Joining Illinois Sierra Club Members in Lake and Northeastern Cook Counties

Spring 2007, Issue #55

In This Issue

Go To Article Green Wheels?
Go To Article Wildlife at Home in Tanzania
Go To Article Learn How to Live Green!
Go To Article The Long Lost Art of Slowing Down
Go To Article Sequoit Under Siege
Go To Article Antioch vs. Lake Marie
Go To Article Density and Open Space
Go To Article Olympic Dreams
Go To Article 403 kBPrintable, Portable W&W News
Go To Article Next Issue of W&W News
Go To Article Previous Issue of W&W News

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   C A L E N D A R  
{ Meetings O Outings

Rustle the Leaf


 


Green Cars, Green Fuels, Green Future—How To Decide?
Membership Meeting

By Larry Marvet

W&W Public Meeting
Thursday, March 22, 2007, 6:45 p.m.
Byron Colby Barn, Grayslake

 

Hybrid, electric, diesel, fuel cell; Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, Ford Escape; ethanol, biofuel, E80—how can you keep track? If you could, you’d need a rocket scientist to make sense of it all, especially from an environmentally sensitive viewpoint.

Not exactly a rocket scientist, Dr. Ciatti works at Argonne National Lab exactly on these transportation technologies and will help us to cull fact from fiction. And the facts will surprise you!

In case you’ve never enjoyed the Byron Colby Barn at Prairie Crossing before, it’s 1/2 mile south of Rt. 120 on the west side of Rt. 45.

For additional questions or information, contact Larry Marvet (847-537-2083).

See Meetings for more information.

 


Wildlife at Home in TanzaniaReturn to Top
Membership Meeting

By Larry Marvet

 

W&W Public Meeting
Thursday, April 24th, 2007, 6:45 p.m.

 

Todd Gustafson has been photographing nature, wildlife and natural history for the last decade with great success. Specialties include East African animals, birds and native people. Capturing beautiful light on beautiful subjects in an artistic way is a continuous personal goal. Todd photographs and works as a clinician/teacher for NIKON Corporation, and his work can be found in the Smithsonian Institute, on National Geographic calendars, and broadcast by the Discovery Channel, to name a few of the many venues that make him a leading international photographer.

Todd currently lives in Des Plaines, but grew up in Tanzania. Besides photography, he plays trumpet professionally.

See Meetings for more information.

Conservation Committee Meeting immediately preceding at 6:00 p.m.

Vernon Area Library

 

 


Learn How to Live Green!Return to Top

Earth Day Fair at Vernon Area Library

By Lidia Rozmus and Evan Craig

Come celebrate Earth Day with an event meant to be remembered! Along with the Village of Lincolnshire, local and national environmental clubs will be at the library in support of Earth Day, with topics, displays and discussions on environmental concerns, including global warming, recycling and the need for clean water.

April 22, noon to 3:00 p.m.

There will be organic food samples, a Field Museum Soil Adventure and Bubba the Art Bus for children, a Lake County Forest Preserve animal exhibit, a 102.3 WXLC live broadcast and so much more!

Visit the Library now to put your name on the Donation Tree for only $1. The Plant-A-Tree Fund will be used to plant a tree on the library grounds at a ceremony that day.

Check out other Earth Day events planned that week:

  • Global Warming - A Warning An in-depth look with CLC professor Karl Randall. Thursday April 5 at 7:00 p.m.

  • Coal Swamps, Coral Reefs and Continental Glaciers A trip into Illinois' past with author Ray Wiggers. Monday, April 9 at 7:00 p.m.

  • An Inconvenient Truth In this landmark film, Al Gore shows the ongoing damage to our planet caused by Global Warming, and makes the call for change a moral decision. Friday, April 13 and 1:00 p.m.

  • Taste the Difference: Organic Food Sampling Meg Bowman from Whole Foods Market Deerfield will show just how gooood organic food is. Thursday, April 19 at 7:00 p.m.

  • 3 R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Kay McKeen, Director of SCARCE, School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education. The name says it all. Sunday, April 22 at 1:00 p.m.

  • Organic Edible Container Garden Lynn Bement from the Chicago Botanical Garden. Skip the pesticides, eat the whole thing. Grow your own greens, herbs, flowers in containers. Monday, April 23 at 7:00 p.m.

