Alliance for Community Trees News

Pilot Project To Remove Invasive Buckthorn

By Conni Kunzler | July 10, 2017

Source: Mark Lawton, “Pilot project to remove invasive buckthorn includes Lake Forest,” Chicago Tribune

Lake Forest, IL (July 3, 2017) – A pilot project to clear buckthorn from Middlefork Savanna, a nature and forest preserve in Lake Forest aims to not just fight back the invasive plant, but to also educate adjacent property owners into doing the same on their own land.

About a year ago, the Lake County Forest Preserves started removing buckthorn from roughly 2,900 acres, including 686 acres in the Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest, said Matt Ueltzen, a restoration ecologist with the Forest Preserves. It aims to complete the work either late this summer or in the upcoming winter, he said.

The agency has decided to expand its focus beyond its own land, Ueltzen said.

“We can do a good job controlling buckthorn in the Preserve, but if (buckthorn) seeds are going to keep coming in from the outside, we’ll be fighting this battle forever,” Ueltzen said.

The Forest Preserves will mail a survey during the week of July 4 to about 700 residents with homes adjacent to the 2,900 acres of preserves with buckthorn, Ueltzen said.

“We’re trying to access the homeowner’s view of buckthorn,” Ueltzen said. “Can they identify it, do they know what it is, do they know the impact of buckthorn . . . We’re trying to reach out to neighbors to remove it themselves.”

And Ueltzen expects that getting neighboring property owners to remove buckthorn will be “the major hurdle to overcome,” he said.

Buckthorn is an invasive species that originally came from Europe and displaces native vegetation, according to Lydia Scott, director of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative, which aims to improve the health of urban forests.

“It’s prolific,” Scott said. “There’s nothing here that prevents it from growing. One tree will grow thousands of berries, which will drop and they will repopulate.”

In addition, she said, birds eat buckthorn seeds and then scatter them in their droppings.

Ueltzen said the Forest Preserves hope to have completed surveys by the end of July, and will then focus on outreach.

The pilot project will cost an estimated $179,595, and of that, $79,541 is coming from a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and another $95,000 from an anonymous donation.

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