Celebrate Illinois Pollinator Week with Sierra Club!

Teams of Sierrans throughout Illinois have been as busy as bees working to improve habitat for all pollinator- bees, birds and butterflies. DuPage Monarch Project, led by the River Prairie Group of the Sierra Club, asked Governor Rauner to name June 18-24 as Illinois Pollinator Week and he followed through! As we celebrate pollinators this week, take time to learn how you can help and how you can engage with other Sierra Club members in this important conservation work.

IllinoisPollinatorWeekPosterEnglish

Download English, Spanish and Polish versions of this poster at the end of this post.

Monarch butterflies and other important pollinators are in decline. The causes range from habitat loss, to pesticides, to climate change. Monarch butterfly populations have declined by as much as 90 percent over the last two decades.

Because Illinois is a critical migration flyway for monarch butterflies it has been designated as a high priority area for monarch conservation in strategies developed both by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. And, the monarch butterfly, Illinois’ state insect, was identified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the most recent Illinois Wildlife Action Plan.

The Illinois Chapter Sierra Club’s Pollinator Campaign formed The Monarch Team–volunteers who works at the Group level to make the Prairie State better for monarchs, which in turn helps all of our valuable pollinators. The Team:

  • Advocates for critical Monarch habitat with new public lands like the Hackmatack and Kankakee National Wildlife Refuges, and continuing restoration at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and other sites.
  • Works with partner organizations to develop policies to reduce, regulate and/or eliminate the use of toxic pesticides that are lethal to pollinators and the plants they depend on.
  • Collaborates on statewide policy to increase pollinator habitat on public and private land from farmland to urban areas to roadside rights of way.
  • Hosts and/or participates at educational events and festivals that promote planting native species, especially milkweeds, in yards, farms, rights of way, and other places available to support monarchs.

You can keep track of Illinois Sierra Club pollinator activities by checking out our calendar and by becoming a member of our Monarch Team’s Facebook group. Please feel free to add pollinator info and events to the group page. Mark your calendars for these Upcoming Events:

Help out Illinois Monarchs by Purchasing a License Plate Decal

Illinois residents can help out monarchs by signing up to purchase a license plate with a new monarch butterfly decal! All of the funds received will go to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to support roadside monarch habitat throughout our state and help to save this magnificent species. Instructions can be found in this earlier post. We need 2000 Illinoisans to sign up by September for the Secretary of State to create the decal.

History of Illinois Chapter Sierra Club’s Pollinator Campaign

  • Legislative initiatives
    • HB2568 — passed bill designating milkweed as Illinois State Wildflower
    • HB685 — passed bill to eliminate milkweed from being listed on municipal and county noxious weed lists.
  • Team activities:
    • All across the state Monarch Team volunteers have helped establish pollinator plantings, wayside gardens, and demonstration plots at county forest preserves, city parks and open spaces, national wildlife refuges, and a Studio Gang rooftop.
    • Worked with several park districts and a cities to sign resolutions to create and protect pollinator habitat.
    • Worked to get Mayor’s Monarch Pledges signed.
    • Volunteers have staffed tables at numerous Earth Day events and other festivals where they talked to the public and handed out information about monarchs and pollinators, handed out seed packets that they had assembled and labeled, setup coloring activity stations for kids, etc.
    • Groups have held educational presentations, while individual members have attended various pollinator workshops and webinars.

Pollinator Protection work underway throughout Illinois

River Prairie Group Spearheaded by the River Prairie Group, the DuPage Monarch Project (DMP) was formed in 2015 as a collaboration of four local environmental organizations for the purpose of advocating for monarch friendly communities.  Monarch friendly communities encourage landscaping for habitat, limiting the usage of insecticides and educating their residents about the challenges facing monarchs and pollinators. DMP’s outreach has primarily been through educational programs, tabling, and urging municipal entities to sign monarch resolutions. In 2018-

  • DMP hosted its third annual program titled Beyond Monarchs: Preserving Endangered Butterflies, Bees and Dragonflies.
  • DMP organized a pollinator themed art exhibit, The Art of Pollinators that ran for the month of May at Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook.  The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s annual native plant sale was held at the same location on May 11 and 12, offering plant sale browsers the opportunity to experience many of the pollinators that rely on native species.  The call for art was well received with nearly a 100 entries. It was a multi-media event with photographs, watercolors and several three-dimensional entries including an altered book, mixed media pieces and artful furniture. Sound artist John Nichols III contributed an insect soundscape of cricket chirps, buzzing bees, beetle clicks and whirring hummingbirds created from recordings collected over the past ten years.
  • DMP is offering a half-day symposium on October 17th on creating attractive, pollinator-friendly landscapes in a variety of settings, parks, municipal lands, homeowners association’s common grounds, corporate campuses and golf courses.

