Oak Conservation - Project Quercus
Oak Conservation in McHenry County
Project Quercus TM
Quercus\Kwer'kus\, n. [Latin], an Oak
We love our oaks. They provide shade in the summer, acorns for wildlife in the fall, and enhance the natural beauty of the area, even in winter, with their gnarled, expansive branches. Oaks also offer habitat for a larger diversity of insects than any other species of tree, which translates directly into a higher diversity of birds that eat those bugs!
However, these beloved trees are under stress, and if nothing changes, they may be largely gone from the local landscape within 20 years. But there is reason to be hopeful.
The future of our region's oak groves will depend upon the efforts of individuals, corporations, governments (local, state and federal) and non-profits. No one agency, governmental jurisdiction, landowner or organization can save our oaks. But as a community, we can ensure that these majestic, sacred witnesses to our history will grace the landscape for our children's children's children.
The Land Conservancy founded Project Quercus to explore options to protect, preserve and regenerate the oak woods. Project Quercus is a diverse coalition that brings together public and private, government, corporate and non-profit interests, working collaboratively to create solutions to the problem of oak woodland loss.
The main areas of implementation are:
Publicize tree conservation successes through an annual awards program
The "Living with Trees" award program recognizes individuals, organizations, local units of government and others in the community who are going "above and beyond" to preserve, restore and promote oak-hickory woodlands in McHenry County. Thirteen awards and three honorable mentions have been presented since 2006.
Develop a model Tree Preservation Ordinance focused on oak-hickory woodlands
An upcoming phase of the project will involve developing a model oak-hickory preservation ordinance and conducting outreach to local governments to get it adopted and implemented.
Plant new oak groves/woodlands/savannas
To raise awareness of the need to plant more oaks and take better care of the ones we have, we have been working with volunteers to promote the next generation of oaks. To date, nearly 1,000 small oak trees have been planted at sites around the county. The trees are raised by Glacier Oaks Nursery in Harvard and are 2-3 years old when planted.
Through our annual "Acorn Roundup," residents are helping to collect local acorns for propagation and future oak plantings.
Educate landowners about management and protection of existing oak woodlands
As we learn more about the state of McHenry County's private woodlands, we are reaching out to landowners to help manage these areas. Materials have been developed to assist owners or large and small properties with oaks on them.
Create an endowment fund to generate resources in perpetuity to fund Project Quercus.
Funds raised to support the oak regeneration project are now used only for hard costs related to the oak plantings (e.g. fencing, signs, etc.). Our goal is to increase the fund so that it can be used to support all aspects of the program.
The Third Generation Oak Fund started in August 2007 to provide funding to cover the direct costs associated with the oak planting program. It is funded by the sale of oaks each spring and fall, and a Celebration & Memorial Oak Tree Program that was started in June 2008.
Document the historic and current status of oaks in McHenry County
A comprehensive assessment of the changing oak woodland cover from the time of European settlement (1837) through 2005 by McHenry County Conservation District revealed that while about one-third of the county had oak-hickory woodlands in the 1830's, today less than 5% of the landscape contains oak woods--an 87% loss.
Map of McHenry County Oak Woodlands: Past & Present (opens in new window)
The Oaks of McHenry County booklet documents the state of oaks by township, and also provides some excellent background information about our local oak woods
The second phase of data collection, the "Oak Keeper" project, began in 2008. Trained volunteers are working to gather data at the larger, privately-owned oak woodlands in the county. This program receives significant support from technical experts. Volunteer training is offered in the Spring each year.