French explorers were the first Europeans of record to visit the region in 1673. Great Britain obtained the region at the end of the French and Indian Wars in 1763. The area figured prominently in frontier struggles during the Revolutionary War and in Indian wars during the early 19th century. The Illinois region was an integral part of the Old Northwest that came within U.S. boundaries by the 1783 Treaty of Paris ending the American Revolution. It was made part of the Indiana Territory in 1800, but became a separate territory in 1809. Illinois became a state in 1818.
Urbanization and commercial development have taken their toll on the plant and animal resources of Illinois. Nearly all the land has been given over to crops, roads, and suburban lawns. 90% of the oak and hickory forests have been cut down for fuel and lumber. Of those that do remain, the typical trees are black oak, sugar maple, slippery elm, beech, white ash, black walnut, sweet gum, cotton wood, black willow, and jack pine.
Wildlife was once abundant, but bison, bear, elk and wolves have long since vanished. In 1973, the Department of Conservation established an endangered and threatened species protection program. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed 19 Illinois animal species as endangered or threatened. Included among them are the bald eagle and the gray wolf, the piping plover, pallid sturgeon, Hine’s emerald dragonfly, and the least tern.
Bureau of Energy and Recycling, Office of Sustainable Practices, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and many more such government and private bodies are striving to provide and maintain a healthful environment with their support for Green Projects and Sustainability Planning.
Under the Green Building Guidelines for State Construction, state-owned facilities are required to meet LEED standards (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). New technology solutions include geo-thermal climate control systems, photovoltaic systems to produce electricity, use of recycled materials, nowater landscaping, and allergen-reducing ventilation and interior finishes, no development on prime farmland, and water use reduced by at least 20% through the use of high-efficiency fixtures.
Other eco-friendly initiatives include Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, reducing pesticide usage, reducing carbon emissions, promoting sustainable transportation through use of hybrid and electric vehicles, and shifting energy generation to renewable resources.