Portwine Restoration

Restored prairie

259 Acre Restoration at Portwine, Dam #1 Woods and Willow-Sanders properties


This three-year project aims to restore habitat for plants and animals native to our sedge meadows and woodlands. Clearing brush and removing trees in the area will increase the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground, encouraging the growth of grasses, sedges and wildflowers. These will provide food and shelter to a greater diversity of wildlife, as well as reducing soil erosion.


2017-18: The first phase of the project will be completed as work continues at the south side of Dam No. 1 Woods, near Willow Road. Restoration of both oak savanna and maple forest habitats will began with brush removal and some tree thinning. This area will add on to the open sedge meadow and wet prairie habitat that exist northwest of the corner of Willow and Sanders Roads.
Additionally, a second project will begin at the southeast corner of Lake-Cook and Portwine Roads. This work will be highly visible from both of those roads. The goal is to expand on a small sedge meadow community tucked into the woods by removing brush and aggressive trees surrounding the sedge meadow.
Ongoing follow up of all the project areas will continue in the summer of 2018.

Winter 2016-17: Approximately 70 acres of trees and brush were removed from Dam No. 1 Woods along the Des Plaines River Trail.

Winter 2015-16: Roughly 38 acres of brush removed along Forest View Drive, Sanders Rd and Willow Rd. An additional 40 acres of trees and brush removed in Dam No. 1 Woods along the Des Plaines River Trail.

Winter 2014-15: Roughly 64 acres of trees cleared north of Dundee Rd, south of Forest View Drive, east of Portwine Rd, and west of I-294; 11 acres cleared at Dam No. 1 Woods, south of Dundee Rd and north of the Des Plaines River Trail.

The design for this project began in 2008, in consultation with the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. In winter 2013, the first phase of work began with small-scale, targeted brush clearing in more sensitive areas. The second phase, started in winter 2014, will focus on the removal of trees in the area. In some areas, select trees will be left in place, creating savanna and providing a buffer from street traffic. The second phase will cost $500,000, and is being paid for with wetland mitigation funds from the Illinois Tollway Authority.


Many of the trees being removed are invasive species that encroached on previously open land in the absence of fire. Others were planted in the middle of the last century, when conservation efforts were biased toward preserving forested landscapes. As the field of conservation has evolved, however, scientists have come to understand the critical role of sedge meadows, grasslands and other open environments in preserving our region’s complete biodiversity.


During the second phase of the work, preserve visitors may see heavy equipment operating from the Des Plaines Trail (which will remain open during the project) or Dundee Road.


For the first time, the Forest Preserves will be using most of the wood removed for restoration to produce lumber and firewood. (It is typically either burned or chipped onsite.) This will save approximately $235,000 over the course of the project.

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