Save Starved Rock!

Starved Rock State Park is unlike any other place in the Midwest.  To those who have visited, the park is synonymous with stunning sandstone canyons and picturesque waterfalls.  Almost incongruous among the level plains of Central Illinois, it’s unique geology was carved out by glacial runoff over 14,000 years ago and has seen human visitors for the last 10,ooo years.  The area also supports a wide variety of plant and animal life unique to the park’s ecology.

On January 12th 2012, the Lasalle County Board is voting on a proposal by Mississippi Sand LLC to begin mining frac sand, an ingredient in oil and natural gas extraction, from areas surrounding Starved Rock State Park.  If passed, this action has serious and myriad consequences for the park and its wildlife — pollution in all its forms will undoubtedly impact the area’s ecology, and the park’s hydrology could be altered permanently.

Mining officials estimate the mine will create roughly 40 jobs over two to three generations of workers, while the park is host to over two million visitors annually, supporting local businesses and responsible conservation practices.  Please follow this link and tell the decision makers in LaSalle County that mining action such as this is not only irresponsible but potentially disastrous.

Continued Efforts Between the GSC and the CAG

The GSC is assisting the Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group (CAG) in an effort to restore natural areas in Waukegan, IL as part of US EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  One of the areas under restoration is Bowen Park, formerly a boys and girls summer camp donated to Jane Addams’ Hull House Settlement by her friend and benefactor, Louise Bowen.

The park is mostly uplands on the eastern edge of the Highland Park moraine overlooking the Chicago Lake Plain.  Post-glacial drainage erosion of these uplands has created steep-walled Glen Flora ravine through the park. CAG had already started restoration work at the site when the severe storms of the summer of 2011 struck. That’s when they called in the GSC for help.

Runoff from the uplands overran the man-made and natural drainage systems to threaten park facilities with severe erosion.  High winds had downed many trees, blocking trails and impacting restoration efforts.  CAG initially asked the GSC to map the tree damage.  Steve Jansen, a GSC director, used the GSC’s handheld GPS units to locate, tag, and measure nearly 100 instances of downed or severely damaged trees as part of a CAG team which also included a botanist and land restoration managers.  The field data was incorporated into a GIS system created by Drew Bieber, also a GSC director.  The GSC team produced numerous maps (see below) to help CAG recover from the damage.

(click for larger image)

GSC’s continuing work at Bowen Park includes a floristic and geomorphic inventory of plants of interest, invasive species, and current and potential erosion and deposition areas.  We also are working with CAG on their restoration efforts on a 2.3 mile stretch of beaches, dunes, and swales along the Lake Michigan shoreline south of Illinois Beach State Park. We are now mapping baseline conditions for areas degraded by invasive species and current and potential habitats for endangered and threatened species. We will track progress on restoration work as it begins in 2012.

Previous Coverage: The GSC and the Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group

Friday News and Links

1. Hans Rosling dispels common misconceptions about modernization and “the developing world.”  (His other TED talks are also impressive.)

[ted id=620]

2. What’s producing methane on Mars?  (New York Times)

3. 2011 saw more billion-dollar weather-related disasters than any other year in US history. (Associated Press)

4. The necessity and relevance of GIS-related studies in modern K-12 classrooms.  (Directions Magazine)

Quote: “…geospatial technology is helping people be inquisitive, exploratory and analytical. Many situations and problems demand unique, iterative explorations and the ability to analyze data. Life is not a single-threaded linear existence. Educators need to model exploration and analysis, and then give students more and more opportunities to the do same.”

The GSC and the Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group

The GSC has begun to partner with the Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group in conservation and restoration projects near Waukegan Harbor.  Following a series of three severe storms this past August, geographer and GSC Director Steve Jansen has recorded and mapped the location of downed trees in Bowen Park. Future projects will include mapping gully erosion in Glen Flora Ravine and habitat restoration areas.  This wealth of spatial information will help botanists analyze various data, such as species vulnerability and wind and run-off patterns during storms.  It is also aiding park officials participating in clean-up efforts.