Lake Michigan Shoreline

Habitat Restoration Removes Invasive Species

Funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has helped Chicago area groups remove invasive species in Chiwaukee so native species can thrive.


The shore of Lake Michigan in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin is made up of prairies, savannas, wetlands, swales, and dunes and is home to many animals and plants, including some rare or threatened species. Each of these ecosystems play a different role in the overall health of the Great Lakes—filtering water before it reaches the lake, slowing flood waters to diminish sediment build up, providing habitat for species that live around the lakes. Throughout the lake plain area these ecosystems and the services they provide to keep Lake Michigan healthy are being threatened by invasive species.

The Chiwaukee Illinois Beach Lake Plain Habitat project has worked to protect this environment by removing and stopping invasive species, while also preserving the habitat for native species to thrive. Workers are eradicating invasive species in wetlands and prairies throughout the region, while also protecting relatively well-preserved native habitat from invasion. Additionally, prescribed burns will be used to eradicate invasive species while also restoring prairie species for which regular fire is needed to thrive. This large project covers 4,500 acres, connecting multiple ecosystems that provide habitat for 747 plant species and 300 animal species. Over 1,000 acres will be protected from encroachment of invasive species such as cattail, buckthorn, and common reed (also known as phragmites).

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Lack of native habitat
  • Invasive species
  • Ecosystem degradation


A field of different grasses, shrubs, and wildflowers now exists on Chiwaukee Plain

A Lake Plain habitat after restoration, with four years of invasive species control, has yielded an increase in diverse wildlife. Photo credit Chip Williams and Lake County Forest Preserve District.

Results and Accomplishments

In September 2015, the Chiwaukee Illinois Beach Lake Plain was designated a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty dedicated to protecting wetland areas around the world. The Chiwaukee, Illinois Beach Lake Plain Habitat project will provide protected native habitat for over 700 different types of plants and 300 varieties of animals, including 63 state-listed threatened or rare species and four federally-listed species. The restored wetland habitat adjacent to Lake Michigan will also provide a stopover space for more than 150 different types of migratory birds. By controlling thousands of acres of invasive species the Chiwaukee project will protect native ecosystems that help to filter water for, and slow runoff into, the Great Lakes. This area is also filled with parks and pathways for visitors, providing outdoor recreation opportunities for 2.5 million people each year.