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Garfield Farm Museum Challenged by Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation Prairie Stewardship Grant

    Garfield Farm Museum's land preservation agency, Campton Historic Agricultural Lands (CHAL) has been offered a 3:1 matching challenge grant by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation (ICECF) to help with ongoing restoration of the museum's natural areas.

      The museum was invited to apply for this pilot program with the provision that if the museum raises $4000, the ICECF will match it with $12,000. The funds are to be used in the management of preserved natural areas. An additional $1000 will be granted if over 100 hours of volunteer labor is put towards the specific management project.

     'This is a significant opportunity', said Jerome Johnson museum executive director and biologist. 'Over the past 30 years it has become evident that just setting aside key natural areas is not sufficient and that a great deal of management of these lands are required with all the constant invasion of new plants from around the world.'

     The museum hopes to raise the funds to hire professional contractors to attack three invasive plants, false chervil, common reed and reed canary grass. The way these plants grow, controlled burns are not sufficient to eliminate them. With increased roadside mowing and higher flood levels, seeds of these species that were not present or were at very low levels have increased at the farm especially along the Mill Creek Prairie corridor that contains unplowed sedge meadow, mesic prairie, a perched fen and an adjacent formerly grazed oak savanna.

    False chervil was not found in Illinois until 1975 here in Kane County. As it blooms and goes to seed in late May, the highway mowers spread the seed through the right of ways. Heavy rains flush that seed into streams and creeks spreading the seed along the flood plains. It maybe from seed laden mud on animals' feet move the seed into uplands and woodlands. The way the plant grows so densely, tolerates shade and water, and has a carrot like root, it is a new threat that is only begun to be understood by even knowledgably native plant enthusiasts.

    Common reed or Phragmites has long been a feature along expressways in wet ditches with a grass like appearance towering 8-10 feet tall topped by a feathery seed head plume. It easily spreads by its roots and can completely take over even aggressive cattail wetlands. Although the seed is not thought to be very viable, it has appeared in isolated newly formed wetlands as well as along steam corridors where is had not existed in prior years.

     More pervasive and with almost as heavy a toll as the common reed is reed canary grass. This can dominate a wetland at the expense of all other plants thus restricting plant diversity which impoverishes the habitat for many animals, interrupting the food chain. It has been harvested as a marsh hay for livestock and this year's rains have produced plants over 6 feet tall with a spike like seed head that produces hundreds of viable seeds. Even an initial elimination of the plants are followed by several years of surviving seed in the soil sprouting and repopulating an area. Because these plants have not been in North America long enough to have predators or diseases to keep them in check, they rapidly can dominate the most pristine of natural areas.

    The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation (ICECF) was established in 1999 as an independent foundation with a $225 million endowment provided by Commonwealth Edison. The ICECF invests in clean-energy development and land-preservation efforts, working with communities and citizens to improve environmental quality in Illinois. The ICECF provides competitive grants to programs and projects that improve energy efficiency, develop renewable-energy resources, and preserve and enhance natural areas and wildlife habitats in Illinois.

  To contribute to this effort, contact Garfield Farm Museum at 630-584-8485 or e-mail To fully portray what 1840s Illinois was like, the museum combines the three themes of history, farming and the environment to create a hands on living history farm and inn museum.