Over the last couple weeks, we’ve been spending some time in the woods–engaged in ecological restoration projects both in Cook and Will Counties. Earlier this month, we were working out in Lockport, IL along the Des Plaines River to restore the very rare dolomite prairie of the Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve—a 285-acre stretch of land acquired by the preserve in 2011. Dolomite prairie is quite interesting as the soil base is no more than a meter thick and is very rocky, and so the flora it supports is unique in its adaptive qualities. The Lockport Preserve is home to a variety of plant species including the federally endangered leafy prairie clover and the federally threatened lakeside daisy. Wildlife includes the federally endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly and other rare species. Our time there was spent cutting back invasive buckthorn and burning brush to allow for natives to take hold once again.
Similarly, in Palos Hills, IL about 20 of us headed out to the snowy woods last weekend to restore the diminishing Oak Savannah. Working beside a chainsaw crew, we hauled fallen silver maples—an invasive, “weedy” tree not native to the highland area in which we were working—and stacked seven burn piles nearly three meters tall each. The work was rigorous, but the positive impact we made to the landscape over the course of just three hours was immediately seen. With consistent efforts like this, in the years to come, we hope to see the oaks return. Special thanks goes to long-time volunteer stewards Joe Neumann, Roger Keller and everyone with the Palos Restoration Project for their invitation to join them this day and to patiently teach us the importance of this work.