Prairie improvements, restoration, and recreation efforts are ongoing. Within the past five years, over 160 acres that had previously been rowcropped or grazed have been converted to tallgrass prairie. The seed used in these restoration efforts is collected by volunteers and staff, donated from partner agencies, and purchased from retailers specializing in native plants. It can take upwards of five years to properly prepare for, plant, and nurse a young prairie into establishment.
Additional forested acres are being added through tree planting and direct seeding — which is planting a diverse mix of native tree and shrub seed into the ground. Young trees may need some protection from plant competitors and animal predators for a few years before they are strong enough to make it on their own. The process is slow, but within 15-20 years a former grass or cropped field can be considered a young forest.
Non-native bush honeysuckle shrubs have taken over many deciduous forest woodlands, resulting in restricted access for visitors, reduced plant diversity, and lower-value food and habitat for wildlife. We have made efforts to keep these plants from invading our highest quality forest sites, and have initiated efforts to clear sites that have been taken over by the species. Removing the bush honeysuckle lets more sunlight through to the forest floor, allowing native trees to regenerate and woodland wildflowers to prosper. Native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers are added through seeds and propagated plants in areas that have been highly degraded by persistent invasion.
When the first European settlers arrived to Illinois, they saw a landscape that was highly influenced by fire. Fires were both naturally occurring (e.g. lightening strikes) and intentionally set by Native Americans for many reasons, including clearing area for food plots, hunting, warfare, and pest management. Today, we carefully plan and execute prescribed fires in order to help preserve culturally and ecologically significant landscapes. These prescribed fires help to improve wildlife habitat, stimulate native plant growth, and reduce the costs of vegetation control. Prescribed burning can take place any time from fall through spring when the conditions are proper
for safety and management goals.