The Unique Environment of Illinois and Why you Should Care about it
Illinois, the pride of the Midwest (which, to clarify for the foreigners reading this, is actually not the midwestern part of the country; it’s more like the Central North, to be precise), has endured a rich history and developed an alluring, typically American subculture of its own over the centuries, but that isn’t exclusively what draws so many people to the State every year. Illinois’ suburban areas might be an interesting tourist location, just look at the hustling and bustling metropolis that is Chicago to find out what we mean, but for something truly unique, there’s no replacement for Illinois lush mountainscapes, deep forests and wide riverbanks which dominate the southern areas, far from the over-industrialized east. Truly, the State’s nature and geography are something to look at in awe.
Visitors will likely quickly appreciate the beauty of, say, the Mississippi River, which flows through parts of the State from Cairo to St. Louis, or perhaps the immense Shawnee National Park, with its hundreds of thousands of acres in square area. Speaking of national parks, the south of Illinois is full of them!
A concerted effort to save the unique flora and fauna inhabiting the area, Illinois features unusually large pieces of the State’s landmass controlled and secured by the government, making it one of the largest protected environmental zones in the US.
Learn more about conservation here: Illinois DNR
Concerning the aforementioned flora and fauna, visitors will notice a staggering amount of diversity that is seemingly missing completely from other American States, even some of Illini neighbors.
From deer and elk of all sorts to wolves, foxes, even coyotes, there are lots of mammals you wouldn’t expect in this otherwise typically continental Midwestern climate. But the State’s true beauty only reveals itself once you experience some of its rare, indigenous bird species. Illinois’ Official State Bird is the Northern Cardinal, a choice it shares with Kentucky and Ohio, to name two of about half a dozen States that have selected the same, but that gives one a truly misleading picture of the uniqueness of Illy’s fauna. Not only is the Cardinal a colorful beauty to see and listen to, but so are the remaining three hundred indigenous avian species dominating the State.
Statistically speaking, it’s almost impossible to get to see more than one of each at best within the average human lifetime, simply due to how rare and localized they appear! Few other States can say that of themselves, and one of them is a tropical island separate from the American mainland!
However, with all this diversity, beauty and vastness comes a lot of responsibility for the State.
Illinois has recognized this early on, starting in the Roosevelt years with deprivatizing much of Illinois unused, southern land, protecting it and creating some of the first nature reserves and protected zones.
To this day, as we’ve touched on before, Illinois boasts with having one of the largest protected-zone-to-unprotected-land-area ratios in the entire US, and for good reason. To make the truly one-of-a-kind flora and fauna that is so special accessible even to future generations, preservation is of paramount importance, and the state does take it very seriously.
The biggest problem with preservation is the State’s topographical makeup. Originally, before it was colonized and industrialized by soon-to-become Americans, Illinois’ land largely consisted of uninhabitable prairie—this is why some call it the Prairie State to this day.
However, that dramatically changed within only a hundred years of American settlement, and now, few small, true-to-life, prairie-like areas remain, making those the prime targets for preservation.
The reduction of prairie land has already caused the local extinction of the bison in Illinois, and local lawmakers and citizens alike have teamed up to prevent further species vanishing from the diverse State.
Due to the sheer size of protected zones, any landowner can still operate and build within them to ensure productivity and quality of life, but must do so under strict guidelines that prioritize the well-being of animals and plants in the area. This makes protected areas in Illinois different from the ‘just watching, no touching’ zones that you may have experienced already in different countries or States.
Protecting Illinois doesn’t mean taking away rights—it means diverting resources in an effort to care more about our environment than we already do.