Orland Grassland

ABOUT THE ORLAND GRASSLAND

Orland Grassland: Phase Two

Ecosystem Restoration in Progress

You may have seen some work happening at the Orland Grassland, a 960-acre preserve located in Orland Township and bordered on the north by 167th Street, on the east by La Grange Road, on the south by 179th Street and on the west by 104th Avenue.

 

Orland Grassland is in Phase Two of an ongoing ecological restoration project, which will return the preserve to prairie, wetland, oak savanna and oak woodlands – much like it was before this area was settled.  During Phase Two, invasive trees, many of which were planted by the Forest Preserve District after the land was taken out of agricultural use, will be removed to restore the native prairie and savanna communities.

 

While invasive trees will be removed from the Grassland’s interior, a one-hundred foot perimeter of trees and shrubs will be kept along the borders of the preserve to act as a visual screen in those areas.

 

The goal of the project is to provide a variety of habitat types for wildlife (some of which are in decline), support native plants that need light to thrive and restore a functioning ecosystem that will require minimal maintenance in the future. A perimeter trail that will allow visitors to enjoy the ponds, meadows, woods and rolling hills, is planned for the future.

 

While the preserve will take many years to fully return to its natural state, results are already apparent. Important grassland breeding birds, including Bobolinks, Henslow’s Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlarks, and Dickcissels, are nesting at Orland Grassland in increasing numbers. We are also seeing native plants, many of which serve the important function of stabilizing the soil for additional species, thriving in key areas.

 

Tree removal will be completed by spring 2012. Phase Two also includes re-vegetation of cleared areas with a variety of native grasses and wildflowers.  Prescription burns will be conducted to decrease weedy, alien plants and invigorate native plant species’ growth. The later stages of Phase 2 will be completed by Summer 2014.

 

This project is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the Audubon-Chicago Region, Openlands, and the Orland Grassland Volunteers.

 

Q. How are the trees being removed?

Q. How are the trees being removed?

Three treatment types are being employed.  In some areas all woody vegetation will be removed and cut stumps treated to prevent regrowth.  In other areas, trees will be cut but allowed to resprout as grubs (shrubby regrowth).  In the final treatment areas trees will be left intact with the exception of removing non-native or invasive shrubs below the canopy.  This method is intended to recreate a mosaic of prairie grading into savanna (open woodland) that mimics pre-settlement conditions.

 

Q. When will the project be completed?

Q. When will the project be completed?

Tree removal will be completed by spring 2012. The later stages of Phase 2 are scheduled to be completed by Summer 2014.  Tree cutting will be followed by seeding and planting of native wildflowers and grasses.  Selective herbicide application of weed species will also take place.  However, it will take many years of regrowth before the prairie, wetland, oak savanna and oak woodlands will be fully restored.

 

Q. Who’s paying for this?

Q. Who’s paying for this?

This project is being funded by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

 

Q. Is the tree removal displacing wildlife that currently lives there?

Q. Is the tree removal displacing wildlife that currently lives there?

The project will create a wider diversity of habitat types that will support a greater number of animal species in the long-term.  The more adaptable animal species that currently use the site will not have their populations reduced as a result of this project.  Very common suburban species like coyotes, red-tailed hawks or raccoons will find improved foraging habitat after the restoration is complete, as they find little of their food in dark, invasive tree stands.  Recent sightings of coyotes in nearby residential areas do not indicate displacement of this species.  Coyotes have been using suburban areas in northern Illinois for foraging and traveling for many decades.  Although typically elusive, it is not uncommon for coyotes to become more active during the daytime in winter months.

 

Q. Is the District planning to sell any of this land to private developers?

Q. Is the District planning to sell any of this land to private developers?

No, the Forest Preserve District is not selling any of the land to private developers – the Orland Grassland will remain a public space for conservation and compatible recreation. All work being done on the site is part of the effort to restore a functioning ecosystem that will provide a variety of habitat types for wildlife (some of which are in decline) and support native plants that need light to thrive, while requiring minimal maintenance in the future.

 

Q. How and when will the public be able to access the site?

Q. How and when will the public be able to access the site?

Visitors will continue to be able to use most of the preserve throughout the project.  Only contractor work zones will be inaccessible for the safety of the public while work is going on in those areas. A new perimeter trail that will provide opportunities for viewing and studying the Grassland is planned for the future.

 

Q. Does smoke from a controlled burn or brush pile burn present a health issue?

Q. Does smoke from a controlled burn or brush pile burn present a health issue?

No, the burns are conducted in compliance with the State and County permits obtained by the contractor.  Weather and fuel conditions are monitored closely, local authorities are notified and staff on-site is appropriately trained to manage fire activity safely.

 

Q. How can I get involved?

Q. How can I get involved?

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County has an active volunteer program, and there are many opportunities to get involved with ecological stewardship at Orland Grassland and other sites throughout the region. For more information on volunteer opportunities, visit fpdccvolunteers.org.

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