Chicago Group The group’s second annual pollinator seed packet distribution is underway.  We packaged 1,000 packets with native purple coneflower & black eyed susan seeds, and we will be handing them out at various farmers markets and Sierra Club sponsored events.  Packets are available at the Sierra Club’s Chicago office for people to pick up.

Shawnee Group The group’s pollinator project in Carbondale was put on hold after learning that the Splash Park where our project was located is heavily sprayed by Jackson County Mosquito Abatement. Because of the potential lethal consequences to all insects caused by mosquito abatement spraying the group voted not to continue attracting pollinators with more native plants until we could find a solution. The group is communicating with the Carbondale Sustainability Council in hopes they can influence  policies and change to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) recommended by the Xerces organization or find other pollinator insect friendly management techniques.

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Kathy Belletire, leader of the Shawnee Group’s Monarch Team, created this monarch-themed card that the group sold at their spring native plant sale.

The group participated in the “People and Pollinators” event sponsored by the Field Museum and held on the SIU campus on June 5th to learn to use mapping protocols to identify pollinator habitat potential in urban areas. Carbondale, Lincoln and Peoria are three cities in Illinois chosen as pilot project locations.  Volunteers will help the Giant City State Park Visitor Center’s pollinator garden by labeling their plants and enlarging their garden. They don’t spray there or at the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge’s pollinator garden and prairie restoration project where the group also volunteers weekly.

Woods & Wetlands Group The group’s Monarch Campaign, co-chaired by Dale Duda and Cindy Blue, focuses on advocating for local community actions to preserve, protect and restore monarch habitat. The group continues to advocate for mayors to sign the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge and commit to a minimum three actions to help monarchs. Several mayors in the group’s territory have signed. See all the Illinois and national signatories online.

Woods & Wetlands is also working with libraries to adopt an education program, developed by the group, to reinforce knowledge about the monarch butterfly and the importance of milkweed to its life cycle.

Blackhawk Group Sierrans are part of the Hackmatack Monarch Coalition that is active in McHenry County. This coalition of over 20 member organizations is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on improving pollinator habitat and educating citizens on what they can do to help out pollinators. The coalition will host its 4th annual Monarch Family Fun Fair on August 12. The group has also planted pollinator plants supplied by the USFWS into existing roadside prairies and established new gardens at sites throughout the county, including at the McHenry County fairgrounds. In the fall, a second planting will be the first phase of establishment of a buffer along Silver Creek which runs through fairgrounds.

Download Illinois Pollinator Week posters: English Polish Spanish

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Community Dialogue Training: IL’s Clean Energy Future

By: Caroline Wooten

Community dialogues can be a powerful tool for shaping inclusive and winning environmental campaigns.

Join us to learn how to plan and facilitate a community dialogue in your own community! These dialogues can help shape local priorities, and will also help us as we shape state-level policy goals for clean energy.

A community dialogue involves gathering 3-15 individuals from your community, and engaging in an intentional group conversation on a given issue. By engaging people in discussion about their values and experiences, their community’s needs and opportunities, and their priorities on a given policy issue, we can shape campaigns that are grounded in local needs and serve people first.

