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Wildlife Preservation Fund

Step into the Wild Buttons - an Annual Tradition

The Step into the Wild button series was initiated in 1981 based on a button from Wisconsin with a similar slogan. At the time, a series of education packets were being prepared in Illinois and it was decided to incorporate the button in the packet. Every teacher who used the education packet in their class could request a button for each of their students. The button became a means to measure the number of students who received instruction from the education packets.

The first Step into the Wild button was designed by Robert Eschenfeldt, who also did artwork on several habitat posters. Subsequent buttons were done via a contest for several years and the winner was announced at the Illinois State Fair. In 1998, a sticker was produced in lieu of the button due to a decreased budget and the assumption that the sticker would have wider appeal. The ensuing outcry from staff and the public was enormous, so the button was reinstated the following year. Over the years, the button has been designed by a variety of artists including Patti Malmborg Reilly, former IDNR Natural Areas Project Manager, whose artwork graces the 2003-2012 buttons. Sadly, Mrs. Reilly passed away in January 2013 not long after sending us the 2012 design. 10 years of Step into the Wild buttons... many lifetimes of appreciation.

Each year, the species selected to appear on the button is determined by staff vote. Generally staff nominated one of their favorite species, but occasionally there was a deeper meaning behind the winner.

  • 2001 - the Cooper’s hawk was chosen in honor of Dave Cooper, who was retiring as a Regional Heritage Biologist
  • 2004 - the design was based on the logo used at the Natural Areas Conference which was held in Chicago that year
  • 2005 - the tiger salamander had recently been voted as the State Amphibian by Illinois school children
  • 2006 - the eastern bluebird was chosen in honor of the late Carl Becker, former Chief of the Division of Natural Heritage, who played a large role in bluebird conservation in the state
  • 2010 - the Indiana bat was selected in order to bring attention to the devastating fungal infection, White Nose Syndrome, which has been causing large-scale deaths in a variety of bat species

Along the way, the Step into the Wild button has developed a loyal following of collectors. Many collectors anxiously await the start of the Illinois State Fair, where the new buttons make their debut. Following the Fair, the buttons are distributed to the public throughout the year at educational events.
With each year’s button, we renew our invitation to the citizens to “Step into the Wild” and enjoy the natural resources of Illinois. Our state offers a diverse array of forests, prairies, wetlands, lakes, rivers and streams. Whether you enjoy the rocky canyons and cypress swamps of southern Illinois, the play of the wind across a central Illinois prairie or the view from a forested river bluff in northwest Illinois, a “Step into the Wild” is a step we hope you will take at every opportunity!

Note:
Starting in 2010, the Step into the Wild button was not offered in physical form. Instead, it was released as a digital image only. This is due to several efforts to reduce state government spending:

1981
Great Egret

1982
Tree Frog

1983
Franklin's Ground Squirrel

1984
River Otter

1985
Cave Salamander

1986
Peregrine Falcon

1987
Red Bat

1988
Bald Eagle

1989
Trout Lily

1990
Painted Turtle



1991
Paddlefish

1992
Zebra Swallowtail

empty

1993
Flowering Dogwood

1994
Bob-o-link

1995
Ornate Box Turtle

1996
Prickly Pear Cactus

1997
Southern Flying Squirrel

1998
Carolina Mantid

1999
Elktoe Mussel

2000
Timber Rattlesnake

2001
Cooper's Hawk

2002
Meadow Jumping Mouse

2003
Prairie Chicken &
Carolina Rose

2004
Baltimore Checkerspot
& Turtlehead

2005
Tiger Salamander

2006
Eastern Bluebird

2007
Plains Scorpion

2008
Logperch & Snuffbox

2009
Alligator Snapping Turtle

2010
Indiana Bat

2011
Spotted Dusky Salamander

2012
Barn Owl

 

 

Wildlife Preservation Links

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