Nature and the environment

Here you will find articles and reports about Illinois plants and animals, natural systems, ecological change, mined land restoration, pollution, soil erosion, toxics pollution, water supply and flood control, ecosystem restoration, and climate and weather, as published mainly by Nature of Illinois, Illinois Issues. Chicago’s Reader, and Illinois state government agencies.

 

I came of age at the same time as the federal and state environmental protections agencies. The environment was a new issue in Illinois, but not a new problem. For decades, its farmers had poisoned streams with farm chemicals and clogged lakes with eroded soil, acidic rain from the burning of Illinois coal was killing forests in the northeast U.S., prime soils were being built on or washed away, and the ecosystem for which the Prairie State was named scarcely existed in its original form.

 

In my off hours I poked around in the backwaters of Lake Springfield, an artificial reservoir built in the 1930s. When I discovered the place, the ponds were dotted with muskrat lodges, deer fed at water’s edge, fish frolicked, and egrets nested in the trees. An orgy of corn planting in the fields upstream of the lake caused the backwaters to fill with sediment within a very few years. The lodges disappeared and the waters on which I floated in a kayak became mud much of the year. Such damage, I felt, was not wrong so much as it was stupid, and when I could, I explained why I thought so in journals where explaining was appropriate and I ranted about it in journals where ranting was allowed. Not until I compiled this archives did I realize how often and how much I'd written about nature and the environment.

An old pal once said that if he lived in Montana, he'd die for the environment, but Illinois was not worth it. A lot of Illinoisans don't agree, and the state has made hard-earned advances on every environmental front thanks to them.

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Currents of History

Illinois River books by Gray and Masters

Reader April 13, 1990

Green Streets

Chicago tries to learn to love trees

Reader  January 19, 1990

Cougars in Illinois?

Are the big cats back in Illinois?

Illinois Issues July/August 2004

Nature in a Sorry State

Yes, a state report about Illinois's natural systems

Reader  July 29, 1988

On the Beach

How to stop Lake Michigan from eating Chicago

Reader May 22, 1987

Waves of Change

Illinois's unnatural Illinois natural systems

Illinois Department of Natural Resources  1994

Oh, the prairie!

Reclaim the Prairie

Recreating a paradise of weeds in Illinois

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  January 15, 1992

Coming Into the Prairie

A biography of Illinois's signature ecosystem

Reader January 28, 1983

The Breaking of the Prairie

“Improving” Illinois land

Illinois Issues  October 1981

Loess Is More

How prairie plants turned dirt into soil

See Illinois (unpublished)  2007

Romancing the Prairie

Nature and nativism in the prairie restoration movement

Illinois Issues  July/August 2007

Prophet of the Prairie

Jens Jensen's prairiescapes

Landscape Architecture  April 1992

Return of the Bastard Toadflax

Putting the prairie back into the Prairie State

Illinois Issues  April 1996

Urbs in Horto

Chicagoland’s natural landscapes

See Illinois (unpublished) 2004

Illinois in Camera

Visions of an unseen nature 

Nature of Illinois  Winter 1989

Pollution Paradigms

A new approach to environmental protection?

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  August 27, 1992

Pumping Out Iowa

How cities flood themselves

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  July 21, 1993

The Battles Over the Ground and Behind the Doors
Healing damaged farmland in Illinois
Illinois Issues  January 1985

Touring Springfield As It Was 150 Years Ago

The Town Branch of Spring Creek, rediscovered

Illinois Times  December 24, 1976

Nature's Metropolis

An econo-environmental history of Chicago

Illinois Times  December 11, 1991

Patrimony

Turning Illinois’s poor ­counties into bucolic Disneylands

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  May 26, 1983

Where Has All the Flora Gone?
Cataloging and protecting Illinois's endangered plants

Reader  April 15, 1988

Illinois coal

 

The year 1979 found me trying to learn enough about the coal industry in Illinois to write an ambitious series of articles for Illinois Issues magazine. (See Publications​ for more.) Illinois coal was then being touted as the solution to the nation's energy problem, not the cause of the planet's climate problem, and giving what is today a dying industry this much attention seemed obligatory. Future historians of the Illinois coal industry might take note.

 

I include these are articles on this page because coal mining had implications for farmland loss, acid rain, and climate change.