Join the training that works best for you:

Thursday, June 21, 6:30 pm-9 pm
@ Illinois Sierra Club – 70 E Lake St Suite 1500, Chicago, IL 60601
RSVP here
Dinner Provided

Saturday, June 23, 10 am- 4 pm (This training is a day-long Ready for 100 leadership training. One section of the agenda will focus on community dialogues)
@ First Presbyterian Church – 400 Alby St, Alton, IL 62002
RSVP here
Breakfast and lunch provided

Monday, June 25, 6 pm-8:30 pm
@ Spring Valley Nature Center – 1111 E Schaumburg Rd, Schaumburg, IL 60194
RSVP here
Dinner Provided

Thursday, June 28, 6:30-9 pm
@ 3S501 Landon, Warrenville, IL 60555
RSVP here
Dinner Provided

Illinois EPA to Host Public Outreach Sessions on Volkswagen Settlement Spending Plan

By: Rebecca Judd

In February, the Illinois EPA released its Draft Mitigation Plan (Draft Plan) on how to spend the state’s $108 million allocation from the Volkswagen emissions cheating settlement fund.  The state failed to have public meetings and hearings to decide the best way to spend the money before issuing the Draft Plan.  However, in response to the public outcry over the lack of public engagement, along with advocacy from Sierra Club chapter, volunteers, and supporters, the Illinois EPA has announced it will now host three public outreach sessions before issuing the Final Plan in June:

Wednesday, May 23, 2018, 6-8PM

Illinois EPA Headquarters (North Entrance), Sangamo Conference Room
1000 East Converse
Springfield, IL
Facebook RSVP link

Thursday, May 24, 2018, 6-8PM
St. Paul Baptist Church
1500 Bond Avenue
East St. Louis, IL
Facebook RSVP link

Wednesday, May 30, 2018, 6-8PM
James R. Thompson Center Auditorium
100 West Randolph
Chicago, IL
Facebook RSVP link

We urge you to attend one of these sessions and voice your support for a stronger plan that maximizes pollution reduction and public health benefits through robust investment in Electric Vehicles, EV charging infrastructure, and public transit electrification, especially in economically disadvantaged and environmental justice communities.

As outlined in the Draft Plan, the Illinois EPA proposes to allocate the $108 million as follows:

  1. up to 20 percent ($21.7 million) toward on-road vehicles, such as upgrading or replacing trucks and buses
  2. up to 65 percent ($70.6 million) toward off-road projects, such as upgrading or replacing locomotive engines, ferries, and tugboats
  3. up to 10 percent ($10.8 million) toward replacing diesel school buses with electric buses
  4. up to 5 percent ($5.4 million) toward administrative expenditures

The settlement funds provide an opportunity to offset more than 40,000 tons of nitrogen oxide pollution from diesel exhaust engines in VW vehicles.  In September 2015, the EPA uncovered illegal devices that allowed 2.0-liter diesel engines or TDI vehicles made by Volkswagen and its Audi and Porsche luxury brands to burn clean diesel in testing labs, only to hit the roads and emit up to 40 times the nitrogen oxide pollutants allowed in the United States.  Numerous studies have shown that exposure to dangerous amounts of diesel pollution can cause respiratory diseases and worsen existing conditions such as asthma. Diesel exhaust from buses poses a particular public health risk, since buses primarily travel where there are lot of people, including in densely-crowded areas of cities, busy roads, and near schools.  In Illinois, nearly one of every eight children live with asthma, but in communities of color, this number is even higher.

Therefore, it is critical that Illinois’ plan to spend the $108 million Volkswagen settlement funds is made stronger and more robustly allocated toward all-electric projects that will reduce air pollution and move Illinois towards a carbon-free transportation sector.  The VW mitigation agreement allows states to aside up to 15% of funds for light-duty Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure. Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, and Minnesota have proposed dedicating the full 15% for EV infrastructure, but Illinois EPA has dedicated no funds for this vital purpose.  The state’s draft spending plan also focuses heavily on switching out older, dirty diesel engines for newer diesel engines, which will reduce exhaust emissions but still continue our reliance on dirty polluting fossil fuels like diesel. The singular highlight of the draft plan is the 10 percent allocation for all-electric school buses, which is a significant step to protecting our children across Illinois.  We strongly favor this part of the plan, but urge that these buses are kept electric and not propane or diesel.

Sierra Club Illinois hopes for strong turnout at these public outreach sessions, so that we can loudly send the message to IEPA that Illinois needs a stronger plan that allocates more funds toward clean, electric transportation projects and not get left behind from all the economic, environmental, and public health benefits that come from investing in a clean transportation future.  The maximum 15% of the VW funds should be dedicated to light-duty EV charging infrastructure, along with additional investment into more electric vehicles and buses. By committing more of these funds toward all-electric projects and public transit electrification, the state can jumpstart the EV market, reduce electricity bills due to downward pressure on rates, and improve air quality for all Illinoisians.

