THE RESULTS

The good news is that these efforts are working. Areas where management has been going on for 20-25 years -- areas like Somme Prairie Grove -- are significantly healthier. With increased sunlight, woodland wildflowers now bloom throughout the summer and fall, not just in the spring before the trees leaf out. Instead of many individuals of just a few species, there are now numerous individuals of many species -- increased diversity and abundance. The once bare ground and eroding slopes above the creek are now carpeted with sedges and asters and goldenrods and grasses and a wide variety of other wildflowers. Butterflies, dragonflies, hawk moths and many other insects sip nectar, hunt and lay their eggs on the rich vegetation. Cooper's Hawks cruise the open savanna. Great Horned Owls nest and raise their young in the woodlands. Song Sparrows sing from the tops of shrubs and Great Crested Flycatchers leave their perches to snatch insects from the air.

Once a natural site has been returned to health, maintenance is pretty simple. Periodic prescribed fire will keep brush from overgrowing the prairies and woodlands. The increased sunlight that reaches the ground will support the growth of native sun-loving plants. Hand pulling of weeds such as Garlic Mustard and White Sweet Clover will keep these invasives in check. Under these more natural conditions, our native Illinois communities will renew themselves and future generations will enjoy their beauty and uniqueness.

 

We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.

—Aldo Leopold

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