Volunteers work to rid Illinois forests of invasive species

Wild geranium. Photo: wildherb.com.Wild geranium. Photo: wildherb.com.

Thousands of volunteers have put in more than 44,000 hours doing things like pulling garlic mustard to give natural plants a chance to thrive in areas where non-native species have taken hold. The forest restoration projects are spearheaded by the Lake County Forest Preserves organization in Libertyville, Illinois.

A group of workers recently met at Grant Woods preserve near Lake Villa, Illinois. Donning gloves and insect spray, they spent the day systematically pulling the invasive plants to make room for species like wild geraniums.

“The work they accomplish on a single Saturday morning can benefit our area’s natural landscape for hundreds of years,” says Ann Maine, president of the Forest Preserves group. Maine told the Chicago Tribune, “The intimate relationship these volunteers develop with their sites gives them a valuable perspective. They become our eyes and ears in little-traveled corners of forest preserves across the county.”

Joyce Proper, site steward for the Grant Woods preserves, told the Tribune the volunteers are a special breed. “For a lot of people, they just love being outdoors – you’re out in nature. It’s wonderful exercise and you feel like you are doing something good. And then there’s the cookies,” she said of the treats she regularly bakes for the volunteers as an incentive. “I always make my chocolate chip, but for those few who don’t like chocolate, I make orange oatmeal cookies with melted white-chocolate frosting.”

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