'It takes everybody on board': Volo Bog needs stewards to protect rare and endangered species

Supporters of natural area in Lake County seek dedicated volunteer stewards

Volo Bog supporters are looking to bring together volunteer stewards committed to protecting rare and endangered species at the one-of-a-kind habitat.

Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves wants to build a community of stewards to provide long-term support at Volo Bog State Natural Area in Ingleside. A kickoff event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 30.

Volunteer stewardships - like the one planned for Volo Bog and another launched Sept. 16 at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion - are local outlets to support the environment, according to Jonathan Sabath, field representative of the not-for-profit group.

"We try to prioritize places that have something special about them," he said.

"Grade A" ecosystems, such as Volo Bog, constitute just 7/100th of 1% of the land in Illinois, according to the organization, which works with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources staff and others.

A half-mile-long looped interpretive boardwalk brings visitors into Volo Bog, home to numerous rare and endangered species including calla lilies, carnivorous pitcher plants and deciduous tamarack pines.

Many are in decline, according to the group, as brush and invasive species such as glossy buckthorn threaten to crowd them out. But the state staff is lean, and the Friends of Volo Bog organization is not involved in restoration.

"It takes everybody on board. There's not enough government money to do everything that needs to be done," said Stacy Iwanicki, natural education resources coordinator for IDNR who oversees Volo Bog and Moraine Hills State Park near McHenry.

She said the Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves' push is a rekindling of a volunteer restoration team she created years ago that faded. This will be the first time the bog itself is targeted.

Volo Bog State Natural Area off Brandenburg Road west of Route 12 in Lake and McHenry counties covers about 1,500 acres and includes marshes, restored prairie areas, woodlands and three bogs. The bogs are designated Illinois Nature Preserves protected in perpetuity from development.

The centerpiece is Volo Bog, dedicated a nature preserve in 1970 and named a National Natural Landmark in 1972. It's the southernmost open water quaking bog in North America and the only one in Illinois.

It features a floating mat of sphagnum moss thick enough in spots to support trees. Peat and acidic water support plants that may grow in only similar nutrient-poor conditions.

"Most people know that we have to save the rainforest," Sabath said. "Fewer people know that the natural lands in Illinois are equally important."

"They all need a group of people that can care for them and continue to care for them. State staff is stretched thin," said Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves Director Amy Doll.

Properties like Volo Bog are irreplaceable and need "community-minded people interested in learning by doing and working collaboratively to restore the ecological health of the site," she said.

The Sept. 30 kickoff starts in the Volo Bog Nature Center parking lot off Brandenburg Road and includes a walk through the bog, discussion of future projects and some work. Those interested can RSVP and get more information on the volunteering and events tab at Those attending are advised to wear sturdy shoes and clothes they don't mind getting dirty.

Iwanicki has worked for IDNR for 36 years and plans to retire in two years. She and the staff support the new effort. "I want to be able to walk away from here and know some of the things precious to me will be in good hands," she said.

Group boosts environment while building camaraderie

Bird observation program for kids expanding in Lake and McHenry counties

Why your access to the heart of Volo Bog is likely to remain closed awhile

Where are the garbage cans? New policy coming to Volo Bog State Natural Area

A pitcher plant is among the rare and endangered species at Volo Bog in Ingleside. Courtesy of Sivaram Mahadevan
Golden tamaracks grow at the Volo Bog in Ingleside. Courtesy of Stacy Iwanicki
A new volunteer community is being launched to protect rare and endangered plants at Volo Bog in Ingleside. Courtesy of IDNR
A pitcher plant is among the rare and endangered species at Volo Bog in Ingleside. Courtesy of Stacy Iwanicki
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.