Not all of the open land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County is in a natural state.
- Old fields or Eurasian meadows. Some Forest Preserve land is former farmland known as old fields. Many old fields have transitioned into grasslands dominated by Eurasian species, and will undergo habitat restoration.
- Unassociated woody growth. The Forest Preserves is working to restore many areas that have been overtaken by invasive species to healthy natural condition. These areas are often labeled “unassociated woody growth” because they are dominated by woody species such as buckthorn and honeysuckle that don’t belong to any native community.
- Reforestation. Decades ago, the Forest Preserves planted numerous acres of trees as part of reforestation efforts. Some of these replantings resulted in habitats that would not exist here naturally, such as the pine stands surrounding Bartel Grassland. In some areas, the plantings have blended back in with remnant forests.
- Farmland. Some forest preserve land is actively farmed, either as hayfields or row crops. These arrangements allow us to keep the land free of invasive species until the resources are available to restore them as natural areas.
- Access and infrastructure. Areas such as roads, mowed picnic groves, parking lots, nature centers, trails, buildings and other infrastructure allow the public to better access the preserves, and staff to maintain them. By the Preserves’ own rule, no more than 20 percent of our land can be used in this way. At least 80 percent of our land will be maintained in a natural, undeveloped state.
Read more about the ecosystems of the Forest Preserves of Cook County: