Announcing Our 2023 Conservation Award Winners

We’re so pleased to announce our 2023 Conservation Award winners!!!

All of these individuals and organizations are doing extraordinary conservation work in our communities and it is our pleasure to recognize them.

Paul Butler Memorial Award Winner:  Kim Haag

Kim Haag volunteering at Johnson’s Mound Forest Preserve, where she is a co-steward

Kim Haag of Elburn has earned this year’s Paul Butler Memorial Award for her tireless and outstanding volunteerism in local conservation.

Kim’s extensive volunteer efforts began after she was part of Kane County’s first Certified Naturalist Program, a program which completely changed her life, introducing her to a whole new world of natural areas stewardship and environmental involvement.  Now you can find her planting natives, collecting seeds and wielding saws and herbicide to combat invasive species, as well as assisting with educational programs and serving on the referendum committee of the Forest Preserve District of Kane County.  She is a co-steward of the 1,000-acre Johnson’s Mound Forest Preserve in Elburn and works alongside other volunteer stewards at a number of additional Kane County forest preserves.

The Wild Ones of Greater Kane County are also the recipients of Kim’s seemingly endless energy, where she has been helping with publicity, website needs, and other initiatives since the chapter’s founding in 2009.  Kim has just begun her 3rd year as President of Wild Ones of Greater Kane County, and is very excited about the organization’s Start In Your Yard initiative, based on the ideas of author Doug Tallamy.  She hopes they can expand their reach to get more people invested in native plants and landscaping.  Kim also volunteers for Campton Township Open Space, the St. Charles Park District, St. Patrick’s Parish in St. Charles and is a member of many conservation organizations throughout the Chicago Wilderness region.

It was through Kim’s work with Wild Ones and her co-member and friend June Keibler that Kim became connected to The Conservation Foundation.  She has been a member and served on our Kane County Advisory Council for many years now.  This past year, Kim and several other volunteers formed the Kane County Natural Areas Volunteer Program, which is an affiliate group of The Conservation Foundation.

“Why do I volunteer for conservation causes?  As I said, taking the Kane County Certified Naturalist course changed my life,” Kim shared.  “I became so very aware of the natural world and how it functions, how it should function, and what is needed from human beings to preserve and protect it.  Just as my mission for my 35 years of working was to support students in special education, my mission now is to preserve and protect as much of this world around me for as long as I am able.”

Kim grew up in the Chicago area and except for a brief absence during her college years, has lived here all of her life.  She earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education, a Master’s degree in Special Education and a Doctorate in Curriculum and Administration.  She and her husband have travelled all over the United States to visit our National Parks, and when at home have been slowly turning their 1.3 acre plot in unincorporated Elburn into prairie and native plants.  Kim has 6 cats, loves to read and to do beading when she gets the time, which is hard to imagine given the extent of her volunteer efforts!

We would like to thank and congratulate you, Kim, on this very well-deserved recognition.  As you yourself said, we “nature people” know we have a lot of work left to do, and your generosity and passion are an inspiration to all of us to keep at it!


Conservation Partner Of The Year:
Campton Township Open Space Program

Congratulations to the Campton Township Open Space Program, our 2023 Conservation Partner award winner!

Restored Wetlands at Gray Willows Farm, Campton Township

Campton Township Open Space Program and The Conservation Foundation have enjoyed a wonderful partnership since 2000, when Campton Township residents became interested in preserving open space and asked us to help develop an Open Space Plan for the Township and to help pass a referendum to purchase land.  That referendum and an additional one a few years later were successful, and with those funds, the Open Space Program has purchased almost 1,500 acres of land for public enjoyment.

“Campton Township leaders have done a great job stewarding the funds entrusted to them by township voters ($47 million!) for open space,” says The Conservation Foundation’s Vice President of Land & Watershed Protection, Dan Lobbes.  “They doggedly find ways to stretch those funds, successfully pursuing public and private grants. The Township has preserved more than 1,000 acres of land as a way of maintaining its natural resources and semi-rural character.”

Local students conduct a water study in Campton Township

And our partnership with Campton Township is not limited to land protection.  They are an enthusiastic supporter of The Conservation Foundation’s Nature Rx program in Kane County, a fellow partner in the Fox Valley Monarch Corridor Project, and their staff ecologist, Josh Nelson, is a member of our Next Gen Advisory Council.

“When I try to think about the most impactful projects Campton Township Open Space has worked on with The Conservation Foundation, I don’t even know where to begin!” recounts John Kupar, the Township Supervisor.  “We have had such a long and successful relationship with the Conservation Foundation that all of our projects together make a difference to the environment.  Our future goal is to work together to pass a referendum that will create a Campton Township Park District.”

Most recently, our two organizations collaborated to preserve the Goldenstein property, 130 acres of rich farmland, woodlands, ponds and wetland areas.  We are so pleased to have enjoyed more than two decades of partnership with the Campton Township Open Space Program, and admire the way they have worked aggressively to achieve their mission to protect farmland, historic landmarks, scenic roadways, wetland, woodlands, wildlife and geologically significant features in Campton Township for the education, pleasure and recreation of the public.

