We’re especially excited to share the following guest blog from one of ARKive’s Global Ambassadors, Susan Kloempken Graunke. Susan has helped to lead the charge for ARKive in the US and, more specifically, in Illinois. With her support and leadership, our campaign to “Fill the ARK” in Illinois has been and continues to be incredibly successful! Read on to see why ‘The Prairie State’ will always hold a special place in her heart.
As a global ambassador to ARKive, I was asked if I wanted to write about why I value my experience in conservation in Illinois. ARKive is launching its Illinois feature page. From fundraising efforts last year, we were able to feature 100 incredible Illinois species profiles on the website!
“Every year we planted over 200 trees that we dug by hand”
My love for conservation was imbedded in me at an early age. My father, Dr. Robert C. Kloempken, was a physician by profession. His avocation, however, was conservation. In 1968, my dad purchased land in McHenry County, Illinois, USA. Every year we planted over 200 trees that we dug by hand on the property. My dad also planted seeds, native wildflowers and grasses. Dad knew the Latin name of every tree, flower, bush or grass on the property. This he studied during the sermons on Sundays.
“Fire is an extremely beneficial tool in the sustainability and management of the prairie”
We also started three of the first true American prairies on that land. We would walk the railroad tracks, cemeteries, and other out of the way and secret places to collect seeds and grow those plants, flowers, grasses in our basement which we then planted. Every year we burned the prairies. Fire is an extremely beneficial tool in the sustainability and management of the prairie. It rejuvenates the prairie and also hampers the growth of invasive species. This was an all out family affair that everyone had to attend.
Illinois is nicknamed the “Prairie State” because the region once had many treeless plains that were covered with tall grass. I live in the “Prairie State,” and this is why I value conservation in Illinois!
Susan Kloempken Graunke, ARKive Global Ambassador
What a lovely story and first-hand account of conservation action in Illinois. Thanks for being the definition of an ambassador for ARKive, Susan!