The conservation of land and the associated biodiversity, soils and waters within Kane County, are the primary mission of the Forest Preserve District. To date, the District has protected more than 22,000 acres, including 10 Illinois State Nature Preserves. The Natural Resource Management department manages the various woodland, wetland and prairie communities, spread across the county, through active ecological restoration.
As the natural landscape was developed, fragmented and altered, native ecosystems have been degraded, damaged and destroyed. Ecological restoration is the process by which people work to aid in the recovery of these degraded ecosystems. This process of restoration can be broken down into two primary components: the removal of threats and the reintroduction of missing pieces.
One of the largest threats to the native ecosystems in Kane County is the introduction of invasive species. Invasive species are aggressive, often non-native, species that have often been introduced to the landscape by humans. These species exert a competitive edge and can quickly threaten biodiversity through the monopolization of resources. The Natural Resource Management department employs a strategy of Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) to combat the spread of new invaders. EDRR efforts aim to catch invasive species before they gain a foothold in the preserves. Invasive species control work may be comprised of mechanical removal by cutting, mowing or hand pulling, as well as chemical treatments with selective pesticides.
The Natural Resource Management department also works to reintroduce pieces of native ecosystems that may be missing. The District harvests hundreds of pounds of native seed and plants hundreds of trees and shrubs every year, to recreate new communities in both degraded natural areas and converted agricultural fields. Additionally, fire was a defining force in the evolution of Kane County's ecosystems. The tallgrass prairie depends on regular fire to prevent successional transition into a woodland. Oaks also depend on fire to maintain an open understory, providing opportunities for acorns to germinate. The District conducts prescribed burns every fall and spring to revitalize the native communities that depend on it.
Each year, the department puts together an Annual Management Schedule of the primary natural-area enhancement and invasive-species management projects that will be undertaken. These activities will be performed primarily by District staff, with assistance from citizen stewards, volunteers, and private contractors. The District's Natural Resource Management department continues to operate under a challenging land-to-staff ratio. With only six full-time field staff and District open space holdings now exceeding 22,000 acres (approximately 3,500/restoration technician), the department is forced to make difficult decisions regarding what sites will receive staff attention. Factors determining the location and timing of management are varied, but focus on those sites of highest ecological value, especially those containing acreage in dedicated state nature preserve. Prioritization of work proceeds as follows:
This year's Schedule may be found here:
Volunteers with the Forest Preserve District contribute countless hours to planting prairies, fighting weeds, clearing brush, planting trees and collecting seed. District staff and volunteer stewards conduct numerous public workdays throughout the year. If you are interested in helping the District in our efforts to preserve nature for generations to come, please see our Volunteer page or contact our Volunteer Coordinator by email or phone 630-762-2741.