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Chicago Urban Field Station

Success Story

The Student Conservation Association (SCA) provided 8 students to work with Northwest Indiana Urban Waters partners this summer. This was funded in part by US Forest Service Youth Engagement Funds. The SCA Gary Green Team helped plant and maintain trees in Gary Indiana. The trees were selected and placed to help reduce water runoff while simultaneously beautifying streets and neighborhoods of Gary. This is part of our on-going partnerships to bring the power of green infrastructure to water quality and community revitalization efforts in Northwest Indiana.

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Cover image of Current Topics NewsletterUrban FIA: Providing Critical Insight About Our Nation’s Urban Forests

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Featured Publications

[image:] Book cover - Restoring Nature: Perspectives From The Social Sciences And Humanities Restoring Nature: Perspectives From The Social Sciences And Humanities 2nd Edition, Paul H Gobster and R Bruce Hull, Island Press.


Watkins, Christy; Westphal, Lynne M.; Gobster, Paul H.; Vining, Joanne; Wali, Alaka; Tudor, Madeleine. 2015. Shared principles of restoration practice in the Chicago wilderness region. Human Ecology Review. 21(1): 155-177

[photo:] Chicago skyline from Lincoln Park’s North Pond.The Chicago Urban Field Station has long and deep roots in the region. The Forest Service Research group began in 1978, and although the term “Urban Field Station” was not in use then, the team worked collaboratively across disciplines and with local land managers to address local issues that have broad impact. US Forest Service State & Private Forestry added staff here in the 1990s, and the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie near Joliet was established in 1996.

Early projects included monitoring recreational use of local forest preserves, which informed a decision about whether or not to use a popular preserve for flood control or maintain it for recreation (Predicting daily use of urban forest recreation sites). We also studied many aspects of Lincoln Park along Lake Michigan, from the trees (count, health) to visitation and use patterns. This study added to knowledge about how recreation patterns vary across different racial and ethnic groups (Managing urban parks for a racially and ethnically diverse clientele), which helps ensure equity in delivery of public services.

Today, the Chicago Urban Field Station is a partnership across all parts of the US Forest Service – the Northern Research Station, the Eastern Region State & Private Forestry, and the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.  The Chicago Urban Field Station is also a collaboration between local partners, including Chicago Wilderness, The Field Museum, the Chicago Region Trees Initiative and many others.

Chicago Wilderness

Much of our work in the Chicago Urban Field Station is done in the context of Chicago Wilderness.

[image:] Chicago Wilderness logoChicago Wilderness is:

“a regional alliance leading strategy to preserve, improve, and expand nature and quality of life. By connecting leaders in conservation, health, business, science, and beyond, we tackle challenging issues to ensure a resilient region.”

The US Forest Service was a Chicago Wilderness founding member in 1996.  Today, Chicago Wilderness has 200+ members organizations, and the region includes parts of four states, 38 counties, and over 500 municipalities. There are over 10 million people living in the Chicago Wilderness region, and over 500,000 acres of protected natural areas. The US Forest Service collaborates on Chicago Wilderness projects, research, and planning. Forest Service staff serve in various leadership roles,  including on the Executive Council and as co-chair of the Research Committee. A lot of the research we do supports Chicago Wilderness goals.

Chicago Wilderness is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and celebrations of the many significant accomplishments of the Alliance are planned. One of those accomplishments was the preservation of the former Joliet Arsenal as open space. Today, it is the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.