Someone to Know: Natural Resources and Grounds Management Crews

When you think about our District crews tending to DuPage forest preserves and natural resources, you likely wouldn’t think they’d be busy outdoors over winter. But they are! Winter’s cold temperatures don’t make our crews shut up indoors. The bleak landscape — void of green vegetation — proves to be an ideal time for our members of the Resource Management & Development and Field Operations teams to target some of the trickiest invasive plant species in our preserves.

Natural Resource Coordinator Herman Jensen offers some insight about managing invasive and nonnative shrubs and trees during the off season.

What do you target and why?
Invasive brush is primarily introduced exotic species such as common buckthorn and honeysuckle. Controlling these species is not only part of the restoration process but also fulfills the Forest Preserve District’s mandate. Throughout the growing season the Natural Resources Management crew performs other parts of the restoration process, including collecting native plant seed for redistribution and controlling herbaceous exotic species.

Why is winter a good time to clear invasive brush?

Brush can be controlled anytime of the year but herbaceous species can only be controlled during the growing season. Cutting and hauling brush is physically demanding, and winter's cold temperatures are generally easier on crew members. Members also wear more clothes in winter, which protects them from cuts and scrapes from thorns or twigs and exposure to poisonous plants like poison ivy.

Where do you clear brush?
We focus on preserve areas known to contain high-quality native herbaceous plants that are dormant over winter and therefore not damaged by our activities. Winter weather conditions allow brush to be burned on site in a safe, controlled manner due to cold temperatures and snow cover. We’re often asked why we burn the brush rather than dispose of it by wood chippers or tub grinders. Some of it is. But these pieces of equipment are expensive, need to be maintained, difficult to maneuver off road and require the use of fossil fuels. Burning brush on site allows us to be better stewards of the environment by reducing our use of fossil fuels.

How do you know which area to target? Is it cyclical or scheduled?

Brush clearing is conducted in forest preserves containing high-quality native plant communities that are rated Class III or IV. Other factors include previous prescribed burn treatments and snow cover. We also choose secure locations that are surrounded by the lack of potential fuel sources, such as screened trails or mowed turf.

Will treatment of the cleared areas follow in the spring?
Yes. We’ll treat all stumps with the appropriate herbicide either shortly after being cut or in the spring after the snow cover is gone. 

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Someone to Know

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