  • Installing Your Own Rain Garden Sue Cubberly from the Chicago Botanical Garden will show how easy, economical and important this is for the quality of our waters. Wednesday, April 25 at 7:00 p.m.

Co-sponsored with Vernon Area Library. See what's up for more information.

 

View of Third Lake from party location (Bland's)


Practicing the Long Lost Art of Slowing DownReturn to Top

By Keith Cerk

I used to know an old man who could walk by any cornfield and hear the corn singing.

“Teach me.” I’d say when we’d passed on by (I never said a word while he was listening.) “Just tell me how you learned to hear that corn.”

And he’d say “It takes a lot of practice. You can’t be in a hurry.”

And I’d say, “I have the time.”

So begins Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall’s wonderful little children’s book titled The Other Way to Listen. Somehow, I think it is we adults who may need to hear such words more than our children. Maybe you will relate to this as I do.

When I was a child I spent much of my time in the little woods behind my house. My friends and I would play all sorts of imaginative games as we explored our small patch of wilderness. I was unique (weird?) in that I loved to wile away the hours just sitting in a tree I had climbed, or laying on my back to watch cloud formations, or kneeling to ponder every minute detail of a fresh set of opossum tracks. I loved to immerse myself in the natural world, just listening, just being. My friends would bore quickly. They wanted to “do something”, so would leave me to go play baseball. But I knew in my soul that if I became quiet enough, sat still enough, listened long enough, why … I might even learn to “hear that corn.”

I went to experience something deeper, something ineffable, which I can only describe as sacred.

While I must admit that I never heard anything like corn actually singing, the days spent in my woods were filled with something magical which was mostly lost on my playmates. They were there to have fun, but for me the natural world was always more than a mere playground. I went to experience something deeper, something ineffable, which I can only describe as sacred. Perhaps I was predisposed with this hunger due to a difficult home life; or maybe it was the visceral reaction I had to being tethered to a school desk nine months of the year. One thing is for sure, I knew harmony and wholeness, dare I say holy-ness, for the first time thanks to the outdoors. In some strange way she had become my family, my teacher, my companion, my therapist, my church. No wonder that I am so passionate about our Sierra Club motto: To Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet. How could I not be? But I digress.

Come explore the planet on a W&W Outing!

Fast-forward a few years and I have become a grown up. I have responsibilities. Let’s see now…College degree? Check. Starting a career? Check. Grad school? Check. Married… with children? Check. Bills to pay… meetings to attend … kids to cart around? Check. Check. Check. Life has somehow gotten very, very busy. I have morphed from a human being into a “human doing.” The part of me which always hated being stuck indoors at a school desk is really unhappy these days. In fact, everything within me is screaming: “Stop this #$#&#% merry-go-round, right now!! I want to get off!!” Remembering how my stressed-out father died young of a heart attack, I take heed. Message received. So I head for what I know; the healing balm of the outdoors. I haven’t spent much time there in my adult years, but just like riding a bike, I know it will all come back to me. To my horror, I am wrong. It isn’t that simple. Sure, I can jump off the merry-go-round I call my life. But when I do, I am still spinning inside. My mind still races, my overstressed system is still in hyperdrive. Somehow I have lost the ability I once had to be quiet, to sit still, to listen deeply. That ineffable sense of the sacred I grew to rely upon as a child, to delight in, now eludes me. Try as I might, even my Peterson Field Guide cannot help me find it again.

We are literally killing ourselves with our lifestyles.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? It’s a tragic story I see played out over and over again in most of the people I meet. We are literally killing ourselves with our lifestyles. Should we be surprised when so many who share our species don’t mind killing off the natural world as well in the name of that same lifestyle? The good news is that nature never hurries. The natural pace for wildlife is our human birthright as well. The bad news (really not so bad at all) is that we will have to work to re-learn from nature the art of slowing down, taking time, listening, if we want to be whole again.

 

My salvation …our salvation, if you are still resonating with me … has been to seek to live life intentionally at a “savoring pace” over the past few decades. Each day I try to practice attentiveness to what life brings my way, listening at ever deeper levels of my being.

“What I do is live.
How I pray is breathe.”

