When you look at this picture, what do you see? You see the goldenrod seed falling from the head of a goldenrod plant, right? But past that, what do you see? Do you see the seed falling to the ground, being rained on in the spring, growing into a seedling, then a maturing into a flowering plant?

Maybe you see butterflies drinking nectar from the flower, or birds eating the insects that land on the plant. Perhaps you see the garden in which the plant is growing, or the natural area where it resides.

This thing you do in your mind, seeing what the seed will become, that's hope. It's something that people who work with seeds and plants share.

The restoration at Kankakee Sands is a story of hope. In 1996, The Nature Conservancy bought 7,200 acres of agricultural land with the hope of successfully restoring them to a prairie landscape, ultimately connecting Conrad Savanna with Beaver Lake Nature Preserve and Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area. The Indiana Chapter of The Nature Conservancy had never done such a large scale, ambitious restoration project before. We were a hopeful bunch.

Today, we feel more encouraged than ever because of the successes we are seeing on the ground. We have documented more than 600 native plants growing at Kankakee Sands, as well as 247 bird species, 60 butterfly species, 153 species of bees, 932 moth species, 10 amphibian species, 9 species of snakes, 7 species of turtles, 2 reptile species, and now with the arrival of bison, 33 species of mammals.

The state endangered regal fritillary butterfly, once restricted to Beaver Lake Nature Preserve, is now seen July through September all across Kankakee Sands. The state endangered Henslow's sparrow is also abundant at Kankakee Sands during the spring all throughout the fall.

In 2017, we will be restoring 90 acres of agricultural ground adjacent to Conrad Station Savanna. This piece of property will increase the land connection of Conrad with Kankakee Sands, allowing for a greater flow of genetics between the two sites, as well as an increase in the management we can do at the site, including invasive species removal and prescribed fire. We will also be looking forward to the bison calves being born in the spring of 2017. Plants and animals... that is what we are hopeful for this year.

In this next year to come, let's share the hopes and dreams we have for our gardens, our landscapes, our neighborhoods, our communities and our county. Let's work together and encourage each other towards greatness.

Happy Hopeful New Year!


The Nature Conservancy's Kankakee Sands is 10,000 acres of prairie and savanna habitat in Northwest Indiana and Northeast Illinois, open every day of the year for public enjoyment. The Nature Conservancy in an international, non-profit organization. For more information about Kankakee Sands, visit www.nature.org/KankakeeSands or call the office at 219-285-2184.