Illinois Coal v. Western Coal: Who's Getting Burned?

Illinois Issues  July 1979

Illinois Coal: Who Runs the Industry

Illinois Issues  August 1979

Illinois Coal: Can We Scrub It Clean?

 Illinois Issues  September 1979

Who Makes Coal Policy in Illinois?

Illinois Issues  November 1979

Who Makes Coal Policy in Illinois? Chapter II

Illinois Issues  December 1979

It's Not the Heat, It's the Corn     

Are row crops making summers unbearable?    

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times July 12     

Going Against the Flow

Need Springfield gag on stormwater?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  August 11, 2011

Agency Problems

The dilemmas of public power on a warming planet      

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  July 27, 2017      

Wet Dream

Why not a Y block wetland?    

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  September 4, 2014

Waste Not. Why Not?   

Is recycling food waste a fad or the future?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  October 9, 2014

Noise about Noise

Noisy boom cars are confusing Springfield aldermen

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  May 20, 2010

They’re B-a-a-a-c-k

A cougar is spotted in Morgan County

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  November 8, 2012

Gwyneth Knows

Can fishy fads rid the Illinois of silver carp?       

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times August 7, 2014

The Bird and I  

Our feathered friends are trying to tell us something       

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  January 29, 2015          

 

Demanding Answers

Does water conservation add up for Springfield?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  February 21, 2014

Land of Drinkin’

Should Illinois make more of its liquid assets?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  May 14, 2015               

 

Immigrants Behaving Badly

Is a bad tree worse than no tree at all?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  July 24, 2014    

The Blossomy Haw, Remembered

Natural beauty and politics

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times    June 9, 2016

A Day in the Life of the Havana River Research Laboratory

Public science on the Illinois River

The Nature of Illinois  Fall 1988

Water Resources of Illinois:

The Challenge of Abundance

In 1982 I was invited by Illinois Issues to do a major series of six articles about all aspects of water in Illinois—the scale of the resource, how it is used, the problems posed by nature and by human pollution. They were big pieces, and money to write them came from grants, the principal donor being Chicago's Joyce Foundation.

 

The articles were well-received by experts in the field, which was gratifying. The magazine bundled the completed articles into a report titled "Water Resources in Illinois: The Challenge of Abundance,” which title I borrow here. (See Publications​ for more.)

Note: The originals have here been lightly edited for style. The collected version included a bibliography and a preface by Donald Vonnahme, then chairman of Illinois State Water Plan Task Force. They are here omitted.

Dune

The nature of Illinois Beach State Park

Nature of Illinois  Fall 1989

Guilty Consciences
The fantasy of the innocent Native American Eden

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  May 19, 1994

Flat Land into Landscapes    
Scenic paintings of the central Illinois landscape. Really.    "Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  November 29, 2012 

How Chicago Became the Gateway to the West

A review of Cronon’s Nature's Metropolis

Chicago Enterprise  October 1991

Illinois Eco-Regions

Reports from the Critical Trends Assessment Program

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

1999

To provide focus for an important and innovative environmental project called the Critical Trends Assessment Program, IDNR developed and published an Inventory of Ecologically Resource-Rich Areas in Illinois, then assembled an assessment of each area. I was hired to write a summary of the findings plus separate versions of those assessments meant to appeal to interested lay readers. Clicking on the title of this box will take you to a page with links to more than a dozen of these regional eco-reports. (See Publications​ for more.)

Where Has All the Soil Gone?

Why soil loss in Illinois is a bad thing

The Ecologist (UK)  No. 5/6, 1984

Damning the Coal Company

Trading coal today for corn forever

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  January 18, 1980

A Park that Needs Protection from People

Springfield’s Carpenter Park under threat

Illinois Times  September 15, 1978

Kitchen Table Colloquies

Neighbors chat about saving the Sangamon basin

“Prejudices” Illinois Times  June 13, 1980

Who Is Protecting Carpenter Park?

Against government, nature doesn't stand a chance

Illinois Times  August 27, 1981

Report from Illinois's Sand Country

Cactus? In mid-Illinois corn country? You bet.

Illinois Times  November 10, 1978

Victims and Perpetrators

Just the facts, ma’am: Illinois and acid rain

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  December 3, 1987

Paving Over Oxfordshire

The demise of the Illinois countryside

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  August 10, 1979

Biography of the Carp

They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere!

