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.