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Conservation and Native Landscaping Awards

The United States Environmental Protection Agency in Chicago and Chicago Wilderness developed the Conservation and Native Landscaping Awards to recognize outstanding efforts by corporations, park districts and municipalities to use native plants in the landscape or use conservation development practices within the Chicago Wilderness region.

The Chicago Wilderness region encompasses the crescent of land around southern Lake Michigan, including southeast Wisconsin, northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana.

This awards program began in 2000. During the first two years of the awards program we focused on recognizing local government and park district efforts. In 2002, we expanded to include corporate efforts. In 2005, we are expanding the program to recognize development projects which bring life to the principles of conservation development.

Why Native Landscaping?

After European settlement, people planted gardens with plants brought from their home country. They were tiny, comfortable garden plots set in a huge wilderness. Today, however, the reverse is true. Agricultural and garden plants introduced from all over the world dominate the landscape, while native plants are managed in small preserves. In recent years, natural landscaping - using native plants and plant communities in landscaping - has become more common.

Native plants provide a beautiful, hardy, drought resistant, low maintenance landscape while benefiting the environment. Native plants, once established, save time and money by eliminating or significantly reducing the need for fertilizers, pesticides, water and lawn maintenance equipment. 

How Does Landscaping Effect the Environment?

Maintenance practices for manicured turf landscapes negatively effects the environment.

Spending one hour mowing (gas) a lawn is equivalent to driving a car 20 miles. Based upon elimination of mowing, blowing and trimming for an acre of turf grass, there is a calculated emission reduction of about 100 lbs VOC/acre/year and 10 lbs NOx/acre/year. These emission estimates were based upon going from mowing, blowing and trimming 30 times per year to 0 times per year.

Pesticides and fertilizers applied to lawns run off and pollute surface and ground water.

Native plants have long roots which retain stormwater, reducing runoff. Planting natives increases biodiversity.

Who is Chicago Wilderness?

Chicago Wilderness is a regional nature reserve that includes more than 250,000 acres of protected natural lands. It stretches from southeastern Wisconsin, through northeastern Illinois and into northwestern Indiana. The protected lands in Chicago Wilderness are forest preserves, state parks, federal lands, county preserves, and privately owned lands. There are also many unprotected natural areas that offer refuge to native wildlife.

The Chicago Wilderness coalition is an alliance of more than 170 public and private organizations working together to protect, restore, study and manage the precious natural ecosystems of the Chicago region, enrich local residents’ quality of life, and contribute to the preservation of global biodiversity. More information is available at www.chicagowilderness.org exit EPA


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