Illinois Times  May 27, 1977

The Sangamon

The life and times of Lincoln's river

Illinois Times  June 4 and June 11, 1976

Fossil Hunter for the State

Vertebrate paleontologist Richard Leary

Illinois Times  February 3, 1978

The Science of Budgeting

The State of Illinois flunks its science test 

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 20, 1992

Emotionalist

David Brower at the kitchen table

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 27, 1981

Fury Like Armageddon    
The Midwest faces the prospect of the Big One
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  July 8, 2010

Blue Bin Blues

Springfield recycles excuses about waste disposal

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  July 2, 1992

Disharmony

Civic ugliness as economic development issue

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  May 5, 1983

Toxics and Risk

 

In 1986, Illinois Issues magazine commissioned me to write a series (which ended up running to six articles) on the then newish issue of toxics pollution. The pieces ran from March through August of that year (or so I believe; not all my copies are dated.) Specific topics included assessment, politics, economics, risk management, and possible solutions. Later the magazine packaged the series as 48-page booklet with the title, Toxics and Risk, which included suggested readings and a list of sources which are not reproduced here. (See Publications​ for more.)

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toxics

Where to begin?

Illinois Issues  March 1986

Toxics

Assessing the risks

Illinois Issues  April 1986

Toxics

The politics of risk

Illinois Issues  May 1986

Toxics

The economics of risk

Illinois Issues  June 1986

Toxics

The management of risk

Illinois Issues  July 1986

Toxics

Solving the problems of toxics risk

Illinois Issues  August 1986

Muddying the Waters

Garbage in, drinking water out

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  August 27, 1991

$164 a Ton

Not all gas emitted by CWLP comes out its chimneys

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  October 20, 1983

Land of Drinkin’

Should Illinois make more of its liquid assets?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times May 14, 2015

It's Not the Heat, It's the Corn

Are row crops making summers unbearable?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  July 12, 2011

Egypt

Illinois's own Southland, introduced

Nature of Illinois  Spring/Summer 1988

Quackscam and Cockatiels

Libertarians limber up their guns along the Illinois

“Prejudices” Illinois Times  January 2, 1981

They’re B-a-a-a-c-k

A cougar is spotted in Morgan County

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times November 8, 2012

Dead Horses

On the open burning of trees leaves

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  December 6, 1990

Bat Fan

Why Illinois bats are good bats

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  June 22, 1989

Brick By Brick

Lake Michigan mugs the well-off, who complain

“Prejudices” Illinois Times  March 19, 1987

Rush to Judgment

Does Illinois export acid rain?

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 22, 1984

 . . . And a Shovel

Illinois—the land of brown-water rafting

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  June 30, 1983

Draconian Measures

Garbage in—then what?

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  June 16, 1988

Conservation, Carpenter, and Cadigan

When foxes run the chicken coop

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 31, 1983

Green Engineering

Soft alternatives to soft-headed flood control

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 29, 1993

“A Little More Dirt in Your Lungs”

An Illinois governor preaches pollution

Illinois Times  August 3, 1979

"Breadbasket or Dustbowl"

I was commissioned to write a six-article series on soil conservation to appear in Illinois Issues magazine between September 1981 and February 1982. The project was another of that magazine’s examinations of pressing environmental issues, in this case funded in large part by The Joyce Foundation, with the assistance of the Illinois Department of Agriculture's Division of Natural Resources. The articles were later published as a 48-page booklet titled Breadbasket or Dustbowl. (See Publications for more.) 

Illinois’s Disappearing Soil

The distance between Eden and the desert

Illinois Issues  September 1981

The Breaking of the Prairie

“Improving” Illinois land

Illinois Issues  October 1981

A “Resource Out of Place”

The costs of sedimentation pile up

Illinois Issues  November 1981

Saving the Soil: Target Date 2000

The rebirth of soil conservation in Illinois

Illinois Issues  December 1981

Soil Loss: The Conversion Factor

"The land is going! The land is going!"

Illinois Issues  January 1982

Farmland Preservation: Condos or Corn?

