Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Woodlands for Pleasure
Nature Bulletin No. 551-A   January 25, 1975
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

WOODLANDS FOR PLEASURE
The Forest Preserve District of Cook County was created and is managed for the education, pleasure and recreation of the people. After approval by public referendum. The Board of Forest Preserve Commissioners was authorized by law to acquire native forests and other lands which must be preserved or restored and protected in their natural condition as nearly as possible The preserves now total more than 64,000 acres.

The management of woodlands so as to maintain them in a natural condition for the pleasure and recreation of the public is called recreational forestry. In several fundamental respects it is much different from commercial forestry which regards a woodland as a source of forest products such as lumber as a tree factory from which, if it is properly managed, a crop of saw logs may be cut and harvested periodically.

A commercial forest is managed in somewhat the same way as a farmer manages his fields of corn, wheat and oats. Some species of trees, because they have little or no value for lumber, are called "weed trees" and in a commercial forest these are removed to make room for desirable kinds such as oaks, hickories, maples, pines and firs. Trees with short or crooked trunks and widespreading branches called "wolf trees" because they take up too much room and make too much shade are also removed. And in a commercial forest, when a valuable tree matures and has reached a certain size, it is cut and the logs are hauled to market.

In a natural woodland for recreational use, no native species is removed because it is too old, too crooked or leaning, too stunted or too widespread. Trees of this sort lend character and richness to the landscape and interest people. To the recreational forester, no native tree or shrub is worthless. He does not always remove a mass of grape vines because it is choking and may kill a tree.

Most dead or hollow trees are permitted to stand because they furnish homes for birds such as woodpeckers, chickadees, owls and wood ducks, as well as for animals such as squirrels, raccoons and possums. When a tree falls it is allowed to lie and rot, furnishing food and homes for a vast variety of lower animals. As these live and die, the tree decays and together they return precious foods to the woodland soil. Furthermore, people expect to see dead and fallen trees scattered about in a natural forest. Death and decay, as well as reproduction and growth, are natural processes constantly at work.

Thus, the recreational forester regards a woodland as a community, complete in itself, where each and every species of plant and animal, living or dead, contributes to the growth, stability and beauty of the whole. He believes in letting Nature alone, and patiently permits her to solve her own problems and work out her own complex system of checks and balances. He protects the woodland against fires, against grazing livestock, and against damage by automobiles or misuse. Otherwise, unless it is seriously attacked by insect pests or some disease, his policy is "Hands Off."

Natural woodlands, such as we have in our forest preserves, appeal to people. They may enjoy the scenic beauty, the play of sunlight and shadows, the myriad kinds of plants and animals, the combination of small sounds and odors, or just the solitude to be found there. Each visitor can gratify his own interests and find his own enjoyment. He returns to his job and the hurly-burly of city life feeling rested and refreshed. He has been re-created. Those intangibles are what people harvest from woodlands managed for their pleasure.


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