Pump Up the Prairie #4
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Wolf Road Prairie

The targeted Pump Up the Prairie #4 workday area is a such an impenetrable jungle of buckthorn that volunteers are hidden from view in the tangled midst of non-native woody growth.
Suddenly, a glimpse of cleared land begins to emerge as Jack Pizzo, Pizzo & Associates, Ltd and SCGA board member, brushwhacks buckthorn thickets.
Steve Byers, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission (INPC), tackles felling non-native trees sucking up moisture from the wetland.

The change in the landscape is swift and decisive as the shaded ground opens to light from the prairie uplands to the wetland edge.
A brush pile fueled by logs and buckthorn stems is stacked by volunteers. The burning brush pile casts a little warmth to ward off the chill of the early morning freezing temperatures.

John Rogner, Assistant Director, Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), joins volunteers at the workday. "There are a lot of good native plants here," John said enthusiastically as he observed green shoots of sedges and prairie species showing up in the cleared ground.

These plants have been just barely hanging on after years of being shaded out by buckthorn. The discovery invigorates volunteers to work even harder to clear more ground.
On hand to also assist with the workday are Curtis Alexander, Mary M. Love, Bill Ransom and Bill Koenig of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC).
In just 2 l/2 hours, a swath estimated to be double the 1/10th acre cleared during the Pump Up the Prairie #3 workday in January is opened up, revealing an expansive view where there had been only blockage of brush to the eye before.

Although there is much ground left to clear, significant inroads have been made to restore the northwest corner of Wolf Road Prairie to its native landscape in just two vigorous workdays.
As the workday draws to a close, FPDCC crews begin the task of applying herbicide to the cut stems and trunks and monitoring the die-back of the brush pile fire, and volunteers pose for a group shot.

The future hope for this land is bright. Native plants and seeds in the ground are no longer shaded out and are expected to re-colonize the cleared site as the growing season begins. With no competition from buckthorn and non-native trees for moisture in the soil, recovering sedges and prairie plants can interrelate with the wetland edge and begin the process of returning the land to better hydrological function and biodiversity.

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
John Mccabe,FPDCC at john.mccabe@cookcountyil.gov
Jack Pizzo, Pizzo & Associates, Ltd. at jack@pizzo.info
Valerie Spale, SCGA at stpsspale@aol.com

Photos by Dave Waycie, volunteer photographer for SCGA and Jack Pizzo, Pizzo and Associates, LTD.

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