Northwest Illinois

Photo Credit: Caleb DeWitt

Northwest Illinois

Photo Credit: Caleb DeWitt

About Our Chapter

Mission and Service Area

The Northwest Illinois chapter of The Prairie Enthusiasts (NIPE) is committed to the protection, restoration, and management of prairies, savannas, and other fire-dependent ecosystems in the Driftless Area of Illinois. The area contains hill prairie, oak woodland, sand prairie, oak savanna,  sedge meadow, oak barren, and tallgrass (black soil) prairie. NIPE primarily serves Jo Daviess, Carroll, and Stephenson counties.

Steering Committee

With the retirement over the past two years of some long-time members of the Board of Directors and a subsequent need to scale back its efforts, NIPE has spent several months deciding how best to continue NIPE’s mission and activities.  NIPE has decided, at least for now, to dispense with a formal Board of Directors.  Instead, a Steering Committee will guide NIPE for the foreseeable future.

Current members of the Steering Committee are Jay Rutherford, Barb Siekowski, Vicky Wagner, Jake Pulfer, Leanne Martin, and Laura Dufford.  Regarding NIPE’s activities, Laura comments that “We are continuing on with seed collecting, education, and working at keeping our properties maintained.”


Jay Rutherford





Jay Rutherford





NIPE needs volunteers to help with specific endeavors.  Right now, NIPE needs help with its land management crews.  If you have an interest in working with and/or organizing a work crew, please email Laura Dufford.

NIPE 20th Anniversary Celebration

Sunday, July 9 at Hanley Savanna, 2-4 p.m. 

Twenty years ago, The Prairie Enthusiasts purchased the initial 110 acres from Jim Lewis, establishing Hanley Savanna.  Since then Hanley Savanna has grown to its present size of 160 acres, faithfully stewarded by NIPE volunteers and staff.

Join us on Sunday, July 9, 2023, 2-4 p.m. at Hanley Savanna to celebrate!  We will learn a little bit about Hanley Savanna and walk the prairies.  NIPE will supply cookies, snacks and light beverages.  We recommend you bring your own water bottle, bug spray, and sunscreen.  Festivities will start at the shelter near the corner of S. Whitton and S. Hanover Hill Roads.  RSVPS are not needed.

Bumblees (and more!) Survey at Hanley Savanna

After helping with last year’s successful bumblebee survey at JDCF’s Wapello Land and Water Preserve, NIPE will host a walking survey of bumblebees and other insects, birds, and flora at Hanley Savanna during the 2023 growing season.  The walks will take place monthly, allowing us to explore what Hanley has to offer.  Each walk will last for 2-3 hours, depending on the weather and what we see.

If you would like to participate, email Laura Dufford. Laura will send you more information – including the starting date.  Once we get going, Laura will let our group know if there are changes or if circumstances require a cancellation.


Led by Jim Rachuy, NIPE was founded October 5, 1993, and soon had 60 members. The membership has more than doubled since then, and NIPE remains the sole Illinois chapter of The Prairie Enthusiasts (TPE). Over the years, NIPE has helped restore and/or manage approximately 1,500 acres.

Some other highlights of NIPE’s history:

  • NIPE has identified about 110 sites (a little less than 35,000 acres) in Jo Daviess and Carroll Counties that contain significant natural habitat or prairie remnants, of which 56 have been restored and/or are being managed by NIPE.
  • The Seed Shed, where NIPE processes harvested native plant seed for overseedings in
    restorations, began operating in 1993.
  • The Prairie Enthusiasts purchased Elmoville Prairie in 1994 and Hanley Savanna in 2003. (See Sites and Projects) and holds easements on Horseshoe Mound and Lonetree Farm.
  • NIPE has partnered with the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation (JDCF) since 2003 to help restore various JDCF properties, including Casper Bluff Land & Water Reserve (90 acres), Eagle’s Nest (120 acres), Galena Gateway Park (180 acres), Horseshoe Mound (almost 200 acres). Oneota (161 acres) and Wapello Land & Water Reserve (75 acres).
  • NIPE’s Species Conservation Project began in 2014 by identifying plants that should be growing in our area, obtaining seeds when possible, and growing them in NIPE’s two rare plant gardens. NIPE aims to establish three viable protected populations of 797of the 1572 plants that are native to Jo Daviess County. By 2021 335 species were growing in three or more protected sites, including land owned by TPE, JDCF, the Galena Territory Association, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and Illinois Department of Natural Resources. As of 2022, 189 species are field collected, 117 are under cultivation, and 55 are currently unavailable for restoration, leaving 101more species that can be cultivated in the future.


Current Focus:

NIPE continues to actively steward the prairies and other ecosystems at Lonetree Farm, Elmoville Prairie, and Hanley Savanna. The Species Conservation Project also continues. As resources permit, NIPE works with the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and private landowners, providing native seed and program assistance for restoration and stewardship activities.

Other Activities:

NIPE also does the following:

  • Has cooperative work and/or seed exchange programs with organizations such as the Northwest Illinois Stewardship Co-op and the Lake Carroll Prairie Club.
  • Offers education programs; and
  • Pursues grants and other funding to assist with all its activities.


Staff: NIPE currently has a seed coordinator and some staff working on NIPE properties.

Volunteers:  NIPE relies on its wonderful cadre of volunteers to keep its various efforts going.  If you are interested in helping pick prairie seed, assisting in the species conservation program, getting involved in prairie restoration or stewardship, or joining a committee (current committees include Education, Land Management, and Grant Funding), please contact NIPE at

Facebook: Chapter page

photo by Susan Lipnick

photo to the right by Zoe Pearce




Check back here often for the latest chapter events, and send us a message to ensure you’re on the email list for the Northwest Illinois chapter.

No event found!