Gray Willows Farm, Campton Township

2023 SaltSmart Community Award Winner:
Village of Carol Stream Public Works

Village of Carol Stream plow and deicing truck, image courtesty of

Our professional watershed protection staff have unanimously agreed that the Village of Carol Stream and their Public Works department deserve this year’s SaltSmart Award for their environmentally conscious approach to deicing operations in the Village.

Carol Stream Public Works recognizes that reduction of chlorides must be a significant consideration in developing and executing snow and ice operations.  “Carol Stream has become a recognized national leader in efficient winter deicing operations,” said our Director of Watershed Protection Stephen McCracken.  “Their rigorous staff training, attention to equipment calibration, and adoption of liquid deicers as well as their moves to set up a program of real time weather sensors throughout the Village is exemplary.”

Their efforts especially over the past year have underscored their understanding that snow and ice removal is a 365-day effort, especially with regards to reducing use of salt.  Here are a few highlights of their efforts:

  • Training, Training, Training:  Public Works operators in the Village of Carol Stream are trained to not only understand how to operate their equipment, but also to understand why certain strategies are chosen for anti-icing, salt spread rate and how and when to use liquids.  The Village knows and stresses that understanding the why, in addition to the how, is key to getting everyone committed to the program.
  • Calibration: The department has gone through an extensive and exhaustive process (far beyond what has been done in the past) to make sure that when spreader controls are set to deliver a certain spread rate, that’s what is coming out the spreader.  This involved collaboration at many levels of the organization, discussions with various equipment vendors, equipment testing, willingness to think well outside of the box, failure and eventually, success.  Jason Pauling, Street Supervisor for Carol Stream Public Works, shared, “We are in the first year of testing our strategies, but so far the results are very encouraging!”  He says they plan to prepare a report to share with peers after this season.
  • All-liquid application: Little by little, Carol Streams’ Public Works staff have been inching toward the use of all-liquid application under certain conditions and certain plow routes.  Pilot efforts over the past two years have been encouraging and supported efforts to further test the limits of the pavement and weather conditions under which they will deploy the use of all-liquid application in place of granular salt.
  • RWIS Station: This fall the Village installed a roadway weather information system (RWIS) to provide additional data that aids in decision-making.  Specifically, accurate real-time and projected surface temperature readings, pavement “grip” status, and other weather data contribute to decisions regarding timing of deployment and equipment and material strategies.

“We understand that “salt conservation” does not mean just cutting the amount of salt we use,” Jason said.  “Instead, we are committed to reducing salt usage while testing and employing smart strategies to reduce dependence on salt and to keep our roadways safe.”

We commend the Village of Carol Stream and their Public Works department for expanding their understanding of safety to include our environment and congratulate them on being our 2023 SaltSmart community!

Conservation@Home Award Winner:  Jan Smith

Jan Smith accepts Conservation@Home certification at the Windsor Park retirement community in Carol Stream

Jan Smith of Carol Stream is this year’s clear choice for our Conservation@Home Award winner.  As an enthusiastic participant in our Conservation@Home program, Jan has not one but THREE different properties that have been led to Conservation@Home certification by her hard work and dedication to environmentally friendly landscaping.  Jan’s previous home, the Windsor Park retirement community where she resides now, and Jan Smith Park in Carol Stream (named after her) have all received certification thanks to Jan’s efforts.

Jan’s residential yard in Carol Stream was well known for its striking native plantings and the organic vegetables she has been a proponent of since long before organic gardening was the “in” thing.  And now in her apartment, she grows native plants and has them all over her patio.   “Besides being very sweet, Jan is very dedicated,” says Jim Kleinwachter, our Conservation@Home Program Manager.  “She has taken it upon herself to put in native plants all over the Windsor Park community, including her own prairie, and she has brought a group of fellow residents to the farm and had me come in and speak with them to share her passion and pique their interest in nature.”

While nature and particularly gardening always appealed to Jan, her environmental activism was sparked by reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.  She began to speak out about her concerns about DDT and other environmental issues at village board meetings, and while her thoughts often met with skepticism, her persistence never waned.  Since reading that book decades ago, Jan has gone on to found the DuPage Organic Gardening Club, been an active and energetic member of Wild Ones, headed up a Cool Cities coalition, and been an advocate for the environment with friends, family, community members and elected officials in a quiet yet incredibly effective way.  Many community gardens and native landscapes have flourished under her nurturing hand, providing refuge to wild things and education to the human beings who enjoy them.

Jan Smith Park in Carol Stream receives Conservation@Home certification

Our world needs more Jan Smiths!!!  Always polite and respectful yet persistent, Jan has made visible change in her community and beyond, and inspired countless others to care for their landscapes in concert with the environment and speak out on behalf of the natural world.  Congratulations to Jan on this very well-earned Conservation@Home award!

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