Pump Up the Prairie #2
Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010
Wolf Road Prairie

On the brisk morning of November 20th, twenty-four enthusiastic volunteers arrived at Wolf Road Prairie to take part in the second Pump Up the Prairie workday.

The group gathered around the kiosk along 31st Street as Jack Pizzo, Pizzo & Associates, Ltd. and SCGA board member, identified tasks and restoration areas targeted for the workday's activities.

One group of volunteers moved out across several acres of the prairie to collect ripe prairie and savanna seeds from late blooming plants.
Another group converged upon a dense stand of buckthorn obstructing the grassland vista where the prairie merged into the wetland. The sounds of a chain saw and brushwacker were heard as about a half a dozen volunteers and professional natural resource and landscape experts cleared an estimated l/10th of an acre of dense brush. Licensed applicators followed up with herbicide applications to many hundreds of stumps. Seed was scattered into the newly cleared areas, carefully avoiding dropped branches and herbicided buckthorn remains.
Volunteers not working on buckthorn removal made their way to the bufferland area known as #9 and #11 Hickory Lane and the adjoining wetland. This was the land cleared by staff from the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC), the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission (INPC) and Jack Pizzo and his crew during the January and February 2010 Brush Blitz workdays. Additional clearing took place here by employees of Exelon Corp. during their workday in May 2010.
An estimated 50 pounds of raw seed mix was scattered over the ground. The mix was a blend of grass and forbs (wildflower) seeds and included little bluestem, Indian grass, northern dropseed, yellow coneflower, blazing star, wild bergamot, rattlesnake master, compass plant and many more examples of plant species found at Wolf Road Prairie, considered the finest and largest black soil prairie east of the Mississippi River.
"When we return to this place next summer, we should be seeing an abundance of native species showing up from the seeds we introduced here today," Jack told the group.
As volunteers made their way back to their cars, there was time to pause and enjoy the colors of November over the prairie landscape. Tawny dry vegetation stood tall upon roots gone dormant in anticipation of the coming winter as they have done for millennia. A red-tailed hawk circled lazily overhead and three does ran in single file, leaping over grasses in the wetland.
One volunteer said, "I am thankful this Thanksgiving that Wolf Road Prairie has been saved. Let me know when you are having the next workday."

Wolf Road Prairie is co-owned by the FPDCC and IDNR. Management and protection of the preserve is overseen by the INPC.

The SCGA has identified ecosystem restoration at Wolf Road Prairie as a priority project in the Greenway. Work conducted by SCGA at Wolf Road Prairie is with the approval and authorization of INPC and landowners.

Interested in volunteering at one of the finest prairie remnants in Cook County, Illinois and beyond? For more information contact:

Steve Byers, INPC at steven.byers@illinois.gov
Maggie Cole, IDNR at Maggie.cole@illinois.gov
Richard Newhard, FPDCC at rnewhard@cookcountygov.com
Jack Pizzo, Pizzo & Associates, Ltd. at jack@pizzo.info
Valerie Spale, SCGA at stpsspale@aol.com

Photos by Dave Waycie, volunteer photographer for SCGA

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