Matching grants to help Fermilab Natural Areas restore grasslands

Fermilab Natural Areas is restoring 500 acres of grassland near Eola Road at Fermilab to serve as a breeding habitat for several endangered and threatened bird species that do not use tallgrass prairies or woodlands, such as the upland sandpiper, bobolink and Henslow's sparrow.

These birds require large open areas of short stature grasses for breeding. For example, the upland sandpiper, which is endangered in Illinois, has formerly nested at Fermilab and is sensitive to the size of available habitat, preferring large, open areas of short stature grasses. Other examples such as Henslow's sparrow and bobolink are Chicago Wilderness priority species which also prefer shorter grasses for breeding.

Grassland birds are of particular concern because they have exhibited steeper and more consistent declines in the past several decades than any other group of North American birds.

Research has shown that the presence of trees/woody vegetation can significantly reduce the usable nesting area for grassland birds.

Donations to Fermilab Natural Areas will be matched by the new Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation grant.

For each dollar donated to the fund, Fermilab Natural Areas will receive three dollars in matching funds from foundation, up to a total of $21,000.

These donations and the matching funds will be used to support the nonprofit's ongoing restoration of the Eola Road grasslands for endangered bird species.

Creating a suitable habitat for these birds requires the removal of large trees and shrubs. Controlled burns, periodic mowing, and herbicide applications to eliminate smaller invasive plants will increase habitat desirability.

Their goal is to provide suitable nesting habitat for species that are facing extinction.

So far, Fermilab Natural Areas has successfully been awarded two grants - $12,000 from the DuPage County Foundation, and $10,000 from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for this project.

These funds have been used to remove several groups of trees and apply herbicide to undesired shrubs/invasive species in 200 acres of grassland. The funds from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation grant will be used to continue the removal of more shrubs/invasive species next spring and fall.

Fermilab's Roads and Grounds department manages the periodic mowing and burning of the grasslands. The DuPage Birding Club also supports the regular bird studies required to monitor progress.

Fermilab Natural Areas needs to raise $12,000 to support the matching grant and the nonprofit's operations and internships.

Add a note to your check or PayPal donation that the donation is for the Illinois Clean Energy grant.

Donations may be made online at

or mailed to Fermilab Natural Areas, P.O. Box 500, MS 444, Batavia IL 60510.

All donations are tax deductible.

The Fermilab Natural Areas organization, formed in 2006, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, all-volunteer network dedicated to restoring, managing and enhancing the natural areas and resources of Fermilab in order to maintain and improve their ecological health and biodiversity. It does not receive funding from Fermilab or the federal government and depends on membership, donations and grants to fund its operations. Throughout the year, the organization conducts work events where volunteers come together to participate in organized restoration projects. They welcome all volunteers, donations and memberships. To learn more about their work and how you could join, visit

The upland sandpiper, which once had nesting sites around Fermilab, prefers large, open areas of short stature grasses. Courtesy of D. Spleha
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