At its Nov. 8 meeting, the Forest Preserve Board of directors approved six grants totaling $132,110. With this latest round, the Foundation’s total awards for 2019 comes to nearly half a million dollars. The grants will continue Foundation support for the Conservation Corps/Forest Preserve Experience program and ecological restoration in Cranberry Slough and Cap Sauers Holding Preserve and the volunteer recognition program. Two are first-time grants. They will support restoration work in Schubert’s Woods in southern Cook County and Perkins Woods in Evanston.
“These grants round out our 2019 cycle with funding for our key investment areas: next-generation environmental advocates, climate change mitigation and family recreation in the Forest Preserves of Cook County,” Foundation President and Executive Director Shelley Davis said. “Our grantmaking increased significantly this year, allowing us to extend our impact in ways that make the Forest Preserves more accessible and enjoyable for all.”
Conservation Corps, Forest Preserve Experience ($75,000)
In 2020, the Forest Preserve Experience Program (FPE) will engage a minimum of 84 high school youth (ages 14 to 19) through this five-week summer jobs program that provides paid employment for young people whose families utilize the services of the Housing Authority of Cook County. First launched in 2016, the program has proved to be highly successful. The 2019 program had a 84 percent retention rate. In 2020, participants will again be recruited from the south and west sides of Cook County and deployed to work at their local forest preserve. Youths work in teams of 10-14 and are led by trained adult leaders and young adult (18 to 20 years old) assistant leaders.
Cranberry Slough Restoration ($25,000)
Located in the heart of the Palos Preserves, Cranberry Slough Nature Preserve is the top priority preserve for restoration within the Forest Preserves, as identified in the Forest Preserves Natural and Cultural Resources Master Plan. With the help of the Forest Preserve Foundation, invasive brush has nearly been eradicated within the preserve. However, more work remains to be done. Due to lack of fire in the past, there is an overabundance of trees within the woodlands. These overly dense tree stands contribute to over-shading, which has damaged the native plant and pollinator community below them. The Forest Preserves will use the grant to restore 11 acres of Cranberry Slough Nature Preserve by thinning shade trees. This grant will help restore 11 acres to better ecological health by increasing the amount of light reaching the ground. This increased light will stimulate the growth of native plants on the ground – the plants that crucial pollinators rely on for their survival.
Cap Sauers Nature Preserve Restoration ($25,000)
Cap Sauers Holding is the largest preserve within the 10,000-acre Palos system and the largest dedicated Illinois state nature preserve in northeast Illinois. Oak woodlands, savannas, prairies and wetlands harbor a wide variety of native plants and animals and many people visit the site to explore nature. The Forest Preserves’ Natural and Cultural Resources Master Plan identifies this area as one of its highest priorities. The Resource Management Department will use funds from the Foundation to restore 10 acres of Cap Sauers Holding Nature Preserves by removing invasive brush. This work will restore 10 acres of brushed-in lands to better ecological health and connect two key habitat areas currently isolated from one another.
Phase 1 of Oak Woodland Restoration at Schubert’s Woods ($4,500)
The Forest Preserves of Cook County will remove invasive brush across 20 acres at Schubert’s Woods, located in Park Forest and Chicago Heights/South Chicago Heights in southern Cook County. Schubert’s Woods is a high-quality oak woodland remnant that is part of Sauk Lake, a 1,500-acre woodland system. Sauk Lake has been identified as the Forest Preserves’ 10th highest priority landscape for restoration through its Natural and Cultural Resource Master Plan.
Perkins Woods Shrub Plantings ($1,440)
Perkins Woods is the only forest preserve in Evanston. The small 7.5-acre preserve is popular with birds and people flock there during spring and fall migration to see warblers and other migratory birds. An enthusiastic group of volunteers helps to care for the site, removing invasive species such as buckthorn and garlic mustard. Over the last several years, the volunteers have been adding native shrubs to the preserve to provide additional habitat and food for birds. This grant will support the planting of native shrubs appropriate for Perkins Woods.
Volunteer Recognition Program ($1,170)
The Forest Preserves of Cook County has a long history with volunteers and seeks to recognize them for the considerable time that they commit to enhancing the preserves. Beginning in 2015, the Forest Preserves, through the help of the Forest Preserve Foundation and Comcast, launched the Preserves’ first official Volunteer Recognition Program. This grant is possible via the Comcast Foundation, and this will be the fourth year the Foundation has supported this program.