Stephen Packard has worked for four decades to develop the practice and popular understanding of ecological restoration and biodiversity conservation. He was Director of Science and Stewardship for the Illinois Nature Conservancy (1983-1999) and Founding Director of Audubon Chicago Region (1999-2014). He taught at Northwestern University (2008-2013). He was the primary initiator of the Chicago Region Biodiversity Council (Chicago Wilderness) – now a globally respected collaboration of more than 200 national and local conservation-minded agencies. He collaborates with and counsels a wide variety of efforts to conserve biodiversity through good land stewardship and building constituency through “conservation communities” in which people and nature can re-establish mutually nourishing relationships in a changing world.
Packard initiated and helped to plan and implement many of Illinois’ larger ecological restoration projects including Bartel Grassland (750 acres), Orland Grassland (960 acres), Nachusa Grasslands (4,000 acres), and the restoration of the North Branch, Poplar Creek, Deer Grove, and Spring Creek Forest Preserves. He has extensive experience in the restoration of prairies, savannas, and oak woodlands. His work on the oak ecosystems has led to new insights that have clarified ideas about the composition and dynamics of these vanishing rare communities. Some have referred to this work in the 1980s as the “rediscovery” of this ecosystem.
At the Nature Conservancy and later with Audubon, he initiated and guided the Volunteer Stewardship Network. With thousands of volunteers working at hundreds of sites, this new approach served as models for the creation of similar projects by many agencies in other parts of the United States and internationally. With William Freyman and Linda Masters, he published the Universal Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA) Calculator: an online tool for ecological assessment and monitoring.
He helped assemble and was a founding board member of the Society for Ecological Restoration, which now has members throughout the world and is the pre-eminent organization in this flourishing new field. He helped design and initiate the Mighty Acorns (youth stewardship program), Friends of the Forest Preserves, Chicago Wilderness Magazine, and Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves. He is a national Honorary Director of “Wild Ones: native plants, natural landscapes.”