Calumet Stewardship Initiative

2009 Fall

Thismia americana – celebrating a Botanical Rarity

By Chris Hodak, Playwright

The Lake Calumet region means different things to different people, but for scientists, one reason the area is esteemed is because it is home to a botanical rarity--Thismia americana.  Found in 1912 by Norma Pfeiffer near 119th and Torrence, "Thismia americana" is truly a Lake Calumet one-of-a-kind; its closest relatives occur in Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand.  The plant's disappearance in 1917 only adds to its mysteriousness.

In late September 2009, at the Pullman Clock Tower, 11057 S. Cottage Grove Avenue, Chicago, a new one-act play will have its world premiere.  The seventy-minute play is a multi-disciplinary exploration of identity, trust and loss told through traditional narrative, video, puppetry and dance.  In addition to three performances of Thismia americana, the weekend celebration (Sept. 24, 26 & 27) includes talks given by Lake Calumet experts attesting to the region's richness, plus a guided hike at Beaubien Woods.

Event details

Thursday, September 24, at 7:30 p.m., Pullman Clock Tower.  "Thismia americana" premieres followed by a Question and Answer session with Thismia hunt organizer and restoration ecologist, Linda Masters.

Saturday, September 26, at 2:00 p.m., Pullman Clock Tower.  Performance followed by an interactive overview of the Calumet region's fascinating geologic and cultural history by Mark Bouman, Geography Professor at Chicago State University and President of the Calumet Heritage Partnership.

Sunday, September 27 at 11:30 a.m.   Starts with a guided hike at Beaubien Woods in the Forest Preserve District of Cook County with the site's steward, Laurel Ross of the Field Museum, and a brief note about Hegewisch Marsh by Nicole Kamins of Chicago Department of Environment.  A 12:30 p.m. potluck picnic follows right after at Beaubien Woods.   The performance will begin at the Pullman Clock Tower at 2:00 p.m.

The weekend celebration is sponsored by Calumet Heritage Partnership, Chicago Department of Environment, The Field Museum, and Pullman State Historic Site.  The weekend's performances have received a Community Arts Assistance Program grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

Attended free parking will be available at the first gate north of 111th Street on South Cottage Grove Ave. (

The performances are free and open to the public.  Limited seating, come early.  No reservations will be taken.  A free will donation will be taken at the door.   Proceeds will benefit the Pullman State Historic Site.  For further information please visit: or write [email protected].

Indiana-to-Illinois Bus Tour of Ecologically Significant Natural Areas

By Jerry Attere, Chicago Department of Environment

On October 22, 2009, the  Calumet Stewardship Initiative (CSI) will be hosting a one day tour of significant natural areas in southeast Chicago.  This tour will promote a bi-state understanding and knowledge of ecological resources in the Illinois portion of the Calumet region.  The tour is a reversal of last year's tour, in which Illinois partners visited Indiana sites.

Southeast Chicago is rich in  bio-diverse natural areas that are worthy of a visit, but not all can be visited in just one trip.  Therefore, we will highlight just three specific sites through guided hikes, including Hegewisch Marsh, Powderhorn Prairie, and Wolf Lake.   In addition, there will be CSI partners on board serving as tour guides to briefly point out other notable sites along the tour and some quick stops will be made at some of these sites.

Bi-state collaboration is essential for long-term restoration and stewardship of natural areas in the Calumet region.  Over the past decade, the region has established many remarkable coalitions of private and public partners, such as CSI, that continue to make progress in protecting and preserving natural areas.  LIke the trip before, this one will provide another platform for collaboration and prioritizing the best management practices for the entire region.  Land managers, stewards,and environmental educators from both sides of the state line are crucial to our continued success.

If you are interested in participating, please RSVP to Jerry Attere at 312-744-9136, or [email protected].

Fishin’ Buddies Youth conservation conference fosters the next generation of nature champions

By Emily Chase, Chicago Wilderness/Leave No Child Inside Summer Intern

On Monday, June 22, twenty-four high school students gathered at Chicago State University to kick off Fishin' Buddies first annual Youth Conservation Conference (YCC).  While some of the students had previously experienced the natural world, many said that they had never spent much time outdoors, let alone electroshock fishing or hacking away at invasive buckthorn in the nearby forest preserves.   By Friday, this would all change.  These twenty-four urban youth, who underwent a rigorous interview process, would now endure a week of "conservation boot camp" to introduce them to concepts and methods of environmental conservation.

Fishin' Buddies, Inc., was founded in 1991 by John Kidd, Jr., as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to introducing urban children to the outdoors.  While it originally focused on competitive fishing derbies, a 1994 grant from the U.S, Fish and Wildlife Service prompted Kidd to introduce conservation and environmental education programming to the Fishin' Buddies curriculum. This year, the program was bigger than ever.  During the week-long YCC, students split into groups of four to work on special projects, in which each group researched a contemporary environmental issue.  The students made poster boards, prepared speeches, and presented their final projects to their families and to conservation professionals at the YCC Awards Banquet on Friday night.  Throughout the week, the groups also attended field trips to Camp Sagawu, Beaubien Woods,and Tampier Lake to experience conservation in action.  The students were not afraid to get their hands dirty while conducting forest plot surveys, performing water tests, and even holding freshwater fish with their bare hands.  Although the work was hard, it was rewarding. The high school juniors who completed the work were awarded six-week paid environmental internships with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.   The sophomores were offered three-week paid internships with Fishin' Buddies, culminating in the Kids' FEst Conservation Expo on July 18-19 at Monroe harbor.

The YCC was sponsored by Chicago Wilderness, The Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Arcelor Mittal, National Fish and Wildlife Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources,Chicago State University, the Field Museum, the Chicago Park District, and Argonne National Laboratory.  This powerful coalition of support was drawn to Fishin' Buddies by its goal of introducing urban students to nature and conservation, with the hope that some will become dedicated environmentalists.  "Young people who live in big cities often don't have a chance to experience the fun of outdoor recreation," said guest speaker Marc Miller, Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, at the YCC Award Banquet.  He continued, "We sincerely believe that young people who fish, hunt, hike, camp and simply spend time in our parks and in the outdoors are the people who will make our world a better place."

Hopefully, Fishin Buddies will give more young people the opportunity to do just that.

For additional archived videos of stewardship and conservation activities in the region check out Calumet resident, and past CSI secretary, Kevin Murphy's Calumet Stewardship YouTube account.

Photos and Videos