Oak Ecosystems Recovery Project

Oaks are vitally important to the Chicago region and they need our protection.

Content Detail

The goal of the project is to implement the recommendations of the Oak Ecosystems Recovery Plan, developed by Chicago Wilderness, through regional collaboration.

Almost all trees are good. Trees clean our air, provide shade and habitat for nature, and improve our quality of life. But oaks are unique.

Oak trees are a keystone species, meaning they are trees that entire ecosystems depend on for survival and habitat. Acorns provide food for wildlife and an oak tree’s massive trunk and branches shelter countless species of birds and mammals.

Oaks need space and lots of sunlight to grow and thrive. In today’s landscape, they’re being crowded out by competition from other faster growing or invasive tree species along with urban development. As the oaks disappear, so does their ecosystem. Oaks are not only struggling in Illinois, but throughout the world, where at least one-third of oaks are threatened with extinction.

CRTI works with partners to protect the region’s oak ecosystems and preserve the keystone species. Check out our other projects to see how we’re achieving this goal!

Anyone can help the Chicago region’s oaks:

  • If you have an oak on your property, help it thrive. Make sure it has adequate water and a nice layer of mulch over the root system. Be careful not to damage or compact the root system.
  • Plant an oak on your property. This oak will help to support native birds, insects, and other wildlife;
  • Clear invasive species off your property. Invasive woody plants are one of the threats to healthy oak ecosystems.
  • Learn about oaks and oak ecosystems. This knowledge will enable you to appreciate the significance of oaks in our region and allow you to lend your support to improved management and protection.
  • Volunteer for local oak restoration events.
  • Attend an oak event, taking place throughout the month of October. Events will be listed on the Chicago Region Trees Initiative webpage.

More CRTI resources

Oaks Need Our Help Brochure


OAKtober Resources

Stop Invasives

Witness Trees of Illinois

This interactive map highlights core areas and buffer spaces to be preserved and corridors that can connect them with some thoughtful planting and management.

Does your property lie in one of these priority areas? Contact us if you’d like to learn more about preserving oaks in your area.

Audio Tour

This guide has been developed to assist you, the private landowner, to preserve and manage native oak woodlands, conserve wildlife habitat, and protect nature and the different plants and animals that are unique to oak ecosystems.

The following presentations  provide best management practices for landowners on how to properly care for trees on your land.

How to Care For Your Trees with Kim Kalosky, Forest Preserves of Cook County

Invasives in Your Yard: How to Deal with Them with Sarah Michehl, Land Conservancy of McHenry County

Key Issues for Oaks with Matt Ueltzen, Lake County Forest Preserve District

Prescribed Fire and Mowing with Matt Ueltzen, Lake County Forest Preserve District

Reduce Turf and Add Natives with Sarah Michehl, Land Conservancy of McHenry County

Stormwater Management on Private Property with Gerardo Trujillo, Openlands

In 2022 and 2023, CRTI partnered with WTTW’s Nature Cat to spread awareness of oak ecosystems to the next generation of naturalists!


April 26. 2023, Arbor Day at The Morton Arboretum

Celebrate Arbor Day and connect with nature in an environment designed just for kids! Splash through secret streams, climb colossal acorns and slide down giant tree roots.

Nature Cat will have activities and prizes to share! See you there!

Timed-entry daily admission tickets to The Morton Arboretum must be obtained in advance on the Arboretum website. Parking and entry to the Children’s Garden are free with admission.


February 25, 2023, Maple Syrup Festival

WTTW Kids and Nature Cat’s Daisy participated in a great event last Saturday, the Maple Syrup Festival at Ryerson Welcome Center in Riverwoods, IL, in partnership with Lake County Forest Preserves.

Daisy offered our latest activity, Bingo! And Help a Tree-o! in the welcome center.  In order to complete one square of the take and go bingo game on site, we offered Nature Cards as well. Families then took a kid-friendly snowy trail and learned the science behind the maple syrup process, including harvesting the sap and trying a sample.

This was truly a successful event, driving families to a unique nature activity where they learned some science along the way. All 400 guests received a Nature Cat explorer badge and Nature Cat activity magnet to hang their ongoing bingo game on their fridge as well.


October 8, 2022, Danada Fall Fest

More than 1600 visitors celebrated fall with WTTW Kids and The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County at Danada Equestrian Center’s Fall Festival!