From left to right is Debbie Maurer, assistant natural resource manager for the Lake County Forest Preserve, U.S. Congressman Robert Dold and Ashlie Strackbein, government relations director, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Dold was there to speak about his support for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. | Special to Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 1, 2012 11:46AM
United States Congressman Robert Dold from Kenilworth recently was touring Illinois Beach State Park in Zion and the adjacent Spring Bluff Forest Preserve.
He even went up 40 feet in a bucket lift to get a bird’s-eye view of the before-and-after views of restored habitat.
Dold is one of the few United States representatives who is not afraid to say that the political parties need to work together to make progress on the myriad of problems facing the country.
He was in the area for a ground-breaking ceremony for a Macy’s store at Gurnee Mills, and he said that he really loves these types of events where he gets outdoors.
He even got to see a 50-year-old Blanding’s turtle and several younger Blanding’s turtles, according to Jim Anderson, natural resource manager for the forest preserve.
The turtle is considered threatened in Illinois, and the major threat is habitat destruction.
Turtles are relatively common in the appropriate habitat north from the Illinois River, but are rarer in southern Illinois. They can live to be 77 and eat snails, insects, crayfish, and vertebrates, according to an Illinois Natural History survey.
Dold and other officials were at the park to see how a Sustain Our Great Lakes grant was being used to restore important wildlife habitat areas along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Lake County is blessed with beautiful shoreline tracts of nature preserves and just north over the border, there is also the Chiwaukee Preserve.
The Lake Plain connects 14 community types and provides habitat for more than 500 plant and 300 animal species, including 63 state- and four federally-listed species.
Grant funds are being used for removal of invasive species, to re-establish native plant communities, to minimize flow of storm water into high quality wetlands, and to increase populations of threatened and endangered species through enhancement of the surrounding habitats, according to Anderson.
The grant program provided the Lake County Forest Preserves and local partners with nearly $1 million to achieve common goals of restoring coastal habitat across the entire 4,000-acre landscape in Illinois and Wisconsin which makes up the Lake Plain.
The grant is helping enhance wildlife habitat by improving hydrology and restoring coastal lake plain at Spring Bluff, Chiwaukee Prairie and Illinois Beach State Park.
“This is a great example of all levels of government and public and private conservation organizations cooperating to protect unique natural resources of Lake Michigan,” said Tom Hahn, executive director of the Lake County Forest Preserves. “These grants support vital work that are helping restore health to the Great Lakes basin,” he said.
Dold agreed. “It is absolutely critical that we protect our environment and conserve it for generations to come,” he said.
Dold’s first bill in congress was H.R. 435, the Great Lakes Water Protection Act, which protects Lake Michigan from waste-water discharge.
He was given the “America’s Great Outdoors Congressional Champion” award by several environmental and conservation groups because he fought for funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
It’s also nice to note how citizen groups like the Waukegan Harbor Citizen Advisory Group and city environmentalists are working to restore Bowen Park and the lakefront dunes in Waukegan.
This week, CAG and Friends of Bowen Park had a garlic-mustard pull in the ravines at Bowen Park in Waukegan because while there is very good habitat there, last summer’s storms knocked down a lot of trees and that has allowed the invasive plant to try and take off with the improved sunlight. It can completely crowd out all other plants in the forest’s understory and it produces thousands of seeds per plant.
It gives me good vibes to hear about all the Lake Michigan shoreline conservation work that is being done.
Today is the second annual Lindenhurst Park District Carp Fishing Derby from 8-11 a.m. at John Janega Memorial Park, 205 Hickory Dr., Lindenhurst. Free bait and prizes.
Sunday at 6 a.m. is the Fox Lake Fishing Forum’s annual tournament at Port of Blarney, 27843 W. Grass Lake Road, near Antioch. Entry fee is $40, fishing starts at 7 a.m. and ends promptly at 2 p.m. for weigh-in and after fishing party. Categories of fish judged by weight.