Before and After Restoration at Lost Flora Fen on Raccoon Creek
This aerial video captures what Lost Flora Fen on Raccoon Creek looked like in one area of the preserve before and after invasive species were removed between September of 2020 to November of 2023. Video and original music by Curt Johnsen.
Watch the video here.

Virtual Book Discussion: Bicycling with Butterflies

Natural Land Institute (NLI) held a Virtual Book Discussion on Nov. 16, 2022 with author Sara Dykman, featuring her book, Bicycling with Butterflies – My 10,201-Mile Journey Following the Monarch Migration.This is a recording of the Zoom presentation and discussion. Thank you to Mark and Laurie Luthin for sponsoring this program and to Sara Dykman for her time. Sara was delightful, entertaining, and inspired everyone to share their earthly space with Monarchs, the food they need (milkweed and wildflowers), and other living creatures in the natural world.
Watch the recorded book discussion here.

Family Nature Adventures 2022

Natural Land Institute hosted Family Nature Adventures on June 25, 2022 at Nygren Wetland Preserve (Rockton, IL). Kids and their families got to explore 12 nature and arts themed learning stations around the preserve. They could walk or ride a wagon to the various stations. If they participated in six or more learning stations and got their passport stamped, kids earned a Junior Naturalist Badge and Certificate. This annual event inspires the next generation to protect the land, plants, animals, water and air in their community. Thank you to everyone who made this free event possible. For more information visit:…
Photography: Judith Barnard, Jill Kennay.
Video, Video Production and original music by: Curt Johnsen.
Watch the video from the event HERE.

Local Moths

This video, produced by Barbara Williams, is about local moths – life cycle, diversity, place in the ecosystem and a bit about their beauty and conservation.
Watch it below:


Comcast’s Community 411

Kim Johnsen, Director of Marketing & Membership, talks about two events in January 2022: Wander at the Wetland: Full Moon Snowshoe & HIke on Jan. 17 and a virtual book talk and discussion on Jan. 31 with author – adventurer Anders Morley (in partnership with Rockford Public Library). Watch the video here. You can also watch this segment on Comcast’s CN100 and OnDemand (under Get Local).



Kerry Leigh interview on The Mike Nowak Show

Mike Nowak hosted Kerry Leigh on his show on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021 to talk about the value and significance of Bell Bowl Prairie and why it should be saved.

Watch it:


Fall Prairie Harvest Day 2021

Volunteers of all ages enjoyed collecting seeds from the prairie at Nygren Wetland Preserve on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. Thank you to Curt Johnsen for producing this video and for including his original music with it.



City Nature Challenge – Rock River Valley Region

How did we do?

The Rock River Valley Region participated in the global City Nature Challenge effort to make observations of flora and fauna and post on iNaturalist April 30 – May 3, 2021. This is a friendly competition among cities (and regions) to get the most number of observers and the most number of species posted during that timeframe. Natural Land Institute was pleased to be a partner with this challenge by promoting it and hosting a “bioblitz” event at Nygren Wetland Preserve that was open to the public to visit, take photos of plants and animals and post on iNaturalist. To find out how the four county region in northern Illinois did watch the video here.



Take a Virtual Tour of the Flora of Apple River Canyon and Townsend Glade Land & Water Reserve

Randy Nyboer, former District Natural Heritage Biologist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Endangered Species Program Manager for the Illinois Natural History Survey, and Jim Johannsen, Director of Land Protection, Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation, lead us on a virtual tour of the flora of Apple River Canyon and Townsend Glade Land & Water Reserve (owned by Natural Land Institute). Read more about Randy Nyboer and Townsend Glade here. Thank you To Wild Ones Rock River Valley Chapter for hosting their May 2021 monthly meeting featuring this video, to Jerry Paulson for producing it, to Chuck Johannsen for recording, editing and mastering it, and to the video hosts, Randy and Jim.

Watch the video here.



Time Lapse Video of the Wetland
Rob Clark made a time lapse video on a beautiful day at Nygren Wetland Preserve.
Watch the short video taken during several hours here.

The Rusty-patched Bumblebee

Barbara Williams, bumblebee enthusiast and expert, has created an interesting and informative video about the Rusty-patched bumblebee, listed on the Federal Endangered Species list. We are fortunate to have a few in Winnebago County and sightings have occurred at NLI’s Burr Oak Valley Preserve. Learn some basic ID tips for bumblebees and specifically how to identify the Rusty-patched pollinator in this video.

Watch video here.


Fireflies – Sparks in the Dark

Learn about the lovely and enchanting insects that light up the summer nights. Before you start your spring yard clean up watch this video to learn why fireflies need that leaf litter, sticks, and other fallen natural debris to breed and grow. Barbara Williams narrated and produced this very interesting video about these exciting insects that many times get looked over. Barbara is a volunteer for Natural Land Institute, Severson Dells Nature Center and the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County.

