Op-Ed: Jesiel Encourages Exploration of Local Natural Resources Following International Designation of Lake Plain

Representative Jesiel with Ty Kovach, executive director of the 
Lake County Forest Preserves and Katherine Hamilton-Smith, 
director of public affairs and development for the Lake County Forest Preserves.
Last Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity to take part in a very special celebration at North Point Marina in Winthrop Harbor. The Chiwaukee Prairie Illinois Beach Lake Plain received the Ramsar designation as a “Wetland of International Importance.” This designation has only been given to 37 other sites in the United States, such as the Everglades and the San Francisco Bay.

This is significant for a number of reasons because of the public and private partners on both sides of the Illinois-Wisconsin border that have been working to protect the Lake Plain for more than 50 years. Their efforts mean that the ecological function of Lake Michigan, and the entire Great Lakes system, is able to provide drinking water for tens of millions of people in eight US states and two Canadian provinces, as well as support a huge diversity of plants and wildlife. This effort doesn’t just help other states, but provides us with some great recreation opportunities like the Spring Bluff Forest Preserve, where you can meet one of 63 state-threatened species, like the Blanding’s turtle.

Representative Jesiel with Katherine Hamilton-Smith and Gary Glowacki, 
wildlife biologist for the Lake County Forest Preserves. 
Gary is holding a Blanding’s turtle, a state-threatened species. 
Spring Bluff Forest Preserve, which is within the Chiwaukee 
Prairie Illinois Beach Lake Plain, is one of the only 
locations in Illinois where Blanding’s turtles are found.
The area designated as a Ramsar site includes 3,914 acres of the highest quality coastal dune and swale ecosystem in the region, spanning 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline from Kenosha, Wisconsin to Waukegan, Illinois. The majority of this unique coastal area is under the protective ownership of nine organizations and landowners with the Lake County Forest Preserve District leading this inter-organizational effort. Exelon, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Johns-Manville, The Nature Conservancy, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, the Village of Pleasant Prairie, the Village of Winthrop Harbor, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the Zion Park District have all been integral partners.

We often forget that we have a wealth of wonderful natural resources in Lake County, but I hope that designations like this will inspire more people to explore what we have. If you’re interested in finding out more about the great recreation activities available, or interested in learning more about conservation in Lake County, visit: www.lcfpd.org.