Helping a monoculture return to its rich native roots
Late last summer, Steve and Mary Smith made a generous 12-acre donation of land in Barrington Hills to BACT. Named for its “far” distance from the home of Steve and Mary Smith, Far Field is a field that hasn’t seen oak trees or wildflowers for generations. “It has always been under plow,” says Mary Smith, who remembers the field from when she was a little girl. “Oak woods came right up to the edge of the field and stopped where the plow made cropland many decades before our time.” Wanting to protect this beautiful open space from future development, the Smiths contacted BACT | Barrington Area Conservation Trust to see what could be done.
BACT’s executive director Lisa Woolford researched the property using pre-settlement survey data, discovered this valuable buffer zone to Spring Creek had once been an oak savanna, and recommended steps to restore the site to its native glory. Restoration began on Friday, December 12 with the broadcast of nine pounds of native prairie grass and wildflower seeds. The freezing and thawing of the soil this winter will help plant the seeds while loosening tough seed coats for spring germination.
Woolford estimates it will take at least three years for the native plants to establish themselves after which she looks forward to introducing hickories as well as oaks started from red and black oak acorns gathered from trees around the Smiths’ home. “I’m excited that the Smiths have chosen to preserve Far Field and that BACT will be able to return this site to a beautiful, natural habitat. Every acre of habitat we can preserve makes a world of difference to wildlife, especially migrating birds that depend on oak savannas for their survival,” says Woolford.
Mary and Steve Smith share Woolford’s sentiments. “It will remain a peaceful place for people to drive past and to traverse on horseback,” says Mary with a smile, thinking of how the beautiful savanna will further enhance the community she treasures.