Local Izaak Walton chapter agrees to forest regeneration plan for site

At its April business meeting, the Des Plaines chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America agreed to a plan for forest regeneration at the Izaak Walton Des Plaines site.

A site regeneration plan was drawn up by Craig Billington, regional ecologist for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and was presented by the proposed site steward, Ken Schaefer.

The plan divides the multi-acre tract into five areas: a flood plain forest, two reforestation areas, a savanna, and an unmanaged area. The goals of the plan are to encourage its native biodiversity by removing invasive species and to create conditions in which that is sustainable.

The main focus will be on the savanna area on the north end of the tract where the development of native oaks will be encouraged through the removal of invasive species, buckthorn being prominent among those, and the reintroduction and fostering of native plants.

Attention was drawn to the project by Izaak Walton League member KT Petersen who undertook the project as part of her Master Naturalist certification.

The plan and schedule anticipates the involvement of Ikes members, community students and youth groups, University of Illinois Master Naturalists, and other volunteers.

The Ikes agreed to the plan for three years and included several amendments to the plan recognizing the club’s stewardship of the property, deprioritizing any substantial thinning along River Road, and clarifying that the scope of the plan addresses ecology of the forest and not programming.

The Des Plaines Chapter of the IWLA was one of the nation’s first, chartered in 1926. Shortly thereafter the Forest Preserve District of Cook County granted use of a 17.5-acre natural area along the Des Plaines River which includes a house built in 1850s by Joseph Jefferson and sons who arrived and settled on the land in 1830s.

The land was used as a dairy farm until the land and house were turned over to the Forest Preserve of Cook County in 1918, and then to the Ikes for their use.

The Des Plaines Chapter of the Izaak Walton League has been a faithful steward, committed to the preservation and maintenance of the natural area with its historic house for almost 100 years.

Members have worked over the past century to test and preserve the water quality of the Des Plaines River, build and maintain wood duck, owl, and bat houses, encourage conservation and preservation with programs ranging from riverbank cleanup to salt monitoring in the river, develop and maintain hiking trails, and promote outdoor education and recreation for youth and adults

ranging from bird watching and beekeeping to campfire storytelling and camping. The Ikes chapter has supported its efforts through annual fundraising events like its Wild Game Dinner, Turkey Party, Pig Roast, and Tea, as well as through grants and donations.

For more information about the Ikes and their efforts, this plan, or other opportunities, visit the chapter website at or call (847) 824-4509.

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