Watch the video here.



Comcast Expressions

Kim Johnsen, NLI’s Director of Marketing & Membership was recently featured on Comcast Expressions talking about NLI activities this spring. The show airs on CN100 and OnDemand (under Get Local).

Watch the video on Facebook here.



Facebook Live: Skunk Cabbage

Skunk cabbage is one of the earliest spring woodland wildflowers (or is a late winter wildflower?) to pop up through ground and snow in floodplains and wetland areas. NLI’s Education Committee member and former Trustee, Rick Barton, hosts this video program and tells us about this plant that is native in the northern Illinois region and grows at our Howard D. Colman Dells Nature Preserve. This program was recorded on Facebook Live on March 12, 2021.

Watch the video here.



Thank you from Kerry Leigh

To Donors of Special Projects for Nygren Wetland Preserve

Wow! A big THANK YOU to everyone who donated to the Special Projects for Nygren Wetland Preserve through “A Great Beginning” Virtual Fundraiser in December (2020) and the End of Year Appeal. Your donations raised $33,355! Our Executive Director, Kerry Leigh, has a special message of gratitude for you.




A Look Into Land Stewardship Days

Watch this video to learn what land stewardship means and see what some of the tasks look like. Who knows, you might find a new passion, as Zach Grycan says in the video, if you decide to volunteer for nature. Thank you to Julie Uram, AmeriCorps member and 815 Outside Coordinator, for producing this video.




Nygren Wetland Preserve’s 20th Anniversary Story

Natural Land Institute acquired the land for Nygren Wetland Preserve in 2000. This video tells the story about the process of finding the land, the acquisition, the partnerships, the commitment by board and staff, and the volunteers who helped make this 721-acre wildlife area protected forever in Winnebago County, Illinois.



NLI Featured on Comcast Newsmakers 2020

Ellee Pai Hong interviewed Kim Johnsen, NLI’s Director of Marketing & Membership, to find out how people can make a difference in their own yard and when volunteering for land stewardship service days at natural areas in their community. Johnsen explained how removing invasive species and planting native plants can help create a healthy ecosystem, and how landowners can protect their land in perpetuity with a conservation easement.

Watch the five minute video here.


Facebook Live Videos

Natural Land Institute will present Facebook Live events ranging in length from 20 – 30 minutes and afterwards will post the recorded video here. We hope you enjoy the various topics and locations in the coming months.

Click here to watch the video about the Anne Meyer Prairie Garden at Nygren Wetland Preserve in Rockton, Ill. Thank you to Mark Luthin for hosting it on Wed., July 22, 2020.

On Wed., July 29, we held a Facebook Live event about Bluebird Monitoring at Nygren Wetland Preserve. Thank you to the Bluebird Monitors who hosted this video, Tricia and Vesta. Watch it here.

Wed., Aug. 12, Zach Grycan (NLI Director of Stewardship) and Mark Luthin (NLI Trustee) hosted the Facebook Live event, Getting Ready for Fall Migration, at the wildlife overlook at Nygren Wetland Preserve.They discussed what you can see now and in the coming months during migration at the wetland including birds, insects and mammals. Watch it here. Thank you Mark and Zach for hosting!

Friday, Sep. 18, 10 a.m. On the Boardwalk at Lost Flora Fen, hosted by Tyler Pellegrini (NLI Restoration Ecologist). Watch it here.

Friday, Sep. 25, 10 a.m. at Harvesting Seeds at Pecatonica Ridge Prairie, hosted by Laura Helmich (NLI Stewardship Technician). Laura shows us how to collect seeds and shares the history of this preserve. Click here to watch the video.


Take a virtual tour of Lost Flora Fen

NLI’s Restoration Ecologist Tyler Pellegrini takes you on a summer tour of Lost Flora Fen, one of our newest preserves. It was acquired in 2018 and as you watch this video you will discover some of the special features of this natural area.

Click here to watch the video.


What does NLI do? What is Nygren Wetland Preserve?

Watch this short video with Kim Johnsen, Director of Marketing & Membership for Natural Land Institute (NLI), talk about some of the work of our conservation land trust, Nygren Wetland Preserve, how you can visit there and how you can get involved.

Click here to watch the video.


2020 Wildflower Walkabout Series

Join Severson Dells and the Natural Land Institute staff and volunteers on an exploration of many of the local wildflower hotspots. Wildflower Walks showcase what is currently in bloom at various woodland and prairie preserves around Winnebago, Boone and Ogle Counties. All walks will begin at 6:00 p.m. and alternate weekly on Wednesday or Tuesday. No fee for the walks, but membership in Severson Dells and/or the Natural Land Institute is encouraged. For more information, please call 815/335-2915 (SD) or 815/964-6666 (NLI).

