Conservation
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Lake County Forest Preserves | Preservation, Restoration, Education and Recreation

Conservation

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Major Conservation Initiatives

Lake County is home to more endangered and threatened species than any other county in Illinois. We are actively working to restore the habitats that our native wildlife and plants need to survive and thrive.

 


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Blanding's Turtle Recovery Program | Countywide

Blanding's turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is a medium-sized semi-aquatic turtle distinguished by its bright yellow chin and throat and mottled shell. Historically common in northern Illinois, they are now designated as endangered and remain in only a few isolated remnant wetlands. Learn more »


orchid

Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid Conservation | Countywide

Every year a tall white orchid flowers around the Fourth of July weekend in spectacular fashion across Midwestern United States. Lake County Forest Preserves is home to some of the largest remaining populations. Learn more »

Eastern prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea) was listed as Federally Endangered in 1989. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, populations of eastern prairie fringed orchids—found mostly east of the Mississippi—have shrunk to 60. Illinois, which historically supported the largest number of eastern prairie fringed orchids, has seen the greatest decline in their numbers. Today only 22 known populations of eastern prairie fringed orchids remain.

Threats to this species include the loss and degradation of habitat and private collectors—even in protected sites. The use of insecticides has also played a role in diminishing orchid populations, since these orchids are dependent upon the rare hawk moth for pollination.

Ecological management of the preserves where this species occurs involves controlled burns, invasive plant species and restoration of hydrological conditions. We have worked with research organizations to identify the soil fungi and other environmental factors that are important to this orchid. Our staff, along with volunteers, conducts an annual census of plants. We also work to induce seed production in the small populations through hand pollination and later collect seed capsules for dispersal at sites deemed suitable for the reintroduction of the orchids.


weasel

Grassland Mammals Conservation Program | Countywide

Meadow jumping mice (Zapus hudsonius) and least weasels (Mustela nivalis) are grassland-dwelling mammals native to the prairie, savanna and wet meadow habitats of Lake County. As with many grassland-dependent species of this region, both of these mammals have lost a significant amount of their historic range through conversion of grassland to agriculture and habitat fragmentation. Learn more »

Meadow jumping mice are especially sensitive to roads, limiting dispersal and reducing opportunities to colonize available habitat. Additionally, least weasels were historically trapped for fur, which may have contributed to local population declines.

In recent years, we have purchased and restored a significant amount of land that could support populations of meadow jumping mice and least weasels. Despite these conservation efforts, these species have only been found in a few forest preserves.

We have partnered with the Lincoln Park Zoo on a multi-year research and recovery project to further assess the status of these species and restore them to preserves where suitable habitat exists.


Green Infrastructure Model and Strategy | Countywide

In collaboration with The Conservation Fund, we developed a Green Infrastructure Model and Strategy (GIMS), which will guide regional, local and site planning by agencies, corporations and citizens of Lake County. In 2015, the Forest Preserve Board adopted 13 strategic objectives, one of which is a commitment to develop partnerships to create three 10,000-acre complexes that provide large-scale habitats for woodland, grassland and wetlands species.

The Lake County GIMS will aid the Forest Preserves and other agencies in planning and implementation efforts by providing a consistent modeling framework throughout the county, as well as a common vision for conservation of major landscape types.


Illinois State Toll Highway Authority's Mitigation Project | Pine Dunes

In 2013, we entered an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority for the mitigation of impacts associated with the construction of the O’Hare International Airport Western Access Project. Learn more »

The agreement provided access for ISTHA to construct public access and implement wetland and upland restoration at Pine Dunes to meet the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mitigation requirements.


Lake Plain Coastal Wetland Restoration | Multi-state Project

Partners are restoring and protecting over 4,000 acres of coastal wetlands and prairies at Spring Bluff Forest Preserve, Chiwaukee Prairie and Illinois Beach State Park. The Lake Plain has been designated as Ramsar "Wetlands of International Importance." Learn more »


ravineNortheast Illinois Ravine Restoration | Fort Sheridan

In partnership with the Alliance for the Great Lakes, we are enhancing rare Lake Michigan ravine community. Learn more »

This project includes clearing woody invasive species to increase light levels that reach the ground, restore growth of native grasses and forbs, and reduce slope erosion adjacent to homes. Native plants from seeds and fruits collected within these high-quality ravines were grown in our Native Seed Nursery until they were large enough to reintroduce into the ravine at Fort Sheridan

The project also provided outreach to private landowners, educating them about the actions they can take to prevent further threat of erosion to their homes and property.


North Mill Creek Restoration | Ethel's Woods

We are restructuring an earthen dam to slowly drain 53-acre Rasmussen Lake and restore the North Mill Creek stream channel. Learn more »

The water quality of Rasmussen Lake is very poor. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has classified the lake as unsupportive for aquatic life, swimming and recreation. Rasmussen Lake is currently ranked by the Lake County Health Department as 161 of 162 in terms of water quality in the county.

From 2001 to 2006, we studied restoration options with an advisory committee made up of officials from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Lake County Health Department, Lake County Stormwater Management Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey. In February 2007, our Board of Commissioners approved dam modification and channel restoration of North Mill Creek.

The project will be completed in two phases. During the first phase, we will restructure the existing earthen dam and begin to slowly expose the lake sediment over the course of 18 to 24 months. A 14-acre shallow wetland will remain an act as a sediment catch. Slow draining will allow North Mill Creek to cut a new channel through the lake sediment, while allowing the sediments to stabilize and prevent them from moving downstream.

The second phase of the project will drain the remaining 14 acres. Once complete, we will create pools and riffles in the newly developed stream channel. Eroded slopes and the original dam will be addressed, and the spillway will be removed. The floodplain will then be seeded with native plant species. Finally, we will connect with the stream below the project area to allow fish passage.


snakeSmooth Green Snake Recovery Program | Countywide

Categorized as an Illinois Species in Greatest Need of Conservation, these tiny, jewel-colored snakes have drastically dwindled in numbers over the past few decades. As part of a joint conservation effort with the Lincoln Park Zoo, we seek to restore the smooth green snake to its native prairie home. Learn more »

After decades of development, Illinois has less than one percent of its original prairie intact. We have purchased and restored a significant amount of land containing suitable habitat for the smooth green snake. Despite this, recent monitoring indicated that remaining populations were small and not likely viable in the long term.

Now, the smooth green snake population is recovering with a head-starting program conducted in partnership with the Lincoln Park Zoo. Juvenile snakes raised in the zoo have been released in temporary enclosures or directly into the preserves. They are then monitored to determine the best method for reintroduction moving forward.


Woodland Habitat Restoration Project | Countywide

Oak Woodlands are in trouble across the eastern United States. We have begun opening the canopy to increase the amount of light that reaches the ground and ensure the regeneration of oaks and other native trees and shrubs.

These clearing projects will increase the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground. Higher light levels will encourage the regeneration of shade intolerant trees and shrub species, such as white oak, red oak, walnuts, viburnums and hazelnut. These native trees and shrubs provide important cover and food for wildlife. Learn more »


Invasive_Woody_Species_Before_and_AfterWoody Invasive Species Clearing | Countywide

Invasive species have a negative effect on our natural areas and threaten the health of commercial, agricultural and recreational activities dependent on healthy ecosystems. Each winter, we selectively remove invasive woody species from forest preserves throughout the county. Learn more »

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    Lake County Nature Blog

    Connect with seasonal nature observations on our Nature Blog »


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    Lake County Nature Cam

    See into the lives of local wildlife with the Nature Cam.


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