Evanston environmental services bureau chief honored with award from Chicago Audubon Society

Sophie Mann, Digital Development and Recruitment Editor

Paul D’Agostino didn’t realize he was up for the Chicago Audubon Society’s Protector of the Environment award until he received an email saying he won it.

D’Agostino, who has served as Evanston’s environmental services bureau chief for nearly 30 years, was given the award in the political services category March 25 for his work building the Clark Street Beach Bird Sanctuary. The sanctuary works to attract and support migrating birds along the city’s lakefront.

The project began after Northwestern needed to uproot trees on city property to build the Segal Visitors Center, D’Agostino said.

“(Northwestern) gave us a check for $173,900 and that was back in December of 2012, so it was my task to … hold that money aside and not let the city suck it up into their general fund so we (could) replant the area once the building was finished,” D’Agostino said.

The city used the money to hire a contractor and redesign the beach, a project that began in fall 2015 and was completed last spring, D’Agostino said. Additionally, the city received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which will be used for further planting and restoring of the area. That project will be completed by spring 2018, D’Agostino said.

Along with his efforts, D’Agostino said the Evanston North Shore Bird Club and volunteers — “bird sanctuary stewards” — also help maintain the area.

“They point out invasive (plants) that they treat and try to get rid of,” he said. “It’s a really successful community project; not only is it Northwestern’s money and our project, but we have a lot of volunteers.”

One of those volunteers, Libby Hill, was also given an award in the individual acts category. Hill is the program chair for the bird club and said she wants to work with community members to make Evanston a “conservation community.”

When Hill heard about the visitors center, she said she started working with D’Agostino and another volunteer to have NU pay for the restoration of the land.

“I realized it was going to be right on the border and was indeed going to take down this area that the birds had used for migration,” said Hill, who has been a member of the bird club since about 1990. “It seemed to me that it’s only right that Northwestern had to pay for all the trees that had to be taken down.”

Award recipients are chosen biennially by a Chicago Audubon Society committee. The committee looks at significant conservation efforts in the Chicago area in the two years between ceremonies.

CAS board president Dave Willard said this project was a great example of citizens working with government officials to mitigate habitat loss.

“With development pressures like Northwestern’s up and down the lakefront, Libby’s and Paul’s efforts help others see just what is possible,” Willard said.

D’Agostino said the award is proof that his work is being recognized, and it shows Evanston’s growth as a community that cares about the environment.

“It shows Evanston’s commitment to conservation,” D’Agostino said. “For me personally, it’s just another recognition of the work I’ve been doing in the City of Evanston for the past 30 years, which is kind of nice.”

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