A hearty welcome to all of you who have just joined the Deer Grove Natural Area Volunteers. You are the heart and soul of this restoration effort--through your work Deer Grove will be able to look forward to a future of renewed health and vigor.
You have joined the cast of a nationally-recognized volunteer movement, the Volunteer Stewardship Network, from which I hope you'll learn great things and to which you'll contribute through your important work. The Network was organized in 1983 by The Nature Conservancy. It began as a small-scale experiment in suburban Chicago by Nature Conservancy staff and a core group of dedicated volunteers. These people realized that if the remaining examples of Illinois' habitats were to survive with their original healthy ecology intact, they needed help. Volunteers provided this help--through people power, visibility and education to preserve and restore these precious natural areas. Today, the VSN has grown to include over 6,400 volunteers statewide.
The Nature Conservancy sponsors the Network by providing educational opportunities--workshops, annual stewards' conferences, and Prairie University (a catalog of workshops, classes, and other educational opportunities about natural history and restoration)--and by serving as an "information clearinghouse" for the Network. The Nature Conservancy links VSN groups and volunteers throughout the region with each other and with conservation professionals to share techniques, new initiatives, and important restoration experiences in our continuing search to learn more about the work we do.
The Deer Grove Natural Area Volunteers site is one of 48 Cook County Forest Preserve restoration project sites throughout Cook County. For the last five years, the Forest Preserve has been working to restore more than 54,000 acres of land , or 80 percent of the Forest Preserve District, to it's original ecological condition. In 1995, more than 2,400 volunteers donated approximately 30,000 hours of their time to help improve the ecosystems within the Forest Preserve.
I hope you are excited by the task before you and eager to take advantage of the opportunities it presents as you make a difference to preserve a rare, beautiful and important bit of Illinois' original landscape.
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