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing requirements this spring the Wildflower Walkabout tours will be shared as virtual videos. Please do not go to the physical location on the corresponding date and time for a group walk. However, we do encourage you to visit the location on your own time and practice safe social distancing while there.

We will post the weekly walkabout virtual video here on the designated date for the hike. Read the full schedule of the 10 Wildflower Walkabouts here: 2020 Wildflower Walkabout final.

Wednesday, April 29 – Anna Page Park – Click here for to watch the video.

Tuesday, May 5 – Piscasaw Fen – Click here to watch the video.

Wednesday, May 13 – Howard D. Colman Dells Nature Preserve – Click here to watch the video.  Please note that this Nature Preserve is private and not open to the public. Natural Land Institute members may visit with permission. To become a member of NLI click here to join online. For questions and permission to visit Colman Dells Nature Preserve please call 815/964-6666 or email

Tuesday, May 19 – Pecatonica River Forest Preserve – Click here to watch the video.

Wednesday, May 27 – Cedar Cliff Forest Preserve – Click here to watch the video.

Tuesday, June 2 – Searles Prairie Nature Preserve – Click here to watch the video.

Wednesday, June 10 – Bald Hill Prairie Preserve – Click here to watch the video.

BONUS!  We have a virtual Wildflower Walkabout for you from Byron Forest Preserve District’s Nardi Equine Preserve.Click here to watch the video.

Tuesday, June 16 – Beach Cemetery Prairie Nature Preserve – Click here to watch the video.

Wednesday, June 24 – Harlem Hills Prairie Nature Preserve – Click here to watch the video.

Tuesday, June 30. – Colored Sands Forest Preserve – Click here to watch the video.

This is the end of the 2020 Wildflower Walkabout season. Thank you for joining us. We hope you enjoyed the virtual tours of the various preserves in northern Illinois and encourage you to visit them on your own in the near future to see what they have in store for you in other seasons.


NLI Virtual Learning Videos

Welcome to our new series of virtual learning videos by NLI Education Committee members, staff and volunteers. Thank you to all who have contributed to this series.

Spring Wild Flower Walk is by NLI Ed. Com. member Laura Sjoquist. Please click here to be directed to YouTube to view this video.

American White Pelicans migrate through our area and visit our Nygren Wetland Preserve in Rockton IL every spring and fall. Sometimes a few of them stick around through summer. NLI member Rob Clark created this informative and fun video for you. Click here to be directed to his YouTube page to view the video. Rob is also one of the bluebird monitors at Nygren Wetland Preserve.


A Message from Kerry Leigh, Executive Director

During this uncertain time of COVID-19 we are still doing the work of NLI to protect nature. Please take a couple of minutes to watch this video of Kerry with words of encouragement and letting you know what we’re doing. We want your to hear from you to see how you’re doing, too. She mentions tagging us on social media with your photos and videos of how you are spending time in nature. Find us on Facebook at Natural Land Institute or Nygren Wetland Preserve; Twitter: NLI1958, Instagram: NLI1958.

Please click here to be directed to YouTube to view this video.



Kerry Leigh featured on Comcast Newsmakers 2019

Click here to watch the video.



Environmental Issues

In July of 2019 NLI and the Illinois Environmental Council hosted a tour and lunch at Nygren Wetland Preserve for Legislators and local elected officials.

Please click here to be directed to YouTube to view this video.


2018 Comcast Newsmakers: Conservation@Home Work School

Please click here to be directed to YouTube to view this video.


Conservation at Home

by Jack Kaufmann

Please click here to be directed to YouTube to view this video.


Volunteers of Nygren Wetland

by Jack Kaufmann

Please click here to be directed to YouTube to view this video.


Family Nature Day 2018

by Jack Kaufmann

Please click here to be directed to YouTube to view this video.


Lost Flora Fen Grand Opening

Please click here to be directed to YouTube to view this video.




A Family Wagon Tour of Nygren Wetland Preserve

by David Aslesen

Please click here to be directed to YouTube to view this video.


Nature Poetry & Prose

Authors featured in NATURAL VOICES: CELEBRATING NATURE WITH OPENED EYES, an anthology published by Natural Land Institute, read their poem or prose from the book at the annual Nature Poetry & Prose event on September 28, 2018. Eleven writers participated.

Click on each name below to view a video of the author reading one of their pieces.














Land is My Sustenance

In 2016 a video about Nygren Wetland Preserve in Rockton won third place out of 75 submissions in a national video contest conducted by the Land Trust Alliance. The Video, “Land is My Sustenance”, was created and submitted by Curt Johnsen of Rockford. Johnsen asked that his third place prize money of $1000 be awarded to the National Land Institute. LTA praised his video “for the passionate sense of place that it evokes and the compelling, personal stories it shares.”

Nygren Wetland Preserve: The Story

Nygren Wetland Preserve: Pollinators

Nygren Wetland Preserve: Bats


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