The Bartel Grassland complex is located near Flossmoor Road and Ridgeland Avenue in Matteson, Illinois, south suburban Cook County.
Former wet agricultural fields, in fact, sometimes too wet for farming, these lands were purchased by the Cook County Forest Preserve District.
After field work and restoration work on this site, Bartel Grassland was deignated as Land And Water Reserves and accepted for protection by the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission in 2003.
Birders named the Bartel Grasslands after Karl Bartel, a well-known bird bander and conservationist from the Chicagoland area.
Restoration at the Bartel Grassland has included disabling old agricultural drain tiles to restore a more natural hydrology, removal of over five miles of interior fence row trees, and seeding and planting native species, providing about 375 acres of habitat for grassland bird species.
The Bartel Grassland provides important habitat for nesting grassland species in Illinois. Portions of these grasslands have been designated as State Nature Preserves, guaranteeing the protection of this habitat in perpetuity. Additionally, dedicated volunteers and local officials are committed to restoring and preserving these lands. This bodes well for the grassland species that use the preserves for nesting. This site was chosen as an IBA because it met the criteria for breeding Bobolinks.
Grassland species, whose numbers are declining worldwide and who breed on the preserves, include Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, Dickcissel and Henslow's Sparrow. It is not uncommon to wander one of these grasslands at the end of June and witness the territorial displays of at least 50 or more male Bobolinks, as they sing on the wing to attract females.
Like any large grassland, Bartel Grassland requires periodic disturbance (such as prescribed burns) in order to keep the habitat from brushing over and becoming unsuitable. Herbaceous invasives such as reed canary grass and leafy spurge appear to be under control but require vigilance.
Bartel Grassland is owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.
Bartel Grasslands consists of more than two-thirds wet and mesic grassland; the balance includes tree plantings.