The Conservation Foundation is working with The Morton Arboretum on a collaborative regional project to improve the health of oak woodlands on public and private lands.
The Landscape Scale Restoration project directly implements the Oak Ecosystem Recovery Plan (http://chicagorti.org/OakRecovery) through mapping, training, and outreach in 34 counties in southeast Wisconsin, northwest Indiana, southwest Michigan and northern Illinois – including DuPage, Kane, Kendall, and Will counties.
The Conservation Foundation will advance the regional oak recovery project by helping homeowners care for existing oak woodlands, increase oaks planted throughout the priority counties, and access educational opportunities to understand the importance of oaks in our environment.
“The proportion of oaks among our trees has declined to 17% of what it was in the 1830s,” said Jessica Mino, Kane and Kendall County program director for the Conservation Foundation. “Only a few widely separated oak woodlands are left among the farms and suburbs, making it hard for oaks to support a rich, diverse ecosystem.”
Of these ecosystems, 70% are located on private property. Public and private partnerships are required to educate, engage, and implement collaborative best management practices on private lands.
In addition, exotic woody invasive species are estimated to be approximately 30% of the total tree and shrub population. These tend to dominate buffer and corridor properties adjacent to high quality core areas. Invasive species, non-compatible land use, and management practices all significantly impact core areas. Active and collaborative management of ecosystems as a whole will result in improved long-term health, biological diversity, and improved resilience.
“Oaks are critical to our landscape,” Mino said. “They support more native flowers and wildlife than most other trees.”
Mino said. oaks support more than 500 species of plants and animals, including butterflies, moths, bees, and birds. Some are rare and endangered species. The 250 species of migratory birds that pass through the Chicago region each year also prefer oaks. Virginia bluebells, trout lilies, and trillium abound in healthy oak woodlands.
“As pillars of our native natural ecosystems, oaks are key to preserving our natural heritage,” Mino said. “Yet today, their future is at risk.”
Of the 91 native U.S. oak species, 28 oak species are identified as being of conservation concern. By protecting your oaks and planting new ones, you can support generations to come and create healthier communities.
The LSR program supports the goals of the Illinois Forest Action Plan to increase the health and function of oak-hickory ecosystems and reduced threats to forests. The State and Private Forestry priorities to identify, manage, and reduce threats to forest and ecosystem health, and enhance public benefits from trees and forests are also supported. Results and resources from this project will be replicable in conservation that incorporates diverse property ownership for improved woodland health at the landscape scale.
Find out more about how you can care for oaks and native ecosystems on your property. Follow The Conservation Foundation’s Facebook page for upcoming webinars, or visit The Conservation Foundation’s Youtube channel for a full list of previously recorded webinars.
TCF staff is available to support your property’s oak recovery! From invasive species management to forming a healthy oak ecosystem, TCF is here to guide you. For recommendations or a site visit, contact TCF’s Conservation@Home Program Director, Jim Kleinwachter at email@example.com or (630) 428-4500, Ext. 115.
SOURCE: Conservation Foundation news release