More than 30 years ago, a group of volunteers began cutting out buckthorn and other invasive brush that threatened to destroy hundreds of acres of natural area near north suburban Glenview.
Their efforts worked, leading to the establishment of Harms Woods Nature Preserve and additional conservation work by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Last week, FPCC announced that Illinois had recognized a 169-acre section of Harms Woods as an official state nature preserve, the highest level of protection for land in the state.
The designation gives FPCC a total of 25 Illinois Nature Preserve sites, the most of any local agency in the state.
“This site is really a testament to the hard work of a dedicated group of volunteers,” said Chip O’Leary, FPCC’s deputy director of resource management.
Located in unincorporated Cook County just south of Glenview, Harms Woods is part of a network of forest preserves that stretches north along the North Branch of the Chicago River.
The natural area features a varied collection of wildflowers – including wild geraniums, trout lilies and white trilliums – that feeds butterflies and birds from spring to fall. The site’s oak and maple trees are currently in peak form for fall leaf watching, O’Leary said.
Harms Wood is also home to frogs that call out from small ponds, and to an array of birds, like great crested flycatchers, chestnut-sided warblers and Cooper’s hawks.
Of the 400 different plant species that have been identified at Harms Woods, O’Leary said seven of them are endangered or threatened in Illinois. Examples include ground juniper and dwarf raspberry plants and several types of sedges, or small grass-like plants.
Although Harms Woods has not faced recent threats, O’Leary said its designation as an Illinois Nature Preserve gives the state more authority to protect the site against any future ones.
FPCC now oversees 7,248 acres of land designated as state nature preserves, which qualify for protection because they represent “the few remnants of the landscapes that evolved after the last ice age 13,000 years ago,” according to FPCC.
FPCC offers guided walks at many of its nature preserves. For more information, visit the agency’s website.