What is Lincoln Marsh doing to restore the natural landscape?

What’s all this ‘smoke’ about restoration?

At the Wheaton Park District’s Lincoln Marsh Natural Area, we are not only here to help you enjoy and appreciate the many wonders of nature, we’re also working to preserve and restore the habitats that our native plants and animals need to thrive and survive.

Why is it important to restore native habitat and wildlife?

People often ask us, “Why can’t nature just take its course?” Human beings have always played a part in shaping the natural environment. Native Americans used to start prairie fires in order to obtain food or travel. The first settlers sliced through the prairie with steel plows and discovered the soil to be perfect for growing crops. On that same land today, we build houses, highways, shopping malls, and subdivisions, and our natural world has suffered a lot of stress in that process!

By restoring a natural community, we allow plants and animals (this includes us!) to live together with health, balance, and beauty.

At the Lincoln Marsh, we are working hard to protect native diversity by monitoring and managing our natural area, removing non-native and invasive species, and reintroducing native plants.

What does “native” mean, anyway?

Native plants and animals are those that were present in this place before any settlers interacted with the prairies, woodlands, and wetlands. These species are well-suited to the soils, temperatures, and environments of Illinois. Many of our remaining natural areas are filled with plants and animals that quickly spread and permeate a disturbed space but are not necessarily indigenous or considered to be “high-quality.”

Some of these non-native plants and animals are even “invasive,” which means that they grow and reproduce so aggressively that they crowd out the native plants and animals that have lived here for thousands of years. Ecologists shudder at the sight of these unwelcome invaders!

How does restoration happen?

Sometimes we remove non-native plants manually–by hand or by machine. Other times a small dose of pesticide is necessary. Many times, the course of restoration calls for a technique that has been happening for many years. The very process that has shaped our landscape… Fire.

Once the area is cleared of unwanted plant species, we can plant or sow seeds for the natives. And once the native plants are in place, the native wildlife will find them!