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