172 Acres of Winter Restoration Success

A forest preserve area after clearing of invasive honeysuckle.

This winter Friends expanded our land restoration footprint by 172 acres. All projects focused on the removal of invasive and nuisance plant species to begin returning these areas to ecosystems composed of a diversity of native plants and wildlife.

At Country Lane Woods in the Palos area 129 acres were cleared to enhance habitat along the headwaters of Crooked Creek. The focus species removed included invasive honeysuckle, Japanese barberry, and multiflora rose. By removing these species we allow sunlight to reach the ground and in turn, native species to flourish again. Unlike invasive species, native plants have deep root systems which enable greater stormwater infiltration. By holding stormwater instead of having quick runoff, we see less erosion and higher quality water over time.

“This is the second opportunity we’ve had to work in the Crooked Creek watershed and we expect the same great ecosystem response as before. We’re excited to see native grasses and sedges return and for the banks of the creek to be well-vegetated,” said John Quail, Friends’ director of policy and conservation.

Near the Little Calumet River 41 acres were cleared for turtle nesting habitat. At this location target species removed included invasive honeysuckle, glossy buckthorn, and oriental bittersweet. Turtles nest in drier open areas with extensive sunlight and minimal understory vegetation. By clearing woody invasive species, female turtles have more options of areas to nest and their nests experience less predation. Habitat improvement has resulted in a 60% increase in turtle nesting success. 

While winter is the ideal time to carry out the clearing of these invasive species because wildlife is mostly dormant and the ground is frozen, it can have its limitations. The 25 days of at least 10 inches of the snow on the ground we experienced did prevent work from being fully completed on the slopes of McClaughrey Springs Woods. Contractor crews will return next winter to this Palos area site to continue clearing nuisance trees and invasive brush. The project’s goals are to improve light levels to the ground to increase native plant cover and better the overall habitat.

Thanks to the Forest Preserves of Cook County for their partnership in all of these projects as well as the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation, the Chi-Cal Rivers Fund, and a Chicago-based family foundation for supporting this important work.