Least bittern

Chi-Cal Rivers Fund Awards $1.6 Million to Improve Waterways, Habitats and Greenspace in the Chicago/Calumet Region

Least bittern

CHICAGO (December 14, 2020)Chi-Cal Rivers Fund partners today announced seven projects selected to receive $1.6 million in grant funding to improve and enhance waterways in the Chicago-Calumet region. These investments will enhance fish and wildlife habitat, reduce stormwater runoff, and improve access to and use of natural areas and greenspace for communities. The grants will generate $1.9 million in matching contributions, for a total conservation impact of $3.5 million.

Administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the fund is supported in 2020 with contributions from ArcelorMittal, BNSF Railway, Crown Family Philanthropies, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, the Walder Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. The awards announced today mark the fund’s seventh annual slate of grants, bringing its total cumulative impact to $32 million.

“The Chi-Cal Rivers Fund continues to demonstrate the vital role of public-private partnerships and their unique ability to create lasting benefits for wildlife habitat and for communities at a regional scale,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “The projects awarded today will continue to build on our previous restoration efforts in the Calumet region and will add new resilient green infrastructure and additional green space to benefit local communities.” 

The seven grants announced today will: restore wetland habitat to benefit migratory birds and marsh-nesting birds such as least bittern and pied-billed grebe; install green stormwater infrastructure that reduces runoff and creates community greenspaces to enhance resident’s quality of life; and, continue to improve habitat in Chicago and Northwest Indiana through tree planting and invasive species control. Collectively, the funded projects will:

  • Restore and enhance 70 acres of wetland and upland habitat
  • Plant more than 500 trees for habitat and increased stormwater capacity
  • Add more than 2.89 million gallons of stormwater storage
  • Create 2.7 acres of neighborhood greenspace

“We value this important partnership to achieve the joint goals of improving the health of the region’s watersheds and enhancing their value to the many diverse communities along our rivers, said David Farren, executive director of the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. “By leveraging our collective funds, we can accomplish more, and learn from each other, as well as our grantees, in the process.”

"The Joyce Foundation is committed to supporting projects that reduce flooding and make our region’s waterways healthier. Chi Cal projects are improving Chicago’s rivers for today and for the next generation,” said Elizabeth Cisar, Co-Director, Environment for The Joyce Foundation.

“BNSF supports efforts to help improve quality of life for communities and so we appreciate being part of this public private partnership that enhances river quality and stormwater management,” said Peter Skosey, Executive Director Public Affairs, BNSF Railway.

“The U.S. Forest Service is proud to be part of the Chi-Cal Rivers Fund and is pleased to see these exciting projects get funded,” said Carleen Yocum, Northeastern Area Midwest Field Representative for the U.S. Forest Service. “We believe that nature based green infrastructure projects, such as tree planting in strategic locations, are an important part of the solution for managing our region’s stormwater and flooding challenges.”

Chi-Cal Rivers Fund 2020 grant recipients include:

  • National Audubon Society, Inc., to restore and develop public access to Deadstick Pond and adjoining riverfront trail in Illinois, greatly expanding marshbird habitat, greenspace connectivity and recreational access in the Calumet Region.
  • The Wetlands Initiative, to restore a floodplain corridor along the West Branch of the Little Calumet River in northwestern Indiana to benefit rare wetland-dependent birds and the surrounding underserved communities. 
  • Lake County Forest Preserve District, to improve hydrologic function and habitat diversity along the North Branch of the Chicago River in Illinois by removing or disabling more than 5,000 linear feet of drain tile and clearing invasive species across 146 acres of Prairie Wolf Forest Preserve.
  • NeighborSpace, to install green stormwater infrastructure at the Calumet River Gateway Garden in South Chicago.
  • The Nature Conservancy, to install green stormwater infrastruction to help establish StormStore – a regional stormwater credit trading market – to incentivize stormwater trading and encourage stormwater infrastructure in locations where it would provide the greatest impact for communities in Cook County, Illinois. 
  • The Student Conservation Association, to reduce stormwater runoff and create urban habitat by planting 500 new trees in Northwest Indiana.
  • Friends of the Forest Preserves, to fortify and expand the Centennial Volunteers program at seven forest preserves to increase invasive species control work and improve restoration management in Illinois.

To learn more about the Chi-Cal Rivers Fund and the seven projects announced today, please visit

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation 
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 5,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $6.1 billion. Learn more at

About ArcelorMittal
ArcelorMittal is the world's leading steel and mining company, with a presence in 60 countries and primary steelmaking facilities in 18 countries. In 2019, ArcelorMittal had revenues of $70.6 billion and crude steel production of 89.8 million metric tons, while iron ore production reached 57.1 million metric tons. Our goal is to help build a better world with smarter steels. Steels made using innovative processes which use less energy, emit significantly less carbon and reduce costs. Steels that are cleaner, stronger and reusable. Steels for electric vehicles and renewable energy infrastructure that will support societies as they transform through this century. With steel at our core, our inventive people and an entrepreneurial culture at heart, we will support the world in making that change. This is what we believe it takes to be the steel company of the future. For more information about ArcelorMittal please visit

About BNSF Railway
BNSF Railway is one of North America’s leading freight transportation companies. BNSF operates approximately 32,500 route miles of track in 28 states and also operates in three Canadian provinces. BNSF is one of the top transporters of consumer goods, grain and agricultural products, low-sulfur coal, and industrial goods such as petroleum, chemicals, housing materials, food and beverages. BNSF’s shipments help feed, clothe, supply, and power American homes and businesses every day. BNSF and its employees have developed one of the most technologically advanced, and efficient railroads in the industry. We work continuously to improve the value of the safety, service, energy, and environmental benefits we provide to our customers and the communities we serve. You can learn more about BNSF at 

About Crown Family Philanthropies
After more than 60 years of family grantmaking under the name Arie and Ida Crown Memorial, in 2009 Crown Family Philanthropies (CFP) was developed as a vehicle for a variety of family grantmaking. Crown Family Philanthropies environmental grantmaking supports efforts to value, preserve and restore natural ecosystems through innovative science-based approaches, emphasizing collaborative efforts which deliver measurable results.

About The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation
Established in 1952, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation supports land conservation, artistic vitality, and regional collections for the people of the Chicago region and the Lowcountry of South Carolina. In the Chicago region, the Foundation focuses the majority of its land conservation support in five focus areas, including the Calumet Region and the Cook County Forest Preserves. See more about the Foundation at

About The Joyce Foundation
The Joyce Foundation is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in the future of the Great Lakes region by supporting policies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation. We support policy research, development and advocacy in areas that have a significant impact on quality of life: Education & Economic Mobility, Environment, Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform, Democracy, and Culture. Based in Chicago, Joyce focuses its grant making in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. We also collaborate with funders and other partners to explore promising policy solutions in other states or at the federal level. For further information, please visit, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

About the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) leads the nation’s environmental science, research, education, and assessment efforts. The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the environment. Since 1970, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people. For more information, visit

About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to work with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

About the U.S. Forest Service
Established in 1905, the Forest Service’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains one of the largest forestry research organizations in the world. Public lands managed by the Forest Service provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply and contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. The agency also supports sustainable management on about 500 million acres of private, state and tribal forests including forests in urban areas. For more information, visit

About the Walder Foundation
The Walder Foundation was established by Joseph and Elizabeth Walder to address critical issues impacting our world. The Foundation’s five areas of focus—science innovation, environmental sustainability, the performing arts, migration and immigrant communities, and Jewish life—are an extension of the Walders’ lifelong passions, interests, and their personal and professional experiences. Learn more at


Contact: Rob Blumenthal, 202-857-0166,