The Forest Preserve District of Cook County will begin habitat restoration work in four Calumet-region preserves this winter. The restoration work is part of the Restore and Connect Natural & Human Communities in Calumet project, a two-year effort focused in southeast Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. With $350,000 from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (matched by $160,000 in District funds and $10,000 from Audubon), and in partnership with Audubon–Chicago Region and Fuller Park Community Development, the Forest Preserve District will restore several areas of ecological significance and build the capacity of local community members to engage in conservation activities in the forest preserves.
The four preserves where work will take place—70-acre Sand Ridge Nature Preserve, 300-acre Sand Ridge Nature Center Preserve, 528-acre Jurgensen Woods and 131-acre Green Lake Savanna—are all within three miles of one another. Situated on land that once lay at the bottom of Lake Michigan’s larger ancestor, Lake Chicago, these sites harbor rare plant and animal species, from wild roses and lilies to herons and barred owls. Most of the sites feature “dune and swale” ecosystems, where long, thin wetlands alternate with dry, sandy ridges—the remnants of ancient beaches—creating a pattern like corduroy.
The Calumet project aims to:
- Restore native ecosystems using standard established restoration practices
- Remove weedy, invasive woody and herbaceous vegetation that outcompetes native plants for resources and reduces habitat for wildlife
- Selectively remove some native trees where the lack of natural fire has allowed them to grow too numerous, to increase light levels necessary for the survival of plants and animals
- Conduct prescribed burns on priority, high-quality areas
- Work with partners to create an outreach program to organize field trips, train members of the Calumet community in restoration and field identification, increase volunteerism and engage people from all backgrounds in programs about the natural assets of the forest preserves. (Project partners Audubon–Chicago Region have hired three community-based outreach coordinators to oversee many of the grassroots efforts.)
Restore and Connect Natural & Human Communities in Calumet is one of many projects taking place as part of the Millennium Reserve initiative, an effort to enhance public recreation opportunities across 140,000 acres of land in the Calumet region.
PUBLIC MEETING—FEBRUARY 6
The Forest Preserve District is hosting a public meeting for neighbors and others in the community to learn about this important work. Ecologists will give an overview of the plans, discuss Calumet’s fascinating natural areas and the interwoven lives of their wild residents, address questions and discuss how residents can get involved.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 7 p.m.
Sand Ridge Nature Center
15891 Paxton Avenue, South Holland, IL
Residents are encouraged to register for this free event online, but drop-ins are also welcome.