage of nutrients enter the streams and rivers by runoff from fertilizers and animal waste, a significant portion also enters as a result of discharge from industries and water treatment plants.  The state and federal governments, realizing that it is difficult to regulate runoff,  are now moving toward imposing stricter standards on what industries and municipalities can discharge into our waterways. 
Once the state and federal agencies impose stricter standards, industrial dischargers and treatment plants will need to find a way to remove the nutrients they discharge from the waterways.  Nutrient farms offer both a more cost effective and more environmentally sensitive way to remove nutrients.  The Wetlands Initiative, with Tallgrass' assistance, is exploring the development of nutrient farms, along with a new ecosystem market to purchase and sell nutrient credits.  That is, a nutrient farm would create "credits" based on the amount of nutrients it removes.  It could then sell those "credits" to nutrient dischargers so that they could meet the required standards.  In effect, the dischargers would be paying for someone else to clean up after them.  In this instance, that is a positive thing because the "cleaning up" would happen by natural processes rather than through the construction of steel and concrete plants, while also creating habitat and recreational space. 
For more information on nutrient farming, visit The Wetlands Initiative website:

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Make - A - Difference Day Rain Garden at Trippe Lake Park
by Chris Kaplan. Photos by Tallgrass staff. 
A rain garden was planted Friday, April 30th at Trippe Lake Park Shelter in Whitewater, Wisconsin.  It was funded through a grant called Freshmen for Freshwater given by the Regional Workforce Alliance of Southeastern Wisconsin. The goal of this grant is to introduce freshmen and other students to water quality related issues within our region.  Linda Reid, associate professor of business law at the UW-Whitewater secured the grant and had the idea of creating the rain garden to prevent rainwater runoff from a newly constructed picnic pavilion from entering Trippe Lake.  Linda contacted Chris Kaplan, Project Manager with Tallgrass, to assist with the rain garden design and installation.  The rain garden installation was planned for Make-A-Difference Day, which is a national day of helping others held annually each spring.  The goal is to clean up the city of Whitewater while building relationships between the citizens of the community.
trippe4   trippe3 
Chris Kaplan unloads flats of plants for the rain garden while two more Kaplans help out.

The crew, which consisted primarily of UW-Whitewater students, staff, and members of the Whitewater Parks Department, created the depression to store the runoff, installed over 1,350 native prairie/wetland plants, created a boulder retaining wall, and mulched the entire area.  At one point there were over 20 students digging, hauling, planting, interacting, and all the while learning about the benefits of water infiltration and the planting of native species.  The event provided students a hands-on learning experience while benefiting the water quality of the nearby lake and beautifying the landscape for generations of park goers.
Students and volunteer installing prairie plants.

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Freshmen for Freshwater
by Carrie Van Lanen-Raygo. Photos by Tallgrass staff. 
It was a rainy, cold morning and when the vans pulled up I could see that the college students were tired, probably from partying the night before.  But it didn't take long for them to reanimate, start asking questions and begin a day of hard work.  This group of college students that volunteered to come out on a Saturday morning to learn about and actively engage in stream restoration along a creek that feeds into Dyer Lake, Wisconsin was part of the new UW-Whitewater "Freshmen for Freshwater" program.

