Harlem Hills Nature Preserve restoration

Harlem Hills Nature Preserve, part of Rock Cut State Park in Rockford is the state’s largest and highest-quality gravel hill prairie. The site contains mesic prairie (a prairie adapted to a balanced supply of moisture) and dry-mesic gravel prairie (slightly dryer than a mesic prairie).

The total acreage of dry-mesic gravel prairie in Illinois is 51.7 acres, and Harlem Hills represents 67.7 percent of that land. The site also includes six state-listed endangered or threatened plant species: the prairie buttercup (Ranunculus rhomboideus), downy yellow painted cup (Castilleja sessiliflora), pink milkwort (Polygala incarnate), redroot (Ceanothus ovatus), woolly milkweed (Asclepias lanuginosa), and prairie bush clover (Lespedeza leptostachya). Also on the site is a state-threatened butterfly, the ottoe skipper (Hesperia ottoe).

Because of the ecological sensitivity of the site, Applied Ecological Services, Inc. (AES) has been retained by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to restore it. The main problem within Harlem Hills is previous damage caused by erosion and concentrations of exotic and invasive plant species in those areas.

This project will require AES to remove brush and debris in the gully and an old road and culvert, and restore the slopes to a more gradual and natural state. AES will begin work on this project as soon as possible. The area will be seeded using local seed collected from the site. Further, erosion mats and check dams will be installed to prevent future erosion. For more information about this project, contact the IDNR’s Brad Semel at (815) 675-2386, ext. 317.

AES is a broad-based ecological consulting, contracting, and restoration firm providing services worldwide. AES has been the principal ecological consulting firm in many award-winning restoration and site remediation projects. Established in 1978, AES has more than 100 full-time employees in West Dundee, Ill.; Brodhead, Wis.; Prior Lake, Minn.; Eudora, Kans.; Conshohocken, Pa. and Jackson, N.J. AES owns and operates Taylor Creek Restoration Nurseries, Spring Lake Restoration Nurseries and Kaw River Restoration Nurseries. Together, they are among the largest native prairie nurseries in the Midwest.

From the Feb. 21-27, 2006, issue

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