Illinois Senate Passes Legislation to Respond to President Trump’s Threats to Environmental and Worker Protections

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE MAY 2, 2018

CONTACT: Kady McFadden, Sierra Club, (630) 747-0915

Illinois Senate Passes Legislation to Respond to President Trump’s Threats to Environmental and Worker Protections

SB2213 would maintain baseline protections on environment, workers as of Jan 2017

(Springfield) – Today, the Illinois Senate passed Illinois Baseline Protection Act (SB2213). This Act would preserve Illinois’ current environmental and worker safeguards by preventing state and local agencies from weakening Illinois environmental and labor standards below the requirements of the federal statutes and regulations in place as of January 1, 2017. The bill’s chief sponsors are Senator Daniel Biss in the Senate and Representative Juliana Stratton in the House.

Illinois derives many of its current protections for air, water, wildlife, workers’ rights and worker safety from federal statutes and regulations, which set minimum standards that states may meet or exceed. President Trump, his administration, and Congressional leaders have indicated an intent to weaken, repeal, or restrict the implementation of a wide range of environmental, health, and safety laws and regulations. Such federal actions would open the door to lowering the environmental and labor standards that currently protect the people of Illinois.

“The Trump administration’s relentless attacks on environmental protections and workers’ rights have left state governments as the first and sometimes only line of defense for the safety of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the jobsites where we work,” said lead Senate sponsor Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston). “The Senate’s passage of SB2213 today shows how Illinois can step up and lead in this difficult time.”

The legislation now moves to the Illinois House with lead sponsor Representative Juliana Stratton.

“With top EPA officials alluding that there may be a safe level of lead in our children’s drinking water, we must do everything we can to ensure our basic environmental, public health, and worker protections are intact while President Trump is in the White House,” said lead House sponsor Representative Juliana Stratton (D-Chicago). “Illinois does not have to follow the Trump administration in a race to bottom rolling back basic safeguards, and SB2213 will ensure that we do not.”

SB2213 would maintain existing environmental and worker protections in Illinois pursuant to these federal laws, so that if federal minimum standards under any of these statutes are lowered, Illinois will not follow suit, but remain as protective as on January 19, 2017. The Federal Standards included in this law are the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Mine Safety and Health Act, Federal Labor Standards Act.

“We applaud Senator Biss, Representative Stratton, and all the state lawmakers who are doing their best to protect the people and environment of Illinois at a time of great uncertainty,” said Illinois Sierra Club Chapter Director Jack Darin. “We have limited control over what Scott Pruitt and other Trump administration officials can do to in Washington, but the Baseline Protection Act will limit the damage they can do here in Illinois.”

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Solar Equality in Illinois

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On April 3rd, the Illinois Commerce Commission approved the Future Energy Jobs Act’s long-term renewable resources procurement plan, which sets out how the State will meet its goals for increasing solar capacity to meet the statewide target of 25% clean energy by 2025. The plan will spark a massive growth in renewable energy development in Illinois, building enough new wind and solar energy to power nearly 1 million homes by 2021, launching a first-of-its-kind Solar for All program to benefit economically disadvantaged and environmental justice communities, opening up community solar to those who cannot install solar on their homes, and bringing new jobs and economic development to all corners of the state.

Responding to the concerns of Sierra Club Illinois, solar advocates, and other members of the Clean Jobs Coalition, the Commission changed one critical point of a proposed order from an administrative law judge to ensure that community solar, on-site, and low-income solar projects located in municipal electric utility and rural electric cooperative territories are eligible for Renewable Energy Credit incentives under FEJA. If the proposed order had been implemented unchanged, many rural and lower-income residents in these areas would have been excluded from the benefits of solar, including cleaner air, lower utility bills, and job opportunities.

The final order also eliminated proposed short-term spot procurements for RECs from existing, possibly out-of-state projects that could have depleted the renewable energy fund meant to jumpstart the development of new, homegrown solar and wind projects in Illinois. The order also made more stringent the requirements that out-of-state projects have to meet for long-term REC contracts under FEJA.

