What is Inner-Coastal?

Inner-Coastal Ecological Services (ICES) is a natural resource consulting and contracting firm that specializes in conducting inventories of flora and fauna and the restoration of native ecosystems.  The geographic area of business is within the greater Great Lakes Region.  This is the source of the business name, the inner coast of the United States: the five Great Lakes that comprise 20% of the world’s fresh water.  Subsequent to the receding of the last wave of glaciers that visited the region, roughly 10,000 years ago, this landscape surrounding the lakes was ultimately vegetated by two primary types of vegetation, grasslands and woodlands.

The tall grass prairie formed in the western part of this region; a commingling of species of plants from the pre-existing short grass prairies to the west, southern and eastern coastal regions, and elements of the flora of the Appalachians and Ozarks.  Oak trees were widely scattered in much of the tall grass prairie of this region, and where co-occurring were termed oak savannas. These grasslands extended eastward from Wisconsin and Illinois into the generally forested regions of northern Indiana and Ohio and southern Michigan.  This projection of grassland within the wooded environment was termed The Prairie Peninsula by an early ecologist , Edgar. N. Transeau.

Isolated prairies within forested areas to the east were often dotted with trees and termed oak openings, another term for savannas, but here surrounded by forest.  A large region of oak openings occurred in the vicinity of Toledo Ohio.  Conversely, in the prairie regions, tracts of woodlands would occur like islands in the sea of grass such as at the present location of Dekalb Illinois.  The receding glaciers left extensive amounts of sand, sculpted by wind over time into the dune ecosystems now present along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.  This region gave birth to the scientific discipline that came to be known as Ecology, resulting from observations that Henry Chandler Cowles made near what is now the Indiana Dunes.

In sharp juxtaposition to this large glaciated landscape that extends nearly as far south as the Ohio River, a large area in southwest Wisconsin and in portions of the three adjourning states, was not subjected to the scouring effect of the glaciers.  All of the advances of that glacial period bypassed this region, termed the Driftless Area due to the lack of glacial drift.  This region is characterized by steep hills and valleys, much exposed bedrock, and plentiful trout streams.  This area extends generally between Minneapolis and within a couple hours drive of Chicigo.  Madison, central location of ICES is on the edge of this region.