Only in this way have I had any hope of rediscovering some of that childlike sense of awe, of wonder, of sheer delight in just being alive which I once knew. This for me is really the realm of spirituality, of the sacred “in Whom we live and move and have our being”. I find great inspiration in open spirits such as Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk who lived in the woods of rural Kentucky, who described his contemplative spiritual practice this way: “What I do is live. How I pray is breathe.” Slowing down and listening, especially to the subtleties of nature, forms a key component of my adult spirituality. Nature is unique in its ability to awaken a lively sense of the sacred in us. We will need to practice slowing down and listening to pick up such subtleties though.

Nature is unique in its ability to awaken a lively sense of the sacred in us.

This past summer I spent an entire month on an expedition in the Logan Mountains of Canada’s Yukon Territory. This is a pristine wilderness area. Absolutely breathtaking. Also challenging, both mentally and physically. My companions and I felt totally immersed in the experience of nature, and to some extent we were. But without our knowing it, we had actually brought our busy, driven lives along for the ride. Each day was filled with activity. Set up camp. Break camp. New ground to cover. New sights to see. New peaks to ascend. New wildlife to identify. We were so used to such a fast-paced life back home, that we fooled ourselves into thinking we had actually slowed down significantly in the wild. We didn’t realize just how much of the experience of that glorious place we were missing because we passed by it so quickly, minds elsewhere.

It wasn’t until the second half of our trip when we were canoeing down the Hyland River that we woke up and smelled the coffee. One day someone made the novel suggestion that we do a silent paddle. Absolutely no talking! Trying to maintain such a tough discipline, and failing miserably, made us realize just how unquiet our minds actually were!! But after a few hours something magical began to happen. Because we started to listen, we found ourselves beginning to notice things we hadn’t before; subtle things, beautiful things. Nature literally came alive for us in ways she hadn’t the two weeks previous. It was as if the corn had started to sing.

Since that time I am careful to suggest to friends on every outing we take together that at least some of our time be spent in silence, just listening to the natural rhythms, open to whatever comes into our awareness. Put down the field guides, forget about how many more miles to go, set aside the camp chores. Slow it down, sit still under a tree and just “be” for a moment. I am always delighted to hear how such a simple practice has opened eyes, changed lives, and created passionate advocates for nature.

 

The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air, the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky, the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.

… And my heart soars.

- Chief Dan Seattle

 


Sequoit Under SiegeReturn to Top

By John Massman, Sentinel

The Sequoit Creek watershed once again faces more threats from development, including the expansion of the Antioch sewage treatment plant.

Residential and big box development on Antioch’s east side already sent polluted stormwater through private land and into Little Silver Lake, one of Lake County’s most pristine lakes. Antioch was fined $85,000 by the IEPA during construction of the Wal-Mart for not properly controlling sediment loaded stormwater runoff from the construction site.

Now a Menards is under construction next door and there is evidence that perhaps the stormwater controls again are not sufficient to handle runoff.

 

 

More big box stores are also on the agenda for the Rt. 173 corridor further west of the Wal-Mart & Menards. The Antioch Zoning and Planning Board will be reviewing a plan for the new stores at a public meeting May 10th. The Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources has already commented that commercial development on this parcel is likely to adversely modify the Little Silver Lake area and negatively affect the fauna. Runoff from this new development is destined for a degraded wetland further west near the Antioch industrial park.

A couple years ago when the flood plain maps were updated many area residents and small business owners in this area were very concerned about the extra costs they faced for flood insurance. What will an influx of stormwater runoff do to the wetlands and Sequoit Creek, which not only runs next to and through the industrial area, but through downtown Antioch as well?

Which brings us to the Sewage Treatment Plant. Because of the growth in Antioch and the aged condition of the STP, the IEPA has demanded that Antioch upgrade and expand their STP to handle it’s present and future demands for sewage treatment. The outfall of the plant is Sequoit Creek whose terminus is Lake Marie, part of Lake County’s Chain ’O Lakes. As we explained in our last issue, Lake Marie is on the 2006 Illinois 303(d) list of impaired waters already and now the STP is going to be expanded and there will be more stormwater runoff further upstream.

