To restore the processes to which central Illinois habitats have adapted, and to ensure these places are left for future generations, staff at the Macon County Conservation District use restoration and management practices such as prescribed burning, planting native species, removing non-native invaders, and wetland re-creation.
Prairie burns may be conducted in the spring to set back encroachment of woody plants and to invigorate native grasses adapted to periodic fire. Prairie burns are carried out in the fall to curb thick stands of grass and stimulate the germination of wildflowers—which typically begin to grow much earlier than prairie grasses.
Periodic woodland burns stimulate wildflowers by reducing the amount of organic debris on the ground, allowing more sunlight to reach young seedlings. These burns also thwart tree species like sugar maple, which can prevent oak seedlings from flourishing.
Invasion by non-native species is one of the biggest challenges that natural areas managers face. Invasive species often originate from other continents. Some were introduced for erosion control or wildlife cover due to their quick development and vigor.
Because of these qualities, some non-native species become invasive, growing well outside the areas where they were intended and outcompeting native species for space, sunlight, and nutrients.