IMPORTANT WILDLIFE AREAS
THE BOUNDARY WATERS:
Comprising a million acres of lakes, rocks and spruce-fir forest, stretching 150 miles along the Minnesota-Canada border, the Boundary Waters haven't much changed since the end of the Ice Age. These pristine wetlands host one of the largest bald eagle nesting areas in the lower 48 states, as well as populations of common loon, osprey, otter, moose and beaver. Bass, pike and trout are abundant as well.
THE GREAT LAKES:
The Great Lakes Basin ecosystem holds 18 percent of the world's fresh surface water—together, the five lakes and their tributaries form the largest body of fresh water on the planet. The ecosystem is home to 130 endangered or threatened plant and animal species, including the least tern, the Canada lynx, the Indiana bat and a large salamander called the Ozark hellbender, which was proposed for listing in 2004.
MICHIGAN'S UPPER PENINSULA:
This heavily forested land is about as pristine as it gets in the Midwest. In the rugged, rocky hills along Lake Superior lies the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness, home to the most extensive virgin hardwood forest in the eastern central United States. Lakes, wetlands and primeval stands of basswood, hemlock, maple and yellow birch trees provide shelter for practically every bird, plant and animal species in the region, including gray wolves, black bears and peregrine falcons.
THE SINKHOLE PLAIN:
This 1,200-square-mile area of southwestern Illinois is riddled through with caves and crevices, created by eons of water nibbling away at the limestone bedrock. This landscape, also known as karst, is home to the largest and most pristine limestone cave systems in Illinois. The endangered Indiana bat roosts here, as well as a variety of unique cave creatures that never leave their underground confines.