Local Conservation

Some may remember the bumper sticker that proclaimed, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” This concept is imperative when dealing with biodiversity loss.  D. Faith (2008) explains that we must “shift to a focus on valuing ecosystem processes. This focus arguably will ensure maintenance and ongoing evolution of these systems, and therefore all of biodiversity.” Working to restore biological health to even small areas, like backyards, in a community has far-reaching effects for the health of planetary biodiversity. This “shift to valuing ecosystem processes” is exactly what Aldo Leopold was calling for over a half century ago. In order to halt the biodiversity crisis, more people must begin placing value on ecosystems and their processes.

Ke Chung and Byrne (2006) place the blame on the human species as the primary cause of biodiversity loss on both local and global levels. They call for more biodiversity research to be done at local levels. There is a lack of site-specific data for flora and fauna communities living within urban or human-populated areas, which makes  conservation and management of ecosystems challenging. They call for grass-roots level services to promote studying, recording, and preserving “backyard biodiversity.” Because of the exponential rate of increase in population and urbanization, it is prudent for sustainability that new approaches to biodiversity be developed.

The Schaumburg Biodiversity Recovery Plan states that only 20% of Schaumburg’s land is classified as open space – and a great deal of that land is not biodiverse (e.g. parks covered in turf grass, retention ponds, sporting fields). However, there are still some biodiverse areas remaining in Schaumburg. Professor Michael Bryson, co-founder of the Sustainability Studies program at Roosevelt University, notes their importance in one of his online lectures:

This points to the utter importance of the few remaining high quality natural areas left in Schaumburg — places like Spring Valley Nature Sanctuary and Oak Hollow Conservation Area — which provide oases of biodiversity as well as living examples of highly functional ecosystems that can inspire the cultivation of a land ethic that people can bring to other landscapes within the village. (Bryson, 2011)

Oak Hollow Conservation Area, Schaumburg, IL (J. Crow Mermel)

The Schaumburg Park District has over 300 acres of preserved natural spaces. Oak Hollow, or the Kay Wojcik Conservation Area, is 17 ½ acres of remnant oak savannah, wetland, prairie and sedge meadow secretly nestled in a subdivision. A Master Plan (2006) has been outlined for the continued preservation and restoration of biodiversity at Oak Hollow. The major objectives of the plan are “restoration of native plant communities, removal of aggressive exotic vegetation, maintenance of wildlife habitat, provide opportunities for residents to interact with and learn about local ecosystems ” (Brooks, 2006).

Elsewhere in Schaumburg, Gray Farm Park & Conservation area is 47 acres of bike trails, fishing lake, and large open water cattail marsh that supports a diversity of migratory bird life. Park St. Claire has over 30 acres of wetlands embracing the West Branch of Salt Creek, in addition to planted prairies. It also hosts floodplain restoration activities. Ruth Macintyre Conservation Area consists of 36 acres of wetlands and restored prairies with wildlife observation platforms.

Burned prairie at Spring Valley, Schaumburg, IL (J. Crow Mermel)

The crown jewel of the Schaumburg Park District, though, is Spring Valley Nature Center, a highly popular natural area. Its 135 acres feature streams, marshes, forests, and prairies.  According to their website, “Spring Valley is an outdoor living museum, where visitors can learn about nature and local history” (Schaumburg Park District). The earth-sheltered and passive solar nature center is a great starting point to learn about the nature of the area with their informative exhibits, classes, observatory, and library. 7,500 students visit Spring Valley each year with their classes since the school district closed their nature center. Many more children visit with their families. Spring Valley’s programs are so popular, they often have to shuttle people in from an auxiliary parking lot. Classes are regularly sold out, illustrating the desire for area people to reconnect with the land. Spring Valley also is home to a working 1880’s heritage farm where children can learn about Schaumburg’s early settlers life. Overall, Spring Valley is a model of ecological restoration, conservation and education.

Spring Valley Nature Center (J. Crow Mermel)

Next page: Connecting with Nature