Riverwoods Preservation Council

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Winter River Protecting the Woodlands

 November - December, 2007





(photograph courtesy of Louise Simonson)

When we moved here, 2 years ago, we were awestruck by the wilderness surrounding our home. We had found a sheltered sanctuary from the concrete certainty of city life. Its towering trees, colorful vegetation and diverse wildlife created a serene family home only miles from the urban chaos of my Loop office.

In time, we learned that much of what our urban eyes perceived as lush woodlands was actually a sea of buckthorn, a dangerous non-native invader. The quest to reclaim our corner of the woodlands from this invasive species led us to the Riverwoods Preservation Council.

The RPC, a group of resident volunteers, operates to preserve and protect the Riverwoods’ natural habitat via sponsoring educational speakers, writing articles, and organizing conservation workdays. These efforts earned the RPC acceptance into the Chicago Wilderness, an alliance of environmental organizations working to study, protect, manage and restore the Chicago Region's natural communities.

To help decision-makers develop policies to protect the health of wooded areas, Chicago Wilderness prepared a document titled “Conservation of Wooded Lands in the Chicago Wilderness Region: A Model Policy". It begins by summarizing some of the challenges:

The Chicago region has a rich and diverse heritage of wooded communities. Over the years, many of these communities have been lost to development, and these losses continue. But the greatest threats to the health and biological diversity of the region’s wooded lands concern land already protected for conservation. A large portion of our most threatened wooded community types are gradually being degraded and lost in spite of legal protections. Planning and management practices are needed to restore and maintain the region’s wooded communities in a healthy, sustainable condition.

The Chicago region once contained a diverse array of wooded communities…these forested communities have been classified as three type -- woodlands, flatwoods and forest -- along with thinly timbered areas known as savannas. Historically, these communities have been intermeshed with grasslands and wetlands in a self-sustaining regional landscape. Such forces as fire, drought, flood, grazing, and predation kept the animals and plants in a robust and dynamic balance. Both agriculture and urbanization have disrupted this balance. Most of the region’s wooded communities have been degraded, and important resources will be lost if they are not restored and managed in a sustainable way.

The next Village Voice will include recommendations on how you can help restore the woodlands by controlling invasive species and restoring predator/prey balance. The Chicago Wilderness Model Policy can be found at www.chicagowilderness.org.

~Bethany N. Schols

(photograph of spring wildflowers courtesy of Sue Auerbach)

© Riverwoods Preservation Council- - Page last updated: December 2009