Chautauqua Bottoms Nature Preserve

Green Earth Director Stephanie Eichholz said Long Forestry Consultant Group will donate its time and equipment to clear some space, which should have been a while ago. Eichholz said overtime that there has been a natural succession, which filled in the prairie with trees. She believes constant maintenance on the land will allow the seeds from existing trees to spread across the land causing additional growth.

Meanwhile, Eichholz said in 2008 that Green Earth switched from mowing the prairie to burning. She considers this as a better maintenance system. Eichholz adds the organization knew it would have to burn every two years, but it does not have the resources to conduct its own burn. It can be recalled how Green Earth relied on the Saluki Fire Dogs in 2008 and 2011. However, it has not been able to do so since.

Due to this, Eichholz said, “It has really started to fill in. There are trees that are too large to be affected by a fire. And hand clearing would be too labor intensive.” Green Earth has missed the “burn date,” which means it is now too wet to conduct a proper burn.

Eichholz recently got a call from Mike and Chris Long of Long Forestry telling her the company got a new piece of equipment called forestry mulcher and wanted to try it out. The equipment was described as a land clearing method that uses a single machine to grind, cut and clear vegetation. It uses a rotary drum equipped with steel chipper tools to shred vegetation. “They said they would go into the prairie and clear it out,” Eichholz added.

Furthermore, the prairie’s clearing is just one step in Green Earth’s plans to improve the preserve. According to the Southern Illinoisan, the Illinois Department of Natural Resource’s Recreational Trails Program recently awarded the organization with worth $102,000 to upgrade one of the trails at the site to ADA-friendly standards.

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