 Saving the farm—until it's time to sell

Illinois Issues  February 1982

“No Peace and Quiet”

Coal companies plow up central Illinois

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 25, 1980

No Stickers
Seeing the universe in the sand burr
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  May 2, 2011

The Tully Monster
Illinois's official state fossil
See Illinois (unpublished)  2002

Uncertain Waters

The rivers of southern Illinois

See Illinois (unpublished)  2002

Arcadia at the End of the El Lines

Chicagoland’s parks and green spaces

See Illinois (unpublished)  2008

The War Against Trees

Humans and nature conspire to make Illinois treeless

See Illinois (unpublished) 2005

Flatville

East-central Illinois’s Grand Prairie

See Illinois (unpublished)  2005

Ground to Gumbo

The devastation of Gulf fisheries by Illinois farm runoff

Illinois Issues  July/August 2006

Mined Land Reclamation

A two-parter about what to do after the coal's gone

Illinois Issues  December 1984

Corn, Coal, Corn 

Can a corn field have a life after strip mining?

Illinois Issues  July 1980

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SITES

OF

INTEREST

John Hallwas

Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Lee Sandlin Author

One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.

Chicago Architecture Center

See Home Page/Learn/

Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago

 

The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.

Illinois Great Places

The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our  shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.

McLean County Museum

of History

A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.

Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois

 

Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."

Illinois Digital Archives

 

Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards,  posters, and videos.

The Illinois State Museum

 

The people's museum is a treasure house of science and the arts. A research institution of national reputation, the museum maintains four facilities across the state. Their collections in anthropology, fine and decorative arts, botany, zoology, geology, and  history are described here. A few museum publications can be obtained here.

Chronicling Illinois

“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

Chicagology

I will leave it to the authors of this interesting site to describe it. "Chicagology is a study of Chicago history with a focus on the period prior to the Second World War. The purpose of the site is to document common and not so common stories about the City of Chicago as they are discovered." 

Illinois Labor History Society

The Illinois Labor History Society seeks to encourage the preservation and study of labor history materials of the Illinois region, and to arouse public interest in the profound significance of the past to the present. Offers books reviews, podcasts, research guides, and the like. 

Illinois Migration History 1850-2017

The University of Washington’s America’s Great Migrations Project has compiled migration histories  (mostly from the published and unpublished work by UW Professor of History James Gregory) for several states, including Illinois. The site also includes maps and charts and essays about the Great Migration of African Americans to the north, in which Illinois figured importantly. 

BOOKS

 OF INTEREST

Southern Illinois University Press 2017

A work of solid history, entertainingly told.

Michael Burlingame,

author of Abraham 

Lincoln: A Life 

One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.

Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018

A lively and engaging study . . .  an enthralling narrative.

James Edstrom

The Annals of Iowa

A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians

as well as local historians generally.

John Hoffman

Journal of Illinois HIstory

A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.

Harold Henderson 

Midwestern Microhistory

A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.

Greg Hall

Journal of the Illinois

State Historical Society

Click  here 

to read about

the book 

Click  here 

to buy the book 

Southern Illinois University Press

SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.

University of

Illinois Press

The U of I Press was founded in 1918. A search of the online catalog  (Books/Browse by subject/Illinois) will reveal more than 150 Illinois titles, books on history mostly but also butteflies, nature , painting, poetry and fiction, and more.  Of particular note are its Prairie State Books,  quality new paperback editions of worthy titles about all parts of Illinois, augmented with scholarly introductions.

University of

Chicago Press

The U of C publishing operation is the oldest (1891) and largest university press in Illinois. Its reach is international, but it has not neglected its own neighborhood. Any good Illinois library will include dozens of titles about Chicago and Illinois from Fort Dearborn to

Vivian Maier.

Northern Illinois University Press

The newest (1965) and the smallest of the university presses with an interest in Illinois, Northern Illinois University Press gave us important titles such as the standard one-volume history of the state (Biles' Illinois:
A History of the Land and Its People) and contributions to the history of Chicago, Illinois transportation, and the Civil War. Now an imprint of Cornell University Press.

Reviews and significant mentions by James Krohe Jr. of more than 50 Illinois books, arranged in alphabetical order

by book title. 

Contact James Krohe Jr. at CornLatitudes@outlook.com

All material Copyright © by James Krohe Jr. unless otherwise indicated