Blog

Winter Fish Kills Take Toll

Tuma Lake opening delayed indefinitely   It’s hidden below the surface, but proof of last winter’s bitter weather is still on display in a handful of Forest Preserve lakes and ponds.

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Millennium Reserve Guide Now Available

Explore southeast Cook County and beyond   For those who aren’t from there, the Calumet region can be a bit of a mystery—a blur of industry, neighborhoods, wetlands and dunes viewed from the expressway. Now an exciting new guidebook, Explore the Millennium Reserve and Greater Calumet: A Natural and Cultural Guide to the Region from Bronzeville to the Indiana Dunes, provides new portals into this intriguing place.  

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Volunteer Spotlight: Seed Collecting

Every autumn, many native plants express their diversity through seed. Little bluestem seeds are bright white, and light as feathers. The seeds of Kalm’s brome hang from the stem, full and graceful. Rose hips are bright red and hard as stones.   And each autumn, many of these seeds find themselves the target of calmly obsessed volunteers, who collect them to aid habitat restoration efforts.  

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Centennial History Series: Aldo Leopold and the Forest Preserves

On the short list of great environmental thinkers, Aldo Leopold is near the top, next to John Muir and Henry David Thoreau. Leopold’s famous collection of essays, A Sand County Almanac, is heralded today as one of the seminal texts of twentieth century conservation. Less well known is that Leopold formed personal and professional relationships with Cook County forest preserve staff during the last decade of his life and had a direct influence on the structure and philosophy of the Forest Preserve District. Leopold passed away in 1948 and A Sand County Almanac was published posthumously in 1949.  

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Orland Grassland Restoration Marks Milestone

On September 6, Orland Grassland celebrated a major milestone, the completion of a massive five-year restoration project by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Over the course of the $7.7 million project, the Corps removed more than 400 acres of invasive trees and shrubs across the 960-acre preserve, seeded hundreds of acres with native plant seed and planted more than 50,000 native plants. It removed or disabled 12.5 miles of drain tiles, allowing water to return to the site to create life-sustaining wetlands.

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Awards Point to Progress

by Forest Preserves President Toni Preckwinkle   Over the past several years, the Forest Preserves has received a number of awards for high-quality work across its departments. Three recent awards point toward a promising trend, and are particularly worth talking about.

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Third Annual Forest Preserves Photo Contest

Voting is open October 1 - 15! Click here to vote for finalists on our Facebook Page. To vote, simply "like" the photos you'd like to see in our 2015 Calendar. You can vote for as many (or as few) photos as you want. Voting closes October 15 at midnight.   It’s that time of year again! We’re looking for your very best photos of Forest Preserves landscapes, close-ups of plants, insects, birds and other wildlife, pictures that highlight the seasons and shots of people enjoying the outdoors or participating in our recreational offerings.   This year’s winning photos will be showcased in the 2015 Forest Preserves of Cook County Wall Calendar, on FPDCC.com, on Forest Preserves social media accounts, in an exhibit displayed at the Cook County Building in downtown Chicago and in various suburban courthouses. Each winning photographer will also receive 10 copies of the calendar as well as a Forest Preserves prize package.

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Creative Platforms Breed Osprey Success

Watching an osprey soar overhead is a breathtaking experience. These grand birds can reach up to two feet in length and display a six-foot wingspan—a striking sight when silhouetted against a bright blue sky. While once scarce in the region, spotting these birds in Cook County is no longer a rare experience thanks to some repurposed electric poles and a little engineering.   Even with such remarkable proportions, ospreys were still vulnerable to the widespread use of DDT that began in the 1940s. The toxic effects of DDT and other pesticides resulted in many ospreys producing nonviable or infertile eggs, leading to a significant decline in osprey populations during the following decades.

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Enhancing Our Preserves for the Next 100 Years

If you’ve been out in the forest preserves lately, you may have encountered a sign that read: “Enhancing Our Preserves for the Next 100 Years.” As we celebrate our centennial, we are breaking ground on a number of projects throughout the preserves to help restore native ecosystems, enhance facilities and add exciting new possibilities.  

