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Spanish Daily Journal
     February 27, 2020      #63-58 sdj
Emily Janes and Crystal Sauder, of the Kankakee Soil and Water Conservation District, have been great leaders in our community at outreach for pollinators and unique programs to support them.

Off the Trail: Community habitat symposium 

Off the Trail: simposio comunitario sobre hábitat

This past Saturday, I spent my morning at the Joliet Community College networking and listening to talks at the Community Habitat Symposium. The event was hosted by the Kankakee Torrent Chapter of the Illinois Native Plant Society and was at full capacity.

There were two tracks of talks you could sign up for. One was for homeowners, and the other was a professional ecology focus. I did two talks from each section.

The first session I attended was about land management in Southern Cook County. Think about the Palos area, Orland, Tinley and Plum Creek. Chip O’Leary, deputy director of the Forest Preserves, did the presentation. The talk outlined how they are efficiently trying to manage more than 30,000 acres in the region.

Using various monitoring techniques of ecosystems, they can then assign values to parcels, which allows them to soberly see where the best bang for their dollars are for conservation. They are doing major invasive brush removal projects throughout the area and tree thinning to restore open woodland and savanna habitats. The scale of it is massive and inspiring.

The second talk I saw was from Juli Mason, of the Will County Forest Preserves. We all have invasive brush problems in our public and private spaces. She has been experimenting with basal barking methods using a water emulsion to limit cost and collateral damage.

Her results indicate that she can reduce herbicide use, as well as oil impacts by using water but still getting brush to perish. Labor is the major cost in brush removal so if we can speed it up using these techniques, more land can be restored. I plan on replicating her methods at some of my projects this year.

I moved over to the homeowner section before lunch to hear Sue Hargrove talk about butterfly and moth gardening. She works for IDOT but also raises caterpillars at her home.

She stressed that native insects have co-evolved with our native flora, and if we want our yards to support pollinators, we need to think about the entire life history of these insects. She had a nice chart showing trees that support caterpillars created by Doug Tallamy.

Too many cities and HOAs plant ornamental trees in their landscape thinking they are supporting life. However, most of them do not support caterpillars. From her chart, oaks support more than 500 species of caterpillars, whereas a ginkgo tree only supports four. Small changes in our cityscapes and yards can make a big impact for insect conservation.

Building upon Sue’s talk, I sat in to hear from Daniel Suarez, of Audubon Great Lakes, talk about plants for birds. Daniel started by saying “how we support birds here in Illinois matters throughout their entire life history” a nod to the fact that birds migrate thousands of miles from South America and the Artic through Illinois.

In the spring, birds are nesting here and require habitat and protein rich food to sustain populations. In the fall, they are migrating back south and need additional high-quality food to sustain their journey. Daniel says that “A world without insects is a world without birds and plants are the foundation of that system.”

He referenced another Doug Tallamy study that counted caterpillars eaten for a successful chickadee nest … ONE NEST utilized more than 9,000 caterpillars. Plants in suburban and urban areas tend to be 80 percent non-native, which amounts to a lot of missed opportunities for bird food sources as they are mostly caterpillar deserts.

If you love birds’ plant native trees and shrubs that support caterpillars, encourage your local community leaders to do the same.

I also was delighted to run into Emily Janes and Crystal Sauder, of the Kankakee Soil and Water Conservation District. They have been great leaders in our community at outreach for pollinators and unique programs to support them.

Do not hesitate to utilize them as a resource if you have questions.

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