In addition, the final order made clear that higher REC incentives should be made available to community solar projects, including for low-income community solar projects, with smaller residential subscribers. This will help ensure that community solar benefits will be made more accessible to a broader range of Illinois residents, rather than large institutional subscribers like businesses or corporate customers.

Given that the very purpose and intent of FEJA is to ensure the fair, equitable, and geographically dispersed access to the benefits of clean energy across all communities in Illinois, Sierra Club Illinois appreciates that the Illinois Commerce Commission further strengthened the renewable resources procurement plan by allowing rural and economically-distressed areas to have equal access to the benefits of solar.

Celebrate World Water Day with us!

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Today is World Water Day.

World Water Day is a global day of awareness on the importance of water. Here in Illinois, we’re fortunate to have the world’s largest source of surface freshwater in the world right in our backyard. But pollution, invasive species and clean water policy rollbacks by the Trump Administration are threatening the health and longevity of this vital water source.

World water Day graphic 2

We’re also seeing groundwater sources being depleted, intense rain events that can’t be handled by our failing water infrastructure and degraded waterways that desperately need restoration and protection from additional pollution.

We’ve seen where expensive manmade solutions to these problems fall short. That’s why we’re all about this year’s theme for World Water Day, ‘Nature for Water’ – exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.

Our volunteer Chicago Water Team is celebrating this global day of awareness by accompanying a group of 7th and 8th grade science students on a tour of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s (MWRD) Terrence J. O’Brien Wastewater Treatment Plant, which uses nature-based solutions to treat Chicago’s wastewater such as UV disinfection and a revolving algal biofilm (RAB) system to remove nutrients.

We’re also participating in a ‘State of Our Water’ Symposium, organized by the Illinois Environmental Council at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The event will give the audience an overview of the most critical issues facing water in Illinois, including the progress being made implementing the state’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. Our Clean Water Program Director, Cindy Skrukrud, will speak about the importance of getting involved in local watershed efforts and how citizens can help clean up urban waterways by employing nature-based solutions on their own properties. We have volunteers across the state working together to protect and restore their local waterways. If you’d like to get involved in our efforts, check out our website and then get in touch!  

In Alton, our Piasa Palisades Group is celebrating by hosting a 5-mile litter clean-up along the Great River Road. Volunteers will kick off their clean-up at three different starting points with morning and afternoon shifts, and are bound to make a big impact on the state of the Mississippi River shoreline in their community! 

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While we love celebrating clean water on this special day and are proud to stand with others across the globe bringing awareness to the importance of water, we also want to continue the conversation — and more importantly, the ACTION — for clean water every day. We’ll continue to advocate for common sense policies and investment in infrastructure to protect our water at the local, state and federal level. We’ll stand up against dangerous attempts by the Trump Administration to rollback protections, cut budgets and eliminate programs that are needed to keep our water clean and ecosystems healthy. We hope you’ll stand with us and join us in this fight.

 

 

Lobby Day – April 26th 2018

On April 26, people from across Illinois will converge on Springfield to rally for our shared home and talk to our legislators about policies that will protect our air, water, land, and neighbors. Environmental Lobby Day happens every April in Springfield and is vital to building the political power we need to address environmental injustices today, and protect our communities for generations to come. We hope you can join!

WHAT: Environmental Lobby Day
WHERE: Illinois State Capitol Building – 401 S Second St. Springfield, IL
WHEN: Thursday, April 26, Rally @ 11 am, lobbying before + after

You can come down the night before for a reception and training, drive/carpool/take the train there the day-of, or get on bus the day of.

If you’re planning to get there yourself you can register here

If you’re planning to take a bus you can register here (buses from Chicago loop + southside, Waukegan, Schaumburg, Oak Park, and Champaign)  

  • We have a number of important issues we’ll be advocating for, such as:
    Protecting utility customers from being forced to bail-out polluting coal power plant owner Dynegy
  • Ensuring access to clean drinking water for all by making sure Illinois replaces our aging lead water lines.  Protecting your right to have a say in polluting projects happening in your community.

Environmental Lobby Day is powerful because of the residents across Illinois who show up to rally + make their voices heard with their state legislators. Please register today!