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Powwow Celebrates the Native Culture Thriving in Cook County

Before you are close enough to see the dance or smell the food, you hear the drum. At every powwow, the steady beat of the drum creates the “Heartbeat of Mother Earth” for dancers and visitors alike. This year’s 61st Annual Chicago Powwow, held September 13 and 14 at Busse Woods, will be no different.   The American Indian Center (AIC) holds powwows from spring to fall each year, but their Annual Chicago Powwow is their largest, celebrating more than 150 tribes from across the U.S. and Canada. The event, which drew over 10,000 people last year, features dance exhibitions and competitions, an arts and crafts marketplace and one of your only chances to sample Native American food in Illinois.  

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Preserves and Abandoned Pets an Unhealthy Mix

A pet store goldfish may not last long under the care of a young child, but it can often thrive in a local forest preserve pond. Goldfish are prolific reproducers and bottom feeders that can quickly disrupt an aquatic ecosystem.   Both state and county law prohibit residents from abandoning pets or releasing nuisance animals outside, but a variety of exotic species are still found in preserves each year. “A lot of people think they are setting these pets free to be in their natural environment. But the reality is, these animals don’t belong here,” said Forest Preserves fisheries biologist Steve Silic. “Animals purchased in pet stores typically are not native to this exact area, because it is illegal to sell wild, native animals in Illinois,” he explained.  

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Broken Refrigerator? Busted Hair Dryer? You Can Recycle That!

In an effort to keep unwanted appliances, electronics and other non-biodegradable objects out of landfills, the Forest Preserves of Cook County has designated two locations as all-inclusive recycling drop-off centers. Two southwest zone nature centers, Little Red Schoolhouse in Willow Springs and Sagawau Environmental Learning Center in Lemont, now have large-scale collection containers ready and waiting to accept your recyclable items.   And you can recycle a lot more than you think! Drop off your outdated or broken computer monitors, printers and peripherals; electronics such as phones and radios; and household appliances like hair dryers, irons and coffee makers. Even large appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers and stoves can be recycled. (Click here for a full list of accepted items).   The collection centers are located in the nature center parking lots and will maintain the same hours as the nature centers. The containers are unmanned; however, if you need assistance, please call the number posted on the container door and a nature center staff member can lend a hand.   Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center is located at 9800 Willow Springs Rd, Willow Springs. Sagawau Environmental Learning Center is located at 12545 W 111th St, Lemont.

Did You Know? Milkweed Hosts a Microhabitat

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed. Photo by Irene Flebbe. Milkweed plants (Asclepias sp.) of many species are now in bloom all around the Chicago region. If you observe these plants closely, you'll discover a microhabitat full of insects that depend on milkweed for their diet, reproduction and more.

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Centennial History Series: First Catch — Initial Fish & Water Management in the Forest Preserves

Fishing, ca. 1930s-1940s by Natalie Bump Vena   The Forest Preserve District’s early leaders viewed fishing as a key way to introduce urban residents to Cook County’s plentiful open land. But they faced some obstacles in bringing their vision to life. The streams that flowed through the holdings were polluted and the forest preserves lacked fishable ponds and lakes. In a series of projects aimed to protect public health and facilitate transportation, District administrators partnered with state and municipal governments to clean streams and create lakes in the forest preserves. Beginning in the late 1930s, District staff also received assistance from the Illinois Natural History Survey and the Illinois Department of Conservation to stock those bodies of water with desirable species of game fish.

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Youth Outdoor Ambassadors Program Preps Teens for the Future

How many teens does it take to plan and execute a 500 person event with canoeing, archery, art making and a zip line? Just six—if they are Youth Outdoor Ambassadors.   This new group of six teens, started with a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Management Program, aims to not only get teens outdoors, but to help them build the valuable skills they will need to succeed in the future.

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Visit two of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County