Natural Area Restoration at Macon County Conservation District
With miles of tall prairie grasses, oak-hickory forests, and vibrant wildflowers it is easy to get lost in the beauty of Macon County Conservation District’s 3200 acres of nature and wildlife. The great outdoors captivates us but most of us do not know what goes on behind the scenes of our natural area restoration projects.
“During the early stages people see the removal of trees from an area or the treating of invasive plants with herbicides,” Natural Resources Specialist, Rich Crowe said. “The removal stage of a project is usually the most unsightly, so some people become concerned at first.” Today, most of the areas we see covered with prairie grasses and tall oak trees were originally overrun with tangled brush and invasive plant species.
Restoration projects move slowly, taking a great deal of planning and time along with an
even longer time frame to see results. “With some prairie plantings it can take 8-10 years before a prairie restoration matures to a diverse stand.” Crowe explained, “It is important in the planning
process to consider the time and resources it will take to do the initial work but also maintain the restorations in the future.”
Oak Savanna Restoration
A project currently underway is the oak savanna restoration, a six acre site at Friends Creek Conservation Area, near Cisco, Illinois.
The project began in December 2010 and even though the beauty and uniqueness of the site is not yet evident, it will soon become a true gem of Macon County.
Savannas are unique in that they can be described as an intermediate habitat, a transition between tall grass prairie and forest. “Oak savannas are valuable to wildlife because they provide a variety of resources in one area, such as nesting, den cover, fruits, nuts, and nectar sources,” Crowe said.
The savanna restoration at Friends Creek Conservation Area will involve the removal of invasive trees and shrubs, followed by seeding native grasses and wildflowers. The site will then be mowed regularly to give the native seedlings time to establish themselves with minimal weed competition.
We encourage you to join us in watching this project grow and evolve. Even though it may be in the “ugly duckling” stage now, with time and care the plants and wildlife in this area will flourish making this a great destination to experience the outdoors.