Don’t Let Winter Slow You Down – Get Outside!

5230254820_5ddd7165a8_bPhoto by Ray Mathis

Winter blues got you down?  Cheer up. You don’t have to hide away or hibernate until spring finally arrives; there is plenty to see and do in Chicago’s wilderness even in the depths of this sometimes-challenging season:

Critter tracking: Winter is the perfect time to look for evidence of our sometimes-secretive animal neighbors, as they leave their footprints behind in the snow. Visit a local park, preserve, or just head into your backyard after a new snowfall to look for signs of recent four-legged visitors.

Go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing: Most of the area forest preserves, park districts, and outdoor museums offer groomed trails, rentals, and/or lessons. Visit their websites for information, or check out top recommendation lists like this one.

Take the family sledding: There are great spots for sledding and tubing in and around Chicago. Read about them here, then grab your sled and get going!

If you love nature but prefer to stay indoors until warmer weather returns, take some time to reflect on thought-provoking questions about nature and humanity’s place within it. Visit www.humansandnature.org to consider our complex relationship with the natural world and add your voice to the conversation about it.

However you choose to enjoy the winter, know that spring will arrive sooner than you know it – and with it, a host of new opportunities to explore and enjoy our amazing Chicago wilderness!

 

Restoring a Midwestern Icon

Photo credit: Tim, Flickr Creative Commons

The massive yet graceful architecture of ancient oaks epitomizes the historical landscape of the Chicago region.  Oaks are keystone species, meaning many other plants and animals depend on them for survival.  Oak woodlands provide critical food, water, and shelter for hundreds of birds and other wildlife.

Yet these iconic trees are now threatened throughout the region.  As existing oaks age, invasive plants in the understory make it hard for new generations of oaks to take hold. In McHenry County, for example, oak-dominated areas have shrunk by 87%.

The Chicago Wilderness Oak Recovery Project is a collaborative effort to address these urgent threats to our oak habitats.  Members of the Chicago Wilderness alliance are mapping where oaks historically and currently occur, creating a regional Oak Recovery Plan, and engaging people in planting new oaks.

Want to support oaks in your community?  Volunteer at a local forest preserve to help restore the health of these and other native plant communities.  Together, we can ensure that oaks—and all of the other species that depend on them—will be around for generations to come.