Bartel Grassland is a 585-acre prairie restoration project that is sustained through a partnership with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC), Audubon-Chicago Region, OpenLands, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Thorn Creek Audubon Society and the Bartel Grassland Volunteers.


Prior to settlement in the early nineteenth century, this land was primarily wet-mesic prairie. Once settled, the land was put into agricultural production for several decades and later purchased by FPDCC. Currently, the grassland is a part of the district’s Tinley Creek Wetland Preserve located at Flossmoor Road between Ridgeland and Central Avenue in Matteson, Illinois.

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In 2003, Bartel was designated as a Land And Water Reserve and accepted for protection by the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission. Additionally, it has been recognized as an Audubon Important Bird Area (IBA). As an IBA, Bartel is now part of a global effort to conserve areas that are vital to birds and other biodiversity. The open land at Bartel provides essential breeding habitat for several species of conservation concern whose numbers are declining worldwide including Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Grasshopper Sparrows, Dickcissels, and Henslow’s Sparrows. Some of these birds return each spring to Bartel from as far away as South America to nest and raise their young.

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Through the efforts of the partners and a group of dedicated volunteers, the vision for the grassland is to restore the land as close to the original conditions as realistically possible. Restoring the prairie ecosystem, will help conserve the wildlife, plants and people who depend on it for survival. To date, some restoration activities at Bartel, have included disabling agricultural drain tiles to restore the site’s natural hydrology, removing interior fence row trees, controlling the spread of invasive exotic plant species, and the seeding/planting of native species.

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