Savanna restoration in Main Ring to start soon

Fermilab’s iconic Wilson Hall can be seen in the background as visitors inspect savanna restoration efforts. Credit: Fermilab Natural Areas.

The highly endangered oak savanna was once one of the most common vegetation types in the Midwest. But during the surge of settlement in the 1840s the savanna gave way to the plow, and now less than one percent of Illinois’ original savanna remains.

Thanks to a grant from the DuPage Community Foundation, one of those remnants, located in the center of the Main Ring, will be restored.

In December, the foundation awarded $7,500 to Fermilab Natural Areas to begin restoration of this 35-acre oak savanna.

The multi-phase restoration effort planned to start this winter will include removing invasive species of trees and shrubs, burning of selective areas, enriching of flora and a monitoring of the ecosystem. Typical savannas are very open woodlands, with less than 50 percent canopy cover, and diverse forb communities growing in the understory. Years of neglect have allowed the proliferation of many invasive tree species, such as cottonwood, ash and cherry. Also present are non-native plant species such as European buckthorn, multi-flora rose and honeysuckle.

Fermilab’s record as an environmental steward is excellent, and includes the restoration of thousands of acres of prairies, woodlands and wetlands. This restoration would not be possible without the supplemental funding from organizations such as the DuPage Community Foundation. Since the initial grant was received, the Wiest Foundation, located in Naperville, Illinois, has donated an additional $2,000, and Davey Tree Service in West Chicago has agreed to donate a work crew to get the project started.

For more information on the project, email Fermilab Natural Areas or call 630-840-4845.

Rod Walton, Fermilab ecologist