Two-part 'Buzz' episode features Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie’s history, restoration and bison
For the first time since “The Buzz” debuted in July 2020, a two-part episode of the nature show will air in August and September to highlight the history, prairie restoration efforts and bison experiment at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.
The show’s first part will air at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30, on the Forest Preserve District’s YouTube and Facebook pages. The show also can be viewed at 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, and 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, on WJYS TV, courtesy of funding from The Nature Foundation of Will County. Additionally, "The Buzz" airs on local cable stations in Joliet, Naperville, New Lenox, Romeoville and Tinley Park. September’s episode will air at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27.
Suzy Lyttle, host of “The Buzz” and a Forest Preserve program coordinator, said she has been wanting to highlight the 20,283-acre Midewin, which is owned by the U.S. Forest Service, for the past year.
“When the time came to plan the episode, we were only going to feature Midewin in August,” she said. “But after talking to all the staff involved, we thought there would be so much knowledge and sights to see that we didn’t want to cut anything out.”
Filming took place across many different areas of Midewin, including some that have restricted access to the general public.
"Through working with the U.S. Forest Service, we also were granted permission to fly a drone, which gives some unique views of the various habitats and shows just how sprawling this open space is," said digital communications manager Chad Merda.
Before it became a protected national tallgrass prairie, Midewin was the site of the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant during World War II and beyond, Lyttle said.
“But it also was home to many native groups and farmsteads before that," she added. "During the 'Buzz' tour, we talk about the archaeological projects that are finding out more about the early people of the land, and we see the ruins left behind from the farmsteads and view the concrete bunkers that the ammunition was once stored in.”
Viewers also will learn more about the partner agencies, including the Forest Preserve District of Will County, that are committed to helping return the land back to a thriving ecosystem.
“It wasn’t as easy as just letting the plants grow back in,” Lyttle said. “Work had to be done to decontaminate the land and waterways from past pollution caused by the ammunition.”
The two-part episode also will delve into Midewin's many plant and bird species and the bison herd that was introduced to the site in 2015 to help restore the prairie.
“Overall, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me,” Lyttle said of the Midewin tour. “To explore and learn about the land from a team of passionate experts is something I am truly grateful for. I am so excited to share it with our audience, because Midewin is in Will County, right in our own backyard.
“Plus, the end of summer and fall is the prairie’s time to shine,” she added. “The flowers are in full bloom and are taller than your head in some spots! The birds and insects are singing. You just feel so right in the middle of a wild place when walking through Midewin.”