Members of Moraine Valley Community College participate in a workday at Kickapoo prairie, removing invasive species so native plants can thrive.
Staff members of Moraine Valley Community College participate in a workday at Kickapoo prairie, removing invasive species so native plants can thrive.

Ecological Restoration

Getting outside and helping to restore our natural areas is a great way to enjoy nature. Believe it or not, the best time of year for this work is in the fall and winter. Cutting  brush and burning it around a brushpile keeps  you warm and it’s a great way to meet other like-minded people.

For many years, the forest preserves weren’t getting the attention they deserve – invasive brush turned thousands of acres into impassible thorn thickets, preserve land was sold, and trash littered the landscape. But we’ve been working for over 15 years to turn the tide and restore our beautiful forest preserves into an oasis for all of us to enjoy.

Not to mention, some of the best remaining examples of native Illinois ecosystems are right here in the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Thankfully the great civic leaders that started the District knew 100 years ago that they better get to work setting land aside, because soon, there would be 10 million people in the Chicago region.

Well, here we are today with about 55,000 acres (20%) of Cook County’s 69,000 acres of preserves in a natural state. If put together in one piece, it would cover about half of the City of Chicago (and yes, there’s about that many people in the region)!

Unfortunately 68% of those lands are in ecologically poor condition. The good news is every weekend, in all parts of the county, teams of dedicated volunteers enjoy the company of other eco-minded people while saving the flora and fauna of some of the best natural areas in the state.

We have a lot of work to do, and we need your help. So join us for a volunteer day, get outside and enjoy nature!

View our handout on ecological restoration! What Is Eco Restoration?

Path to Stewardship

People are the key to healthy forest preserves! The Path to Stewardship is open to any volunteer wanting to increase their dedication to restoring healthy nature. Field experience, classes, and mentoring give you the qualifications you need to become a leader. Regardless of your age, schedule, or fitness level there are ways you can contribute!

Case Study: Kickapoo Prairie

Over several years, we carefully restored the prairie at Kickapoo Woods, but we’re not done yet! Read Brenda Elmore’s, our Calumet Invasive Species Conservation Corps crew leader, blog post about the revitalization of Kickapoo.

Forest Preserve Leadership Corps crew leader Daiva Gylys and Calumet Conservation Corps crew member Devon Brown hep lead a volunteer workday to collect native seeds at Kickapoo prairie.
Conservation Corps Crew Manager Daiva Gylys and Calumet Conservation Corps crew member Devon Brown help lead a volunteer workday to collect native seeds at Kickapoo prairie.