Approximately 1,300 nature lovers, conservationists, ecological gardeners and landscape managers gathered to attend presentations and take part in discussions on a range of topics. In general the participants looked hale and hearty, competent and outdoorsy, and seemed energized by the wealth of learning and networking opportunities.
My itinerary included prairie restoration; the ecology of oaks; native woody plants for urban settings; the effective use of rain gardens and bioswales to manage water; climate change adaptation; green infrastructure; and making use of that annoying yet free resource, buckthorn. Did you know that you can make anything from toys to garden trellises out of buckthorn, using non-electrified hand tools? Buckthorn also burns hotter than oak: the North Park Nature Center plans to use seasoned logs to boil its maple syrup this spring.
The keynote speaker was Curt Meine, who discussed Aldo Leopold's connections with Chicago. He has written a well-respected biography of Leopold, and I have greatly enjoyed his book Correction Lines: Essays on Land, Leopold and Conservation (Island Press, 2004).
I was not surprised to learn that Leopold and Jens Jensen knew and respected one another. Leopold was also friends with and influenced Roberts Mann, Director of Conservation for the Cook County Forest Preserves (he wrote "City Folks Need Roots in the Land," which I want to find and read). Thanks to them and others (so many, so great) like them, and the organizations which sprang up in the early 20th century, Chicago has a great heritage of conservation and continuing commitment to green open space that too many urban areas lack.
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