Bill Kurtis, plant sale to aid Conserve Lake County
Cindy and Bill Dietz of Grayslake, left, get a walk through analysis of their property with Mary Fortmann of Conserve Lake County. The Dietz family asked for help with native plants. | Photo courtesy of Conserve Lake County.
Conserve Lake County events
Native Plant Sale
When: 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. May 17-19, 24-26, May 31, June 1-2, 7-9
Where: Almond Marsh Forest Preserve, 32492 N. Almond Road, Grayslake.
Cost: Free admission
Annual meeting featuring Bill Kurtis
When: 6:15 p.m. April 25
Where: Independence Grove Forest Preserve, 16400 W. Buckley Road, Libertyville
Cost: Free for members; $10 for others
RSVP: by April 17
Details: wwww.conservelakecounty.org (847) 548-5989.
Updated: March 14, 2013 8:14AM
GRAYSLAKE —Conserve Lake County is using star power to spread its messsage.
The nonprofit will host famed newsman Bill Kurtis at a spring event, building on its nearly 20-year quest to protect local land from development.
Kurtis, who lives in Mettawa near Lake Forest, will bring awareness to the group’s cause at its April 25 annual meeting both through his celebrity and personal preservation efforts. The newsman has 65 acres of land he is personally preserving and restoring, plus owns land in Kansas.
The event will also include the launch of a photography exhibit by Libertyville photographer Sandi Whitmore.
And to continue generating interest in its cause — which is, in part, to preserve at least 20 percent of Lake County’s natural land — the group will also host a native plant sale starting May 17. The sale will run four consecutive weekends and Executive Director Steve Barg said it aims to provide plants that aren’t growing naturally at a rate that meets increasing public demand.
“It’s not easy to find native plants in Lake County and that was a major barrier to helping people do what they want,” Barg said. He added that as winter ends, homeowners are now focusing on removing invasive species like buckthorn and Japanese honeysuckle before they start growing exponentially again.
The sale will include more than 70 types of native plants, flowers, trees and grass from retailers in McHenry County, St. Charles and Monee.
Both events are an extension of the work Conserve Lake County has been doing since 1995. And in recent years the group teamed up with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Lake County Forest Preserve and a dozens of park districts and other land trusts to collectively preserve at least 20 percent of Lake County’s natural land.
As part of that effort, Conserve Lake County launched Conserve@Home in 2011 to help make even the developed areas Lake County as efficient and animal-friendly as possible, Barg said.
“It has gained a lot of momentum and we’re excited about the upcoming spring,” he added.
Conserve@Home allows for residents to get expert opinions and suggestions on home projects. Conserve Lake County has one full-time and two-part time staff members trained in horticulture who make house visits.
Projects typically involve adding native plants and trees to a landscape, or removing invasive species. Barg said the group does assessments on projects large and small.
“It can be as simple as wanting to replace a shrub bed with natural plants that feed birds and butterflies,” he said.
The organization has visited about 400 properties in the past 18 months and hopes to add another 250 visits in 2013. Libertyville, Mundelein, Vernon Hills, Grayslake, Lincolnshire and Lake Forest are among the most visited areas.
Barg said adding native plants also helps reduce flooding, since they are accustomed to Midwest droughts and heavy rains and, therefore absorb, filter and store more water than European plants. In addition, native plants are likely to attract more wildlife that is indigenous to Illinois.
For example, Conserve Lake County officials said oak trees provide food and shelter for close to 450 families of moths and butterflies, of which birds eat. A Norwegian maple tree, she said, only houses and feeds 12 families.
Reducing flooding, attracting animals and aesthetics have all spurred the demand that fuels the Conserve@Home program, the native plant sale and even affiliations with celebrity conservationists like Kurtis.
“What people want varies a lot based on budgets and different types of land, but everyone has a common theme of wanting to make their yards friendly to wildlife like butterflies and birds,” said Sarah Surroz, one of the home visitors.