Urban Nature Needs Special Care Renewing the Promise of the Forest Preserves of Cook County for People and Nature Chicago Region
Forest Preserve District of Cook County • Established in 1914 • 68,000 total acres protected • 55,000 acres in a natural state
Forest Preserve Mission: ...to acquire... and hold lands containing one or more natural forests or parts thereof or lands connecting such forests or parts thereof, or lands capable of being forested, for the purpose of protecting and preserving the flora, fauna, and scenic beautieswithin such district, and to restore, restock, protect and preserve the natural forests and such lands together with their flora and fauna, as nearly as may be, in their natural state and condition, for the purpose of the education, pleasure, and recreation of the public... From the Illinois Enabling Act Woodland sunflowers bloom in an oak savanna
People Worked to Protect Nature… • Many people, including Jens Jensen and Dwight Perkins, had the vision to protect nature for future generations. • They thought the job was done, the land was protected and nature would carry on … Dwight Perkins Jens Jensen Illinois Prairie Club circa 1900
Protection Wasn’t Enough . . . Our “protected” preserves began to look radically different. • Native plants and animals were disappearing • Open areas were becoming impassable • New plants began replacing others over large areas Buckthorn has killed off the wildflowers, grasses and eventhe tree seedlings.
Why was “protection” not enough? The conditions have radically changed. • Fragmentation • Human population increase • • Lack of human set fire • Introduced plant and animal species • Changed hydrology • Changed human relationship with nature Morton Arboretum scientists in the field.
Land Cover cir. 1800 Land Cover cir. 2000 Humans in a sea of nature Nature in a sea of humans
How Conditions Changed:Lack of Fire • Our ecosystems developed through time with human set fire • Woodlands, wetlands, savannas, and prairies need fire to keep shrubs and trees in balance Fire supports the growth of woodland grasses and flowers. Lack of fire allows shrubs to invade this savanna
How Conditions Changed:Lack of Fire Pale purple coneflower seeds germinate faster with smoke! Without fire, these sun loving flowers will not survive Fire maintains the prairie as home for the threatened Franklin’s Ground Squirrel Lack of fire allows invasive buckthorn to grow Without fire,
How Conditions Changed: Introduced Non-native Species • Crowd out native plants and animals • Are “junk food” for wildlife • After outright destruction, is the most critical threat to natural lands Garlic Mustard snuffed out all the wildflowers Oriental Bittersweet will smother trees Purple Loosestrife destroys a wetland
Why the Health of Urban Nature Matters • Unique Communities • Homes for Rare Animals and Plants • Reduce Climate Change • Protects Water Quality & Reduces Flooding • Is More Family Friendly
Why the Health of Urban Nature MattersUnique Communities • Continental meeting place of woodland, savanna, prairie, and wetland communities • Oak Savanna - more endangered than the rainforest • Animal and plant communities not found anywhere else on earth Forest preserves are home to carnivorous sundews and sand loving cactus!
Why the Health of Urban Nature Matters The greatest number of rare animals and plants find a home here in Northeast Illinois. Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly Upland Sandpiper Henslow’s Sparrow Blanding’s Turtle Snowy Egret Franklin’s Ground Squirrel
Why the Health of Urban Nature Matters Climate Change • Healthy Preserves: • Capture carbon at many levels • Lock more carbon into the soil • Are more resilient Illustration: Chicago Wilderness Illustration: Heidi Natura, Conservation Research Institute
Why the Health of Urban Nature Matters Water Quality and Flooding • Healthy Preserves: • Don’t have soil erosion • Allow water to soak into the soil • Keep pollution out of rivers, lakes and streams • Clean the water before it enters lakes Dense shade killed off the wildflowers and grasses that anchor the soil. With every rain, soil washes into the river.
Why the Health of Urban Nature Matters Family Friendly
How do we ensure that the Preserves are healthy and continue to provide all the benefits just described? We must restore the conditions that support healthy nature in our Preserves!
The Conditions for Healthy Nature Prairie, almost full sunlight 0-10% canopy Savanna, sunny with some shade 10-50% canopy Woodland, dappled sunlight 50-80% canopy Forest, less light 80-100% canopy © Paul Nelson, The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook
Renewing the Promise.People and Nature - Working Together Again Returning Fire Controlling Invasives and Restoring Structure Collecting and Planting Seeds Monitoring the Results
People and Nature - Working Together Prescribed Fire A carefully planned and managed fire is conducted to achieve a goal - healthy communities for plants and wildlife. Conducted only under specific safety standards and weather conditions by trained personnel.
People and Nature - Working Together Prescribed Fire No other method accomplishes everything that fire can
People and Nature - Working Together Control Invasives & Restore Structure Pulling Garlic Mustard Treating cut stumps with herbicide Cutting down buckthorn
People and Nature - Working Together Collecting and Planting Seeds Seed collecting in aremnant prairie
People and Nature - Working Together This Lacking fire this oak woodland became choked with buckthorn.
With Buckthorn Gone… an Oak Woodland is Revealed All the ground vegetation had been killed by buckthorn.
Three Years Later, the Woodland is Thriving With increased sunlight and seeding with native plants,this area is recovering.
With the resumption of management the number of plants and animals increases though time. The amount of human effort decreases - community health increases
By keeping humans and nature interacting through the ecological management our Preserves, we will ensure their health for our children and their children in perpetuity.
Monitoring the Results of the Work • Are we restoring the conditions that support healthy nature? • How are species composition and habitat structure changing? • How are species of conservation concern doing?
Oak Health in the Forest Preserves Oaks are being replaced by other species and are not reproducing Not a single seedling white oak was found Data from the 2007 Cook County Land Audit, Audubon - Chicago Region
52% Case Study- How People Are Helping Birds Common Birds Now In Decline: 87% 97% Percent Decline Since 1967
WatchList Status, by Habitat, of 700 Native Birds in the Continental U.S. Grassland Shrubland Wetland Woodland Multiple Stable ThreatenedImperiled
How You Can HelpVolunteer Roles Just Show Up! • Seed Collector & Sorter Herbicide Applicator • Workday Leader • Monitor
How You Can HelpWildlife and Plant Monitoring Bird Blitzes • Frog Surveys • Dragonfly Monitoring • Plants of Concern Land Audit • Butterfly Monitoring Join a monitoring group to: • Learn about the plants and animals you love • Monitor their abundance and diversity • Track their health over time www.habitatproject.org
How You Can HelpMonitoring Volunteers 150 volunteers 40volunteers 220volunteers 280volunteers 170volunteers 100volunteers 200volunteers Hundreds of trained citizen scientists collect data annually
JOIN US! June 14, 10 AM -1PM Busse Woods Grove 16 How You Can Help Busse Woods Families Welcome No Experience Needed We provide all the tools
How You Can HelpBusse Woods Monitoring Volunteers Monitoring volunteers Special Event Volunteers StewardshipVolunteers
We are the stewards. We can choose to help or we can choose to do nothing and watch plants and animals continue to disappear.
More Information Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Volunteer Resources (773) 631-1790 Douglas Chien, Sierra Club (312) 251-1680 x2 email@example.com Benjamin Cox, Friends of the Forest Preserves (312) 356-9990 firstname.lastname@example.org Justin Pepper, Audubon - Chicago Region (847) 328-1250 x12 email@example.com Matt Haas, Busse Woods Volunteer Steward (414) 405-8090 firstname.lastname@example.org www.bussewoods.net www.fpdccVolunteers.org www.habitatproject.org