The IDNR WIRT system indicates that threatened or endangered species of aquatic life, such as Blackchin Shiner, Iowa Darter, Pugnose Shiner, Banded Killifish, and Starhead Top Minnow, may be present.

The stream will experience an increase in loading due to the increased effluent discharge from the plant along with increased flow rates from the new development further upstream. All in all it’s not looking good not only for Sequoit Creek but Lake Marie and other lakes in the Chain.

 


IEPA Hearing Expected: Antioch vs. Lake MarieReturn to Top

By Evan Craig

Despite our best efforts, Antioch has ignored our advice, and plans to go ahead with their unmitigated plans to pollute Lake Marie. Little to our surprise, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has announced that they intend to let them. We have requested a public hearing, and if they hold one, it will be up to concerned citizens to help us save Lake Marie.

As we described earlier in Sewervivors in issue #43, and as John describes in the preceding article, there are many measures Antioch could include, and at limited expense, to reduce the impacts to Lake Marie. But we have not left it to their imagination. With the help of Sierra Club Illinois Clean Water Advocate, Cindy Skrukrud, we met with Antioch in August 2005, and then sent them a letter the following April detailing several ways. The law requires that they not degrade Sequoit Creek, and specifically that they not further degrade the already impaired waters of Lake Marie with more phosphorus and suspended solids. We also shared our concerns with IEPA directly, and when we discovered that they plan a TMDL study for Lake Marie, urged that they complete it before issuing this permit. Last September we met again with Antioch to encourage them to perform preliminary evaluations of Lake Marie before proceeding.

Will kids find clams and frogs and other critters in the wetlands and the creek, or will they risk getting sick by splashing around looking for them?

Antioch and IEPA have chosen not to take any of our recommendations. They have also ignored recommendations of the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission to restrict pollution with phosphorus, suspended solids, oxygen depletion and ammonia to current levels.

 

 

So this January, after IEPA issued their draft permit allowing this insult to our waters, we wrote to them to object, and to request a hearing. We objected specifically because this permit:

  1. contributes to a violation of water quality standards of Lake Marie, listed as impaired for both phosphorus and total suspended solids, both increased by this permit;

  2. ignores the legal phosphorus limit of 0.05 mg/l for lakes and tributary streams;

  3. lacks any limits on oxygen depleting pollutants;

  4. fails to stipulate the biological system proposed by the engineers to reduce nitrogen pollution levels.

These technical concerns will determine whether Sequoit Creek and Lake Marie can become enjoyable public waters, or whether their health will decline and risk the health of people who explore them. Will kids find clams and frogs and other critters in the wetlands and the creek, or will they risk getting sick by splashing around looking for them? Will Lake Marie continue to suffer from blooms of poisonous blue-green algae, or will it become safe throughout the summer for fishing and swimming?

Whether or not IEPA holds this hearing or corrects their permit, we can all take action to protect our waters from phosphorus pollution. Remember the big list of proven impaired waters we published last issue? The fact is that anyone with a dishwasher or property bordering water or a street with storm drains, can help eliminate phosphorus pollution. If you have a lawn and like to fertilize it, ask your garden center for fertilizer with zero P (phosphorus) - and then keep it off the sidewalk and street. Or have a service apply zero-P liquid fertilizer. Liquids are absorbed immediately and run off less. Phosphorus simply isn’t needed for established lawns, and many soils already contain plenty - get a soil test first. Put in generous native plant beds bordering your yard at the street and the water. Every act makes a difference.


               Density and Open SpaceReturn to Top

                         By Evan Craig, Chair

Cramming more people into our territory usually leads to congested traffic, and higher taxes. So it’s not surprising that dense development draws public opposition. But unless we keep more people out, we need to use dense development to our advantage.

I’ve often pointed out that putting fewer than seven homes on an acre causes traffic, and that leaving less than seven acres around a home makes poor recreation and wildlife habitat.

 

A small yard out the back door isn’t terribly private or secure, and comes at a heavy price: isolation from our community in car-cocoons.