fresh01   fresh02
 Two University of Wisconsin-Whitewater students pose for a photo in between hauling and stacking
 brush cut by fellow participants.
The Freshmen for Freshwater program was developed as part of a bigger effort to manage water resources in the greater Milwaukee Area.  The University collaborated with the Milwaukee 7 Water Council in an effort to develop and fill a need for new professionals in the growing industry of water management.  The program is cross-disciplinary, composed of students from many different degree areas including business, law, and biology.  The University has recently created a degree focusing on freshwater, and the Freshmen for Freshwater program helps to raise students' awareness and interest in these issues.  The program also accomplishes this by teaching students research techniques and by partnering with local businesses and government to help improve local water quality. A $40,000 grant received from the Regional Workforce Alliance of Southeastern Wisconsin provided funds to support five different projects for the students in the program to work on.  Elisabeth Harrahay led one of these projects, collaborating with Tallgrass Restoration to teach students about and have them actively participate in stream bank restoration.
Freshmen for Freshwater students cut up a dead box elder tree with guidance from a project mentor.
Not put off by the weather, we met early on the overcast morning of March 13, 2010 to undertake the stream bank restoration project.  We began by discussing stream bank erosion and pollution, some of its causes, and its negative effects on freshwater systems.  Then we started the actual work of restoring the bank of a creek that feeds into Dyer Lake, Wisconsin.  First, the group did some invasive species removal of brush, such as honeysuckle and buckthorn, that was taking over the bank and causing erosion problems.  We then prepared the ground, seeded a mix of native species adapted to this community type, and put down erosion matting to hold the soil in place while the native species developed. 
Carrie Van Lanen-Raygo of Tallgrass Restoration helps by removing some tangled grapevine.
The students learned some of the many benefits of having native species along stream banks, such as: their role in water filtration, their ability to decrease the speed of water flow into a stream, and their superior capability of holding soil in place due to their deep root systems.  Finally, Elisabeth gave a demonstration of some common sampling techniques.  The group collected water samples to examine water chemistry and sediment load.  They also did kick samples for water macro invertebrates, which can be an indicator of water quality.  We ended the project by having lunch together and discussing our day.  The students were excited to help out, despite the poor weather, and continued to ask questions well after the project was finished.  We are so happy that we were able to be a part of this wonderful program and to be involved with all of these promising students.
Freshmen for Freshwater students look on as UW-Whitewater professor Elisabeth Harrahay talks about water chemistry and common water sampling techniques.
Elisabeth Harrahay guides students as they take water samples which will help tell them more about the stream's health.
If you are interested in monitoring water quality in your area, whether you are an expert or just a concerned citizen, please check out the citizen-based water quality monitoring website supported by the UW-Extension http://watermonitoring.uwex.edu

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HERE to take the Plant ID Quiz!
- PLEASE NOTE: Make sure the initial "Welcome" page fully loads before proceeding with the Quiz.
Click HERE for Ask the Ecologist!
Tallgrass Announcements

Tallgrass Anniversaries

Aaron Hocking 6 years
Jordan Rowe 6 years
Carrie Van Lanen-Raygo 3 years
Erin Kocourek 3 years
Matt Hokanson 2 years
Alex Weber 2 years
Kyle Lindquist 2 years 

Sergio Figueroa 7 years
Ben Lee 1 year
Ron Adams 1 year
Catherine Haigh 1 year
Noelle Hoeffner 4 years

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More About Tallgrass

Tallgrass Core Values #7, 8 

7. We have yet to find the limits to the responsibility that our best people are able to assume. Advancement depends solely on ability, performance and contribution to the firm's success, without regard to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or any other impermissible criterion or circumstance.
8. We stress teamwork in everything we do. While individual creativity is always encouraged, we have found that team effort often produces the best results. We have no room for those who put their personal interests ahead of the interests of the firm and its clients.


Tallgrass Contact Information 



Project Ecologists


Doug DeWitt


Mark Micek


Tim Moritz


Troy Showerman






Project Ecologists


Chris Kaplan


Jordan Rowe




Illinois and Wisconsin


Ron Adams, General Manager


Tracy Runice - Customer Service, General Information, Bonding, Compliance or Insurance 




Illinois Office

Wisconsin Office

2221 Hammond Drive

3129 E. County Road N

Schaumburg, IL 60173-3813

Milton, WI 53563

Phone: (847) 925-9830

Phone: (608) 531-1768

Fax: (847) 925-9840

Fax: (608) 551 -2227


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Thanks for reading the summer issue of A Tallgrass Legacy. Look for our autumn issue in October!
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Tallgrass Restoration is a subsidiary of Tallgrass Group, a company that integrates land and water stewardship focusing on native landscapes and other ecological solutions including landscape design, conservation development, and wetland banking initiatives.