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Agencies, Conservation Corps, Volunteers Partner to Restore Forest Preserves’ Palos Region

a bur oak savanna
Photo by Laura Anchor.

The Palos region is the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s largest contiguous area, with more than 14,000 acres of land. Within its boundaries, visitors will see a diversity of habitats, including wetlands, woodlands and prairies; a variety of plants, and abundant wildlife. There are also a number of special points of interest within the Palos region, including the Swallow Cliff stairs, two Nature CentersCamp Bullfrog LakeSaganashkee Slough and more.

With so much land, effective management often begins with partnerships, both with other organizations and dedicated volunteers. Fortunately, the Palos region is benefiting from both.

Friends of the Forest Preserves received a grant from the Bobolink Foundation along with additional matching funds from the Forest Preserves enabling the newly created Palos Corps to begin restoration work in the Palos region, with specific work occurring at Spears Woods and Dan McMahon Woods. These two sites have been identified as top priority in the Forest Preserves’ Natural and Cultural Resources Master Plan. The Palos region also benefits from volunteers and site stewards.

“If you have volunteers, Forest Preserves staff, nonprofits, contractors and foundation funders working together, then you know your rate of success seems to be higher…at least that is what we’ve seen at other sites,” explained Benjamin Cox, executive director of Friends of the Forest Preserves.

The Palos Corps was formally known as the Calumet Invasive Species Conservation Corps, and has managed invasive species in the Calumet Region for the past four years. This highly trained crew became expert eyes on-the-ground at Kickapoo Prairie, Dolton Prairie, Beaubien Woods, Eggers Woods and Wentworth Prairie. Palos Corps began work this past February, and will continue at least through the end of 2017.

The Palos Corps will fill the gaps between volunteers who concentrate on detailed hand-work and large-scale, machinery based contractor work. While in the Palos region, the Palos Corps crew is removing invasive species such as honeysuckle, barberry and buckthorn, and following up with herbicide and re-sprout treatment. In addition to the restoration work at Spears Woods and Dan McMahon Woods, the crew has also spent time throughout the year working with the Forest Preserves and volunteer stewards to identify other locations in the Palos region in which invasive species need herbicide treatment.

“The Bobolink Foundation is happy to be a part of this collaborative effort and we appreciate the thoughtful approach to integrating resources in support of shared goals. As a longtime stewardship volunteer myself, I know how much we appreciate seeing the work of contractors and Conservation Corps members amplifying the work we do during volunteer workdays. It is really exciting and hopeful to see the orchestration of efforts benefiting this important place,” said Wendy Paulson, Chairman of the Bobolink Foundation.

In addition to helping move the crew to the Palos region, the Bobolink Foundation grant will also help bolster volunteer stewardship efforts in the area. While the crews continue their work, Friends of the Forest Preserves will be doing community outreach to engage new volunteers, with a long-term goal of continuing the efforts and managing the land restored by the Palos Corps.