Tree Removal Along Quentin Road Bad - In Deer Grove East Good – What Gives? PDF Print E-mail
stakeholder workgroups - WG4: Deer Grove Forest Preserve
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You might have recently noticed the large-scale tree removal underway in Deer Grove East as part of the major restoration being implemented by Openlands and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC), and you might have wondered why that is OK if the removal of trees as part of the Cook County Highway Department’s (CCHD) proposed five-lane widening of Quentin Road is not OK. This is very logical question! A big part of the answer lies in where the trees are located, and what kind of trees they are. Let’s address these issues one at a time.

Take a close look at the following map. This map was drawn by U.S. General Land Surveyor E.C. Berry in 1838 after he had completed the Public Land Survey in and around Deer Grove in May of that year. This map was drawn just before the area became settled, thus the map shows us what the landscape resembled before European settlement fundamentally changed the landscape.

 

Note the large, lobed area in the middle of the picture: that is what Deer Grove looked like in 1838. All of the surrounding area was prairie and wetland. On top of this original surveyor’s drawing is the present-day shape of Deer Grove West – the boot-like shape – to provide some context. The heel of the boot marks the approximate intersection of Quentin Road and Dundee Road. The line running north from the heel of the boot is the section line that marks the location of Quentin Road. East of this section line is a diagonal line running southwest to northeast. This line is in the current Deer Grove East and marks the east edge of the wooded grove. The restoration workers are currently removing trees in the area east of the line where historically it was all prairie and wetland. A primary goal of ecological restoration is generally to restore the land to its pre-disturbance (or pre-settlement) condition, which for a large part of the area being restored in Deer Grove East is prairie and wetlands. In fact, the edge of trees left by the restoration workers corresponds nicely to the surveyor’s diagonal line in the above drawing.

In contrast, note that the section line that marks present-day Quentin Road is in the middle of the wooded area that was (and mostly still is) Deer Grove. So this answers the question in terms of location: if our goal is to restore the land as close to its original condition as possible within the constraints of our modern-day landscape, it matters what the land was historically.

The other relevant question is what kind of trees we are talking about removing. Of 25 trees recorded by Mr. Berry during his 1838 survey, nineteen were oaks and six were hickories. These were the only species recorded by the surveyor along the section lines in the area around Deer Grove. Thus, we know that Deer Grove was predominantly an oak-hickory woodland. The oaks and hickories along Quentin Road thus are the descendants of the original oaks and hickories, and there may even be a few of the original trees surveyed in 1838 by Mr. Berry that are still standing. These are the irreplaceable trees at Deer Grove, which is why, within the surveyor’s boundary of the original grove, the restoration workers are leaving all of these in their work in Deer Grove East. They are removing other trees that have “invaded” the area because the supression of fire for the past 100 years has allowed trees that were not historically present to grow there, such as ash, maple, basswood, and cherry. These trees are a natural component of parts of Deer Grove, for example the ravine area, but not in areas that were prairie or wetland. In fact, by leaving the invader trees we run the risk of losing our heritage oaks and hickories from lack of reproduction due to too much shade and competition.

What kinds of trees are located along Quentin Road? According to the CCHD’s recent tree surveys, there are several hundred large oaks and hickories along Quentin Road and in other parts of the CCHD project area. There are also many different species of less desirable trees, such as common buckthorn, a non-native invasive species. While it is true that not all of the trees along Quentin are of equal importance from an ecological perspective, many of the largest trees are oaks and hickories. The loss of these trees would represent an irreplaceable loss.

We hope that this explanation of the historic differences between the two project areas at Deer Grove, and also the major ecological differences between oaks and hickories – the predominant species at Deer Grove prior to European settlement – and most other tree species, has provided some insight as to why it is appropriate to remove trees in some cases, but not in others. The following table summarizes the key differences:

How the Deer Grove East Restoration is different
than the Quentin Road Expansion
Deer Grove East Quentin Road
  • Restores natural area
  • Paves over the preserves
  • Revives native habitat
  • Destroys native habitat
  • Removes invader trees
  • Removes heritage oaks
  • Enhances water quality
  • Degrades water quality
  • Well researched
  • Not studied
Last Updated on Sunday, 14 March 2010 13:00