Revitalizing and restoring Cook County’s rich ecosystem
Since 1916, Deer Grove Forest Preserve has been a rich addition to the Cook County, Illinois, community. When our environmental team was brought in by Openlands, a non-profit conservation organization, we set out to provide ecosystem assessment and design, restoration implementation, and long-term monitoring and stewardship of this heavily used forest preserve. Most prominent are the oak ecosystems, which were degraded over many decades by invasive and weedy shrubs and trees, shading the ground and reducing oak reproduction.
Working in collaboration with the landowner, the Forest Preserves of Cook County, the team developed ecosystem restoration and enhancement management and monitoring plans. The goal? Revitalize the area’s oak ecosystems and associated streams, wetlands, and prairies. The invasive plants that crowded the ancient woodland habitats were removed to once again allow sunlight to reach the soil, resulting in renewed growth of colorful, varied native grasses, sedges, and wildflowers. Working alongside the Deer Grove Natural Area Volunteers, we’ve been contributing ecological stewardship—activities like invasive species management and controlled burns—to encourage ongoing recovery of healthy ecosystems.
Our extensive monitoring studies included annual vegetation surveys to evaluate the restoration and inform our adaptive management approach for this ongoing, long-term, collaborative effort. The result? Oak woodlands that are recovering and thriving, once again hosting grasses, sedges, and wildflowers—and the wildlife they support.
When vegetation matures, approximately 450 tons of carbon will be sequestered per year.
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