Ecological restoration is the practice of bringing back the conditions that support healthy nature.
It means getting outside, getting fresh air and enjoying the camaraderie of like-minded people as you collect seed, remove invasive brush and weeds, and learn about the connections between people and healthy nature.
Over 100 years ago great civic leaders knew they better get to work setting land aside, because soon, there would be 10 million people in the Chicago region. Today, we have some of the best remaining examples of native Illinois ecosystems are right here in the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
Today about 20% of the nearly 70,000 acres of forest preserves are in a natural state.
FUN FACT: If assembled all the forest preserves into one piece, it would cover about half of the City of Chicago
Unfortunately the majority of our forest preserves 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?
Restoring Healthy Nature
Invasive Plants + Lack of Fire = Unhealthy Woodland
Ecological Restoration Begins
Healthy Nature Restored
Proper Structure Is . . .
Proper structure is restored by removing invasive plants, planting appropriate ones, and returning fire. We remove invasive plants by cutting them down, pulling them up, and if necessary applying herbicide to prevent regrowth. We plant the appropriate mix of flowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees to stop soil erosion and provide homes for wildlife.
Why can’t we just let nature take its course?
Humans have always managed nature. Ever since the glaciers receded some 13,000 years ago we have been cutting, burning, and otherwise manipulating nature. We chose to stop setting fire to the land and to release invasive plants. We can now choose to let the health of our forest preserves decline or choose to restore the conditions for healthy nature.
Prescribed fire is the most efficient and cost effective tool to restore healthy nature. It can kill invasive plants, release nutrients into the soil, allow plants to grow sooner in spring-time, and increase seed germination rates.
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!
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.