New ecosystem restoration group for young people to host May workdays

It’s the “Year of the Peregrine,” according to the Chicago Ornithological Society, which is marking the 25th anniversary of the peregrine falcon being voted in as the official bird of the city of Chicago.

The Peregrines is also the name adopted for a new volunteer group of (mostly) 20- and 30-year-olds who travel to different nature preserves around the Chicago area every week. The volunteers lend their energy to ongoing and startup restoration efforts. They work with experienced mentors to learn the best practices for stewardship, so they can ensure quality ecological care for generations to come.

Sound appealing? This spring, The Peregrines invite you to kick off the growing season with two celebratory workdays: from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 4, at Pilcher Park Nature Center in Joliet, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 11, at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion.

These are two very different, precious sites that The Peregrines have supported for the last several months. Come to whichever is closest for you, or come to both!

Describing the group, Jane Jordan, a Peregrine who works in regional food systems development, says, “We’re a super friendly bunch of young folks with varied interests that hang out once a week to wield loppers and hand saws in service of Illinois ecosystems. What’s not to love?”

Many folks in northeast Illinois long for nature. They may feel that it’s missing in this corner of the world. Statistics allow us to forgive those who look around and don’t see much: Illinois has less than one one-hundredth of one percent (0.01%) of its remnant prairie remaining — and we call ourselves the “Prairie State.”

The loss of nature doesn’t just mean fewer flowers and spoiled views. It also means the loss of crucial biological diversity — birds, butterflies, fungi, and more — and losing out on pollination for food, natural cleaning for the air and water, resilience to flooding, carbon sequestration, and countless other “ecosystem services” that a healthy nature environment provides.

In partnership with Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves and many site stewards and conservation agencies, The Peregrines are methodically restoring health to these remaining high-quality prairies, savannas, and woodlands by cutting brush, removing invasive species, collecting and planting native seeds, and doing prescribed burns.

“Knowing that you helped pave the way for biodiversity to flourish in these preserves gives you a deep sense of accomplishment and connection to nature,” said Justin Berchiolli, a founding member of The Peregrines.

In a world of many negatives — where climate change and environmental degradation are normal headlines — The Peregrines are part of a community that has found a positive and tangible way to change a part of the world. The volunteers are botanists and bankers, librarians and lawyers, artists and actors. They are all young people who want to make their weekends more meaningful.

Join them on May 4 or May 11 to meet The Peregrines — new and old — and do some work, learn new plants, talk about the needs of these sites and the region, and, of course, share snacks with new friends! Or come to any of the weekly workdays. Join in learning and leading together as they care for nature across Illinois.

To RSVP or learn more, to or email

Follow The Peregrines on Facebook or Instagram.

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