Hundreds of amphibians, birds, insects, mammals and plant species that call Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve home will all benefit as the Forest Preserve District completes one of the largest restoration projects in its history.
The work began in the fall and will continue through May 2021 on more than 600 acres of the 891-acre Crete Township preserve. Restoration activities will include controlling invasive species, overseeding on ravine slopes to curb erosion, and continuing prescribed burn management.
The goal is to make the preserve more hospitable to Species of Greatest Conservation Need.
Goodenow Grove is home to 450 plant species, including the state-endangered spotted coral-root orchid. It also provides habitat for 24 species of mammals, 30 reptile and amphibian species and 170 bird species. Of those, the northern harrier, black-crowned night heron and Blanding’s turtle are state endangered. The black-billed cuckoo and Kirtland’s snake are state threatened. (The federally threatened and state-endangered eastern massasauga was last spotted in the preserve in the 2000s.)
“Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve is an extremely diverse, high-quality natural area,” said Forest Preserve Chief Operating Officer Ralph Schultz. “Preserves of this quality are quite rare in our county and represent less than 1 percent of all of the vegetation cover in the entire metro region. It is the southern anchor and, currently, the largest preserve in the 2,200-acre Plum Creek Greenway system.”
The restoration project is being funded, in part, by a $112,500 Special Wildlife Habitat Funds Grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The Nature Foundation of Will County, which oversees a Forest Preserve Wetland Restoration Fund, is providing $38,000 in matching funds for the work.
“The Nature Foundation’s establishment of the Wetland Restoration Fund in 2017 demonstrates its commitment to engage in projects that protect and restore our natural heritage,” said foundation Vice Chairwoman Ragan Pattison. “We are so excited to be a part of this critical wetland habitat restoration for the Kirtland’s snake and other critical species by providing the necessary matching funds of $38,610 for the Forest Preserve District’s wildlife habitat fund application.”
The total cost of the project is estimated to be between $250,000 and $300,000.
Because Goodenow Grove has such high-quality habitat remnants to work with, the cost of this restoration project will be lower than others undertaken by the District in the past, Schultz noted.
“The state wildlife grant funds, our capital funds and wetland restoration funds from The Nature Foundation will go a long way to restoring this significant site,” he said.
A major component of the project will involve removing vegetation and replacing it with more desirable species, said Andrew Hawkins, the Forest Preserve’s director of planning and development.
“Visitors to the preserve will most noticeably recognize the tree and shrub thinning activities,” he said. “Land management activities following the tree and shrub thinning will include native overseeding, invasive species control and prescribed fire.
“If sunlight is not able to reach the woodland floor, areas will likely be void or nearly void of a desirable ground-cover vegetation,” he explained. “A biologically diverse native ground-cover in the understory will create a habitat and help to stabilize the soil and greatly reduce soil erosion.”
The restoration project will:
- Protect vernal pools, which provide habitat for large populations of blue-spotted salamanders.
- Control invasive shrubs such as bush honeysuckle, multiflora rose, Japanese barberry, autumn olive, common buckthorn and burning bush.
- Encourage oak regeneration by thinning subcanopy trees.
- Maintain nesting populations of wood ducks and other wooded wetland dependent Species of Greatest Conservation Need.
- Control invasive shrubs and dense thickets to protect and restore habitat for Kirtland’s snakes.
- Enhance the forest and woodlands to benefit numerous bird species and the Eastern box turtle.
- Control herbaceous species such as reed canary grass, phragmites, moneywort, bird’s foot trefoil, crown vetch, teasel, non-native thistle, sweet clover and wild parsnip.
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