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Excellence in Ecological Restoration Sites

Using a rigorous, standards-based approach, the Excellence in Ecological Restoration accreditation program recognizes large, high-quality natural areas and the organizations that manage them.

Accredited sites are listed below. The program is now a biennial application process and the 2016 application is currently closed. Learn more about the application process. 

Please contact us with questions about the program.



2014 SITES




Bluff Spring Fen, Elgin, IL, Forest Preserves of Cook County. Known for its rare, namesake wetland, the 165-acre Bluff Spring Fen preserve holds a diverse community of native plants and wildlife, including 12 species listed as threatened or endangered in Illinois.

Hickory Creek Barrens Nature Preserve, New Lenox, IL, Forest Preserve District of Will County. With more than 550 different plant species, the Hickory Creek Barrens Nature Preserve is ranked as the second richest preserve in Will County, Illinois.

Johnson's Mound Forest Preserve, Elburn, IL, Forest Preserve District of Kane County. A serene, wooded preserve surrounded by rolling prairie, this site features a glacial kame cloaked by oak-hickory woodland. 

Middlefork Savanna Forest Preserve, Lake Forest, IL, Lake County Forest Preserves. Home to more than 1,000 different plant and animal species, this preserve features a 25-acre tallgrass savanna—a globally threatened natural community—frequently described as the best surviving tallgrass savanna in Illinois.

The East Woods and Schulenberg Prairie and Savanna, Lisle, IL, The Morton Arboretum. Occupying more than half of The Morton Arboretum’s 1,700 acres, its East Woods and Schulenberg Prairie and Savanna holds one of the oldest prairie-savanna restorations in the country.

Pleasant Valley Conservation Area, Woodstock, IL, McHenry County Conservation District. Home to hawks, fox, salamanders, and other wildlife, Pleasant Valley Conservation Area protects the main stem of the Kishwaukee River and its neighboring floodplains. 

Illinois Beach State Park, Zion, IL, Illinois Department of Natural Resources. As one of the largest collections of unique natural communities in the state, Illinois Beach State Park protects the last remaining undeveloped shoreline in Illinois.


Goose Lake Prairie Nature Preserve, Morris, IL, Illinois Department of Natural Resources. With more than 1,600 acres, Goose Lake Nature Preserve is the largest unfragmented prairie remnant in Illinois and provides habitat for 17 endangered and threatened species, as well as for grassland birds that are sensitive to habitat fragmentation.


Deer Run, Oak Ridge & McKiski Forest Preserves, Cherry Valley, IL, Forest Preserves of Winnebago County. These sites encompass more than 1,300 acres of prairie, forest, and savanna, and are home to several threatened and endangered species, including the Prairie Bush Clover, a federally endangered plant found only in four states.

Ambler Flatwoods, Michigan City, IN, Shirley Heinze Land Trust. Donated by the State of Indiana as a nature preserve, this site’s dominant community of northern flatwoods is extremely rare and considered globally imperiled; more than 430 plant and 440 wildlife species have been documented here, many of them also rare or endangered.


2013 SITES


Forest Preserve District of Will County—Braidwood Dunes & Savanna Nature Preserve

Lake County Forest Preserves—Spring Bluff Forest Preserve

McHenry County Conservation District—North Branch Conservation Area

The Nature Conservancy—Indian Boundary Prairies


Chicago Botanic Garden—McDonald Woods

Forest Preserve District of Kane County—Dick Young Forest Preserve


Forest Preserves of Cook County—Powderhorn Marsh and Prairie Nature Preserve