BARRINGTON – In 1985, .02 percent of the open “oak savanna” woodlands that once covered 27 to 32 million acres of land in the Midwest remained in tact.
Research conducted by McHenry County Conservation District (MCCD) in 2005 showed that oak woodlands had declined by 87 percent in less than 200 years, while a regional study conducted by The Morton Arboretum for Chicago Wilderness documented “a significant change in forest structure, including a loss of mid-size oaks” in 2010.
By spring 2012, Chicago Wilderness, supported by a grant from the US Forest Service Northeastern Area State & Private Forestry (USFS), initiated the Oak Recovery Program to document Chicago region’s oak ecosystems, and develop a comprehensive plan to hasten the return of oaks to the region.
The Oak Recovery Program also provided funding for the Barrington Area Conservation Trust (BACT) to purchase and distribute 50 bur and 50 red oak trees to private landowners, and an oak woodland restoration site in Barrington Hills. Through its Conservation@Home program, BACT staff is encouraging as many people as possible to plant at least one oak tree in their yard to provide future habitat.
The BACT's Great Oaks of Barrington contest challenges people from the Barrington Area Council of Governments region to enter oak trees in a contest where the trees are judged for age, health, location, form, classic beauty, and personal stories. BACT’s executive director Lisa Woolford sees the contest as “a great way to recognize what people are doing to preserve native oaks for generations.”
Experts from The Care of Trees, a Davey Company along with BACT naturalists will visit and judge each tree.
“We are inspired not only by the trees people have in their yards, but the care they provide to keep them healthy,” said Woolford, noting the oaks she has seen that are surrounded by native wildflowers rather than mud and turf.
“Oak woodlands have adapted over the past 10,000 years without the help for mowers or herbicides,” Woolford said. “Plus, oak trees provide oxygen, absorb and filter runoff, and give much needed food and shelter for plants and animals. It would be tragic for our great grandchildren to miss the beauty of an oak, but this doesn’t have to happen if we do something now.”
To learn how you can plant an oak in your yard, contact info@bactrust at 847-387-3149. To enter an oak in the Great Oaks of Barrington Contest, please visit www.bactrust.org to download an entry form.