West Branch DuPage River Corridor Habitat Improvement Project
Invasive shrubs such as European buckthorn and honeysuckle steal life-giving sun, water and nutrients from native wildflowers and oak seedlings that grow below. If left unchecked, the entire oak savanna ecosystem and the animals that depend on it are at significant risk.
The District is moving forward with plans to remove aggressive invasive plant species as part of the West Branch DuPage River Corridor Habitat Improvement Project through Blackwell, West DuPage Woods, Warrenville Grove and McDowell Grove forest preserves to create an ecologically healthy and more contiguous river corridor.
Similar restoration work throughout the District has shown that not only plants but also populations of birds and butterflies can recover once the weedy vegetation is removed.
In January and February 2018, crews will remove aggressive invasive plant species taking over the 57-acre West Branch DuPage River savanna woodland, which has been home to 438 native plant and 93 wildlife species, some state-threatened or rare. They will cut and mow invasive brush and trees and carefully apply herbicides to the cut stumps so the plants can’t grow back. They may also periodically create and burn brush piles on site. The majestic oaks and hickory trees that currently grow among the invasives will remain untouched.
The District is funding the $503,410 project.
The project builds upon previous enhancements vital for floodwater storage and conveyance, water filtration and ecological habitat. It is part of a larger initiative within the West Branch DuPage River watershed that includes the Klein Fen river restoration and wetland mitigation project at West Branch Forest Preserve in Bartlett, an upcoming river restoration project at Mallard Lake Forest Preserve in Hanover Park, and the restoration of Spring Brook Creek, a tributary that flows through St. James Farm and Blackwell forest preserves in Warrenville.
A 2013 intergovernmental agreement between the District and DuPage County allowed several grant-funded stormwater and ecological improvement projects to be completed along the West Branch in Warrenville and McDowell Grove forest preserves.
Various improvements were also made along the West Branch DuPage River during the Superfund thorium remediation process. Construction operations and restoration efforts were extensive in areas where thorium remediation occurred, but the improvements were not comprehensive and contiguous along the river corridor throughout the District preserves.
Areas adjacent to and between the projects also require improvements to create a continuous habitat corridor. Furthermore, previously restored areas require maintenance to keep them healthy and control invasive species. An ecologically healthy and continuous river corridor will be substantially easier to sustain and will provide improved ecological services compared to a dissected corridor in poor ecological health.