On December 11, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County received not just one but two Conservation and Native Landscaping Awards from the US Environmental Protection Agency and Chicago Wilderness.
The Conservation and Native Landscaping Award recognizes park districts, forest preserve districts, nonprofit organizations, local governments and corporations for exemplary use of natural landscaping, ecological restoration, and conservation design.
Bergman Slough, in the Palos Preserves of southwest Cook County, got the nod for its high plant diversity and engagement of volunteers. As described by the award citation, before restoration began more than a decade ago, “the majority of the preserve was row-crop field, interspersed with degraded sections of remnant prairie savanna.” Today, “the floristic quality of Bergman Slough marks this preserve as one of regional importance.”
McMahon Woods and Fen Nature Preserve, also in Palos, triumphed with its large-scale removal of invasive plant species and the planting of native ones. EPA and CW described the McMahon site as initially “a badly degraded area, choked by a vast thicket of buckthorn, box elder, hawthorn, honeysuckle, and other invasive brush and trees.” The invasive plants were pulling groundwater from a rare fen that supports the federally endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly, but the District responded with large-scale invasive brush and tree removal.
Chicago Wilderness and the EPA recognized the District’s development of long-term partnerships with scores of partners—from federal agencies to local volunteers—in the restoration of both sites.
Both natural areas would like to thank their legions of dedicated fans and volunteers. Special thanks to District ecologists Kristin Pink and Dan Spencer and volunteer site steward Kurt Leslie, for their work to restore Bergman Slough. Thanks also to District ecologist Deborah Antlitz and volunteer site steward Joe Neumann for their dedication to McMahon Woods.
Organizations who partnered with the District on restoration at McMahon and Bergman Preserves include the Palos Restoration Project stewards, Illinois Depart of Natural Resources’ C2000 program, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey, Cook County Highway Department, Openlands, University of South Dakota, Butterfly Monitoring Network, Chicago Wilderness, Plants of Concern, Conservation Land Stewardship, and the Audubon Chicago Region internship program.