Editor’s note: One of the bonuses of Fermilab having much of its scientific infrastructure underground is that it allows for a wealth of open space on the 6,800-acre campus. Fermilab and volunteers from neighboring communities use that space to create havens of restored native habitats to help wildlife flourish. So far, more than 1,100 acres have been restored. Savannas are just one example of these restoration efforts.
The highly endangered oak savanna was once one of the most common vegetation types in the Midwest. Grant money from the DuPage Community Foundation is helping to save this natural gem for hikers and animals by supporting restoration efforts at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
In December, the Foundation awarded $7,500 for oak savanna restoration to Fermilab Natural Areas, a not-for-profit organization consisting of volunteers from the Chicagoland area.
The money will help protect a 35-acre savanna remnant in the center of Fermilab, which straddles the border of Kane and DuPage counties.
The restored savannah will create a tool for educating school and community groups about Illinois’ environmental past and the need for conservation. The savanna also should attract more wildlife to the area. Many infrequently seen species of insects and birds, such as the red-headed woodpecker, thrive in oak savannas.
The multi-phase restoration effort planned to start this winter will include removal of invasive species of trees and shrubs, prescribed burning, enrichment of the flora and monitoring. The project continues a long history of stewardship of environmental resources at Fermilab, which has led to the restoration of more than 1,100 acres of prairie, woodland, grassland and wetland.
“However, this restoration would not be possible without the injection of supplemental funding from organizations such as the DuPage Community Foundation to the Fermilab Natural Areas,” said Rod Walton, Fermilab ecologist.
Farming and development has taken its toll on the environment, leaving less than one-tenth of one percent of the native landscape of Illinois intact. Groups such as Fermilab Natural Areas are restoring the balance.
“The restoration of Illinois’s oak savannas allows children to see that landscape that greeted Illinois settlers,” Walton said. “It also secures a healthy future for the area by creating a diverse habitat.”
Fermilab Natural Areas (FNA) is a volunteer organization located in DuPage and Kane counties at Fermilab, dedicated to involving local community in restoring and conserving the natural environment at Fermilab. Established in 2006, FNA has a membership of more than 80 volunteers, whose activities are concentrated on conservation of the 10 square miles of largely open land at the facility owned by the U.S. Department of Energy and operated by Fermi Research Alliance, LLC. For further information regarding Fermilab Natural Areas, visit the website: http://www.fermilabnaturalareas.org/.