The official state surveyor’s notes from 1840, describing the area that Fermilab now occupies, refer again and again to “1st rate prairie,” “rich, open prairie land,” and “prairie land, rich and fit for cultivation.” The last description proved prophetic: 150 years later, Illinois’ prairies have virtually disappeared, turned over to the production of soybeans and corn. Yet in some areas, among them Fermilab, efforts have begun to retrieve some of the awesome beauty of the old prairies, as well as the biodiversity of native grassland ecosystems. Since 1975, Fermilab has gradually increased the acreage dedicated to reconstructing the native grassland. Volunteers from the Laboratory staff and interested people from the community nurse the prairie back to life by preparing the land, planting seeds, and managing the result.
Fermilab is a member of Chicago Wilderness, an organization dedicated to protecting and restoring natural communities of the Chicago region.