Instead of blocking us in with huge subdivisions, we should ask our elected leaders for easy access to open space. When developers ask them for lucrative higher density, we should request open space within walking distance in return. Higher density near mass transit and civic and commercial centers could also give residents the option of efficient, car-free lifestyles. With Global Warming looming large, we can live better by rethinking the way we live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Olympic DreamsReturn to Top

By Christine Williamson and Larry Marvet

If Chicago wins right to host in 2016, Sierra Club to push for greenest Olympics ever.

The U.S. Olympic Committee will decide on April 14 whether Chicago or Los Angeles will be America’s candidate to host the 2016 Olympic Summer Games.

If Chicago wins, the opportunities to benefit the environment and to showcase Chicago as a clean, green, environmentally responsible city are tremendous. Sierra Club intends to become a partner to the city and the Olympic Committee when it comes to making 2016 the greenest Olympics in history.

Sierra Club leaders have some simple ideas to make the 2016 Olympics the most responsible ever held. For example:

  • Athletic and housing facilities could be built or rehabbed to the highest standards for "green buildings," utilizing the latest in clean energy technology, using recycled and safe building materials and designed to be safe for people and wildlife. The venues should be permanent and designed for easy public or private reuse;

  • Athletic venues should be located within Chicago or in suburban areas easily accessible by public transportation;

  • Venues should, wherever possible, be built on reclaimed brown fields

  • Venues should be landscaped using native plants that are low-maintenance and drought-resistant. Landscaping with the city’s abundant wildlife population, especially birds and butterflies, should be a priority;

  • Public transportation should be strengthened, extended and modernized to efficiently move athletes and visitors wherever they need to go in the city or suburbs;

  • The use of recycled materials and recycling should be mandatory for every venue and every event;

  • Water quality will be an important factor for aquatic events, such as swimming, or white-water rafting, that will take place on Lake Michigan or using lake water. Chicago should ratchet up its efforts to improve water quality and eliminate non-point source pollution in all water bodies.

  • Air quality will be a vital factor in athletic performance. Chicago should extend its commitment to being a Cool City by working hard to reduce carbon emissions and to improve air quality.

Potential problems

Right now, it appears that Chicago and its host committee have not thought at all about hosting a Green Olympics.

No event the size or scope of the Olympics is without some big potential problems.

One of the biggest trouble spots is irresponsible or ill-planned land use.

The web site of the 2016 Chicago Bid Committee (www.chicago2016.org) notes that: "Our plan takes advantage of the magical lakefront, parks and neighborhoods — and, of course, our passion for sports."

What is lacking in the public Olympic bid documents is forethought about the environmental impact of holding huge athletic events on public lands.

The list of venues on the web site includes many parks and other open spaces within Chicago, including the main Olympic Stadium located within Washington Park; massive athletic complexes at lakefront sites such as McCormick Place and Northerly Island; a whitewater kayaking facility in Lincoln Park; and housing for 17,000 in the "Olympic Village" to be located south of McCormick Place

What the web site also doesn’t mention is that the Olympic Committee has been looking outside the City of Chicago for event locations.

For example, the mountain biking competition will be held in the Palos area, southwest of Chicago in Orland Park. Sources have said the competition will be on the area’s roads, not within the abundant acreage of the Cook County Forest Preserve District. But the presence of competitors, race administrators and logistical staff and thousands of spectators could have a significant, negative impact on the important natural areas in the Palos Forest Preserves.

More ominous is the proposal to locate equestrian events and a very large housing complex for competitors and horses in Lakewood Forest Preserve in Lake County, north of Chicago (see next column).

With at least 100,000 acres of county-owned forest preserves within Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will and Kane counties, Sierra Club is worried about other attempts by the Olympics to hold events and to build venues on public lands.

The Olympic Bid committee is specific, publicly: Only private funds will be used to build Olympic facilities.

What the committee has not been open about is the use of public lands as cheap alternatives to paying for land on which to locate athletic events and housing.

The Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club’s position is that no Olympic events should be located within or adjacent to natural areas and that an environmental impact assessment should be conducted on every site slated for athletic or ceremonial activities, housing or administration by the Olympic Games. And as mentioned above, accessibility by public transportation for athletes and spectators should be a high priority in selecting venue and housing locations.

Not Green — yet

Right now, it appears that Chicago and its host committee have not thought at all about hosting a Green Olympics.

