Friends of Morris Library honoring area conservationist

John E. Schwegman, a longtime conservationist, is the winner of the 2017 Delta Award, presented by Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Friends of Morris Library.

The Delta Award, which originated in 1976, is presented annually to an author who is from Southern Illinois or who has written about the region, or to an organization that has contributed to the region’s cultural life. 

Schwegman joins a group of more than 100 award recipients that includes Paul Simon, Virginia Marmaduke, Richard “Dick” Clayton Gregory and Robert Coover.

This year’s award presentation is set for 5 p.m. on April 19 in the John C. Guyon Auditorium at Morris Library on the SIU campus.

Schwegman, a native of Metropolis and longtime conservationist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, IDNR, is scheduled to speak about his new book, “The Natural Heritage of Illinois.”

Following the program, there will be a reception in the first-floor rotunda. The event is free and open to the public.

Schwegman’s nature anthology includes 93 essays about the lands, waters, plants and animals of Illinois. 

It reveals the ways in which wind, water, glaciers, earthquakes, fires and people have shaped the state’s landforms, flora and fauna, natural habitats and waterways. 

Readers discover how native plants and animals have survived, thrived or died out, either as individual species or by entire ecosystems.

The essays were originally written for the enjoyment of the general public between 1992 and 1996, as they were distributed by IDNR to newspapers in Illinois and the surrounding states. 

Schwegman’s book spotlights formerly significant populations such as biting horseflies so abundant they could kill a horse and passenger pigeon flights dense enough to block out the sun. 

He tells of the ways animals adapt to climate change and dwindling habitats and the problems caused by invasive exotic species. 

The essays also examine efforts to save the declining prairie chicken population, reintroduce river otters and return nesting bald eagles and cormorants to the state.  

The migration of armadillos to Southern Illinois, the pros and cons of feeding birds and many other such topics of interest are included.

“As no newspaper ever published all of the columns, few, if any, readers will have seen every one,” Schwegman said in a news release.

During his lengthy IDNR career, Schwegman served as site superintendent at Mermet Lake Fish and Wildlife Area. 

After pursuing his master’s degree in botany, he established the state’s Nature Preserves Commission, now known as the Division of Nature Heritage. He later became the state botanist. 

After retiring, Schwegman served as a commissioner for the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, for which he is currently a consultant. 

He led efforts to found the Natural Areas Association, America’s professional society for nature conservationists, and was its first president.

Schwegman will sign copies of his book during the reception. A portion of the proceeds from books sold at the Delta Awards event will be donated to the Friends of Morris Library.

The Friends of Morris Library, established in 1960, is an organization that promotes and supports Morris Library in many ways, including improving facilities, purchasing or preserving books and other materials, restoring valuable items from its collections and sponsoring special community events.

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158

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