Winter Workdays at Wolf Road Prairie

Braving some of the coldest temperatures of the season, members of the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources and Illinois Nature Preserves Commission SWAT team and the Natural Resource Management team with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County conducted the first scheduled management activity of the year at Wolf Road Prairie on January 4th and January 5th 2010. During this 2-day effort, the teams gathered at the #9 and #11 Hickory Lane buffer areas at the edge of the Wolf Road Prairie wetland to begin the rigorous task of clearing the area of invasive brush.

The focus of this management effort was to "open up" the connection between the wetland in Wolf Road Prairie Nature Preserve and the wet areas along the east and north end of Hickory Lane. This area became overgrown with brush following many years of private ownership prior to acquisition of the land by the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. Because much of the area that was cleared of brush is wetland, it's very likely that native seed still in the soil will respond to the favorable light conditions. It may be necessary to reseed some of the more upland sites later this year to ensure the continued recovery of the prairie at this site.

Steve Byers, who organized the workday effort with John McCabe of the Forest Preserve District, really applauded the "team effort". For example, the Forest Preserve District provided 4 or 5 members of the Natural Resource Management crew each day, and provided two bobcats the second day that were used to pile brush and logs on the brush pile burns. The bobcats are track-mounted vehicles that exert very low psi (pounds per square inch) on the ground, minimizing impact to the soil. The Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources staff brought a grappler head that was mounted to one of the bobcats, to assist with the effort.

As the restoration clearing continued, vistas opened and hydrologic connections between the wetlands at #9 and #11 Hickory with the large wetland in Wolf Road Prairie and the Middle Fork stream corridor became more apparent. Expanses of the prairie, beautiful under a blanket of new snow, could be seen looking eastward from the buffer site where just a short time earlier, buckthorn thickets obscured the view.

SWAT team members included Steve Byers, Kim Roman, Brad Semel, Dan Kirk, Bryan Eubanks, Dwayne Ambroz, and John Nelson. Forest Preserve District of Cook County team members included John McCabe, John Yapelli, Mary Rojek, Dara Leitza and Brenda Occhiuzzo.

Steve Byers commented that the "team effort" was very positive; with far more work being accomplished during the 2-day period than either team could have done on their own. Both Steve and John would like to see more "team efforts" at Wolf Road Prairie and other sites throughout Cook County.

Dave Waycie, volunteer photographer with the Salt Creek Greenway Association, was on hand to record the tasks and achievements of the workday and the reclaiming of the bufferland to its natural origins and functions.

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