On Saturday, I attended a stewards' mini-conference at Cook County Forest Preserve headquarters. This is a beautiful old arts and crafts-style buildng on Harlem Ave. just north of Lake in River Forest. I had been invited by Victor and Jean Guarino, the stewards of Thatcher Woods (along the Des Plaines River), with whom I've worked for years, chopping buckthorn, pulling garlic mustard, and celebrating the beauties of our riparian woodland/prairie/savanna landscape.
The room was full of casually-dressed people, most of whom looked like they spend much time out of doors in all weathers. I favor gatherings at which the preferred attire includes hiking shoes and the conversation centers around bird monitoring, conservative plant species, and burn regimins. This one met my expectations; my working group discussed the pros and cons of photo vs. transect monitoring, and how to access information from various monitoring groups such as Audobon and the Habitat Project for use in restoration activities.
I came away newly impressed by the level of dedication and commitment that the stewards display in their volunteer work of managing the wild areas of the Chicago Wilderness region, especially in the face of all the environmental threats we suffer, from global warming to over-development.
We gardeners can learn a great deal from these dedicated folks who put the health of our eco-system and all its creatures ahead of so much else. We can look at our gardens with new eyes, and ask ourselves how best to knit our backyards back into the ecosystem, and by doing so, help repair and nurture the health of the land.