We All Should Vote Yes for the Forest Preserves of Cook County

For Cook County residents, here's an incredibly easy way to help fight climate change and support biodiversity. A slightly different version was published in the   Oak Park Wednesday Journal on October 18, 2022. At the beginning of the 20th century, a group of farsighted people had the novel idea to create the Cook County Forest Preserves system, the first of its kind in the country. It was a daunting task to plan, persuade people, and get laws through the legislature. Only then did the real work begin of purchasing and managing vast acreage, developing public programs, and conserving biodiversity while catering to humans. None of this was easy. Starting with an initial purchase of 500 acres in 1916, today the FPDCC comprises 70,000 acres of natural and recreational areas stretching from Lake-Cook Road south to Steger Road. Consequently, Cook County, home to over 5 million people, can also boast that it’s the most biodiverse county in the state.  In this time of global warming, en

Diary of a Dry Summer

From Illinois State Climatologist

From Illinois State Climatologist
Here are a few journal entries from this summer. Today it is 48 degrees, damp, gray; small chance for late green tomatoes to ripen. Was the summer really so extreme?

April 1 -- Cloudy, 50s. Weeded for 2 1/2 hours -- bindweed, creeping Charlie, dandelions, quackgrass, the occasional ginkgo seedling. So many plants just kept growing, this winter that wasn't. It was as though we'd migrated to zone 6B or 7 - now I know why people south of us dread, sweet autumn clematis, English ivy, butterfly bush: all usually kept decently within bounds by a properly cold winter, but not this year. So I see first-hand how some invasiveness happens.

I also notice that certain plants--bleeding hearts for example, have bloomed early, before they got as large as usual. Other things seem to be on a more-or-less normal schedule -- because they respond more to photoperiod than warmth?

May 27 -- 95 degrees today, a record. Have been watering for a couple of days. We are in something of a drought, and with the unseasonable temperatures many plants seem stressed: strawberries flopped over and may not have any fruit to speak of, raspberry looking pale, butterfly weed leaves curing. Rarely have I had to water this early. Of course I've never seen a winter or spring like this one.

July 21- 30 -- still in drought, corn drying in the fields; much of the country in drought, moderate to severe. And then there's the heat. My neighbors on either side are running their air conditioners all day long--on one side even when they're not home. We've been sitting outside in the evenings, which the  sound of the AC pretty much wrecks. We've been opening windows in the morning, closing them when it gets warm, pulling shades on the south and west sides of the house--but we do break down and put on the air in the late evening, setting it at 80.

Every morning I wake up and look out the window -- more sun in a flat, hazy blue sky: no clouds and not much vault of heaven, either. Drat! I now understand why I would never live in California. I miss our sullen, cloudy, rainy days - not to mention big, billowy clouds assembling themselves in the afternoon or thunder and lightning cracking the night sky. The air is almost textural in its dryness and accumulating grittiness.

I remember the drought of 1988, when, hugely pregnant with my daughter I would sit on the front porch steps, staring at the sky, hoping for rain. You could do that then - forecasting was more primitive. Now? You hear the weather report, and just in case there might be a mistake, you check the radar online. No use hoping for rain--there isn’t any, and you just have to believe the facts.

Pollinators are showing up in vast quantities--bumblebees among the prairie plants, leaf-cutter bees, honeybees, early golden digger and katydid killer wasps. The hummingbirds, too, have come around early. Few monarchs laying eggs, though.

August 14 --Tonight I took a walk at dusk; geat cumulous cluds massed in the fading light. on the way home a light rain began to fall; I welcomed its wetness on my skin. Some flowers bloomed early, and then, confused by this long season, have bloomed again. The (native) honeysuckle vine and butterfly weed did this. The hummingbird lingering at the honeysuckle did not look confused by the out-of-season bloom.The butterfly bush started blooming early and then kept on. The trees are showing stress. Some trees, I’ve noticed, still have drooping leaves after our good soaking rains this weekend. Some early leaf drop. Ashes, already harmed by EAB, are looking terrible.

September 20 -- Found some violets re-blooming, and some vinca, as well. Cooler temps, some rain this month.

October 2 -- Though the weather has cooled off, it continues abnormally dry. The Chicago area would need something like nine inches of rain to completely regenerate moisture levels. Riding my bike today, I noticed we are having early leaf fall, trees shedding leaves that are still partially green.


Diana Studer said…
hard to see trees suffering. Hope you will get the much needed rain soon. Gentle soaking rain.
Thanks, Diana, especially since you know what dry weather is like. And thanks for continuing to read my lately fitful posts.
Anonymous said…
Wow, those graphs are really dramatic -- and your diary entries tell the story even more powerfully. Although Maine and south-central PA were two of the very few places in the country that didn't have drought this summer, lack of winter and early warmth still made it an odd year. Many of the plants in my Gettysburg garden finished blooming weeks ahead of their normal schedule. -Jean
That's interesting, Jean. So there seem to be three patterns: blooming and finishing early; blooming continuously for a longer period; and atypical re-blooming.