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Jack Pizzo, Restoration Director, SCGA and President and Senior Ecologist,
Pizzo & Associates - February 25, 2012

Jack began his program by referring to the 511 page Wolf Road Prairie report recently released by John White, Ecological Services. The White study conducted in 2010 reveals a dramatic decline in biodiversity at Wolf Road Prairie since 1974 and verifies what many of us have been concerned about as we have watched buckthorn rapidly brush over the prairie. Lack of oversight, ineffective stewardship and inadequate management are suspected causes of the prairie's recent decline.

Buckthorn can grow one to two feet a year. As it spreads its expanding thorny branches over the land, native plants struggling to survive below are shaded out. Prairie seedlings which germinate in buckthorn thickets die.

But all that is changing now. About three years ago, Steve Byers, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission (INPC), took the lead in buckthorn and other invasive species control at Wolf Road Prairie and the Salt Creek Greenway Association (SCGA) identified Wolf Road Prairie as a priority restoration project in the Greenway. At a landowners and stakeholders meeting, staff from the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC), Illinois Department of Natural Resources (INDR), INPC and volunteers met to talk about what needs to be done.

Jack focused his power point presentation on this task. He explained that buckthorn was introduced to the United States from China and has no known native predators to keep its reproduction and expansion in check. Ripe buckthorn berries provide a food source for birds. But the berry seeds are not digested and are discarded as bird droppings, establishing new populations of buckthorn plants wherever they fall.

Jack showed a map of Wolf Road Prairie and Hickory Lane buffer identifying landowner delineations at the preserve. The land in Wolf Road Prairie and some properties on Hickory Lane are dedicated Illinois Nature Preserve and buffer.

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Photos by Jack Pizzo
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