Restoring Natural Beauty

 Madeleine, a high school student who has been involved with the Girl Scouts since the first grade, wanted to make a difference.  It’s what the Girl Scouts had taught her –make a difference, be passionate about what you believe in, and use your voice to make it happen.

And she did.

She thought about how humans impact the environment and was looking to earn the Girl Scouts’ top honor, the Gold Award. She looked into recycling and prairie restoration, but found wetlands to be the most compelling because she learned they were in dire need of help to recover from erosion in her county. Over the last 70 years, they had experienced an unparalleled rate of loss.  If something wasn’t done, the wetlands would be lost forever.  They needed a voice to help them, so Madeleine became their voice.

With her mother’s assistance, she settled on a wetland in Holliday Park because restoration could be planned in a short amount of time, it was in her home county and it wouldn’t require a backhoe to rent.  Madeleine became the coordinator, organizer, and leader in the effort to restore several locally extinct wetland species at the park.  On a rainy September afternoon, her project group planted golden alexanders, white turtleheads, and marsh marigolds –just to name a few –while getting muddy because of the rain.  Madeleine chose these high quality wetland plants because they were self-sustaining and had been driven to extinction due to habitat loss and urbanization. They were native to the park and would thrive.  After about 2 hours of being knee deep in mud, the planting was completed. 

Now Madeleine is developing an outreach plan to educate the public about the importance of wetlands to their community by creating a species brochure, organizing workshops for local Brownie troops, and educating volunteer naturalists on the critical nature of wetlands. So far, her efforts are a success!  Trail guides often mention their excitement over Madeleine’s project when leading tour groups.

For Madeliene, the project brought the importance of caring about native wetlands and environmental issues home. She is thinking about studying environmental law in the future.  

How are your actions saving your environment and the planet?  Let us know!

Yvonne Gonzalez is a SCEP intern with the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5.  She recently received her dual graduate degree from DePaul University

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