Sierra Club hopes to change that and to work with the 2016 Chicago Bid Committee not only to incorporate environmental responsibility into the games, but also, to use that basic tenet as a selling point to the International Olympic Committee, which has the ultimate decision-making power about what country will host the 2016 Summer Games.

Globally, the U.S. has a bad reputation for environmental sensitivity. The 2016 Games would be a great way for Chicago to show its true, green colors and to show the world that environmental responsibility really matters to Americans.

If Chicago wins the April 14 bid, Sierra Club intends to be the Olympic Committee’s Green Partner for the 2016 Games. Beyond merely staving off bad aspects of the Olympics, the Club will work as an advocate to help the City of Chicago win the bid to host the Greenest Olympics.

 

 

An Olympic Sized Impact?

Chicago is aiming to host the 2016 Olympics! What could be more exciting than bringing the world’s greatest athletes to our own backyard? It should be exciting, majestic, even inspiring. Of course, there are limits to even the most thrilling events. For instance, no one would seriously propose bulldozing the Field Museum to build a Gran Prix raceway.

Unfortunately, places less famous than the Field Museum may not be protected by common sense. In the case of Chicago’s Olympic bid, it seems that the Chicago area’s forest preserves are viewed as easy, inexpensive land on which to build the required infrastructure.

Lake County wants to bring the 2016 Olympic equestrian events, including a $12 million equestrian center, to the 2,000 acre Lakewood Forest Preserve near Wauconda.

Set in a quiet, rural setting, Lakewood supports pristine land, 17 endangered species (including nesting Sandhill Cranes), a bat colony, an important rest stop for migratory birds and a U.S. National Natural Landmark, Wauconda Bog.

The proposed Olympic equestrian center will plunk down hundreds of acres of arenas, paddocks, stalls, restaurants, newsrooms and viewing stands directly in the center of this tranquil preserve, with control ceded to groups far from Lake County.

Negotiations between Lake County and the Chicago 2016 Olympic Exploratory Committee were not public with only one week of public discussion before the Lake County Forest Preserve Board voted (unanimously) to support the proposal.

Little was made of the impact that the Olympics might have on this preserve, although the Lake County Board estimated that 200,000 people would attend the events over a two-week period and that the facility would only use 300 acres of Lakewood.

It’s hard to weigh these claims and know how much of the Lakewood Forest Preserve would be negatively impacted, but the post-Olympic impacts of the last Olympics held in the U.S. in 1996, are illustrative.

According to the Georgia International Horse Park website (the new name for the Olympic facilities in Conyers, GA), 600,000 people attended events set on 1,100 acres of land. Today, this facility is still in place and hosting, “equestrian and mountain biking events…concerts, fairs, festivals, road races, rodeos, hot air balloon races, corporate outings and much more.”

Lake County politicians seem to be soft-peddling the issue and underplaying their real plans to assure easy approvals with little public resistance. If you’ve ever been to Lakewood or Wauconda, you know that the roads are small and the parking limited. It’s hard to image 200,000 people making their way to the events, but just as hard to imagine that equestrian events in 2016 would attract only one-third of the crowd that same event did 20 years earlier. Also mysterious is how the 2016 Olympics will shoehorn activities that required 1,100 acres in Atlanta into just 300 acres at Lakewood.

The answers seem obvious and Lakewood Forest Preserve appears to be a great example of new government priorities for protected land. How this plays out over the next few months may, unfortunately, determine the fate of other natural areas around Chicago.


If you are interested in helping, please contact co-chairs of the Sierra Club’s Olympic Task Force - Larry Marvet at larry.marvet@illinois.sierraclub.org or 847/537-2083 (evenings) and Christine Williamson at christine.williamson@illinois.sierraclub.org or 773/935-8439 (evenings).

Back to issue #56.


Join Our Free E-mail Lists! Return to Top

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Printable and Portable W&W News Return to Top

Here's the printed version of this issue of the W&W News in pdf. It's 232 kB and you'll need the Adobe Acrobat Reader to view it. If you want to give a copy to a friend who doesn't have internet access, we suggest printing this pdf rather than this web page. This issue of the W&W News is also found in print as part of Volume 48 #2 of the Illinois Chapter's Lake & Prairie newsletter. It's 5.6MB.

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