Voice of the People
Monday, June 09, 2008
Managing woodland to retain character
This is in response to “Woods’ controlled burns are hot debate; Restoration of preserve near Sauganash divides concerned into 2 camps” (Metro, May 29).
The article suggests that those working to restore health to LaBagh Woods want to burn down the forest to create a prairie.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
LaBagh Woods is managed as a mosaic of ecosystems, principally woodland, forest, and oak savanna. Nobody advocates turning it into a prairie. The management plan is based upon sound science by professional ecologists and aims to retain the site’s natural character and biodiversity of plants and animals.
Invasive species are a dire threat to local ecosystems. Some are transplanted species from other parts of the planet; others are out-of-balance invaders from other local ecosystems that, without controlled burns, can eliminate the richness of species that have made homes here for millenniums.
We once thought we could just put a fence around the preserves and they would be fine. Scientists and land managers now recognize that this is no longer an option if we want to have healthy natural areas that reward us with their aesthetics, their recreational opportunities and their “ecosystem services” that clean our air and water.
You don’t have to be a scientist to recognize the problem: A woodland that has become an impassible thorn thicket is undesirable. In contrast, a woodland full of wild geranium, trillium and bird song is a treasure that most people appreciate.
Not only do “the green-movement biggies” Sierra Club and Audubon support restoration (also known as ecological management), but so do hundreds of other local and national organizations with thousands of members in Illinois and across the country, not to mention governmental agencies, such as the National Park Service.
Forest Preserve District staff and volunteers have been managing natural areas throughout the county for the past 30 years, and we’ve seen the return of our most conservative and special species. Restoration is working, and for that reason the effort is growing. The Forest Preserve staff and volunteers who do this important deserve our thanks.
Friends of the Forest Preserves