Chicago Bears staff and forest preserve unite volunteers to fight invasive plant: ‘Buckthorn is a jerk’

Chicago Bears employees set out to tackle a rival last week. However, it had nothing to do with the Green Bay Packers. Instead, the enemy on Friday was an invasive species infamous for damaging plants.

Following the March announcement of a pilot project between the Bears and the Lake County Forest Preserve aimed at removing buckthorn from Lake Forest’s Middlefork Savannah Forest Preserve, the plan went into action on a sunny morning at an event known as Earth Day. Due to was rescheduled. raining.

Team personnel and forest preserve volunteers joined forces with the goal of removing buckthorn-infested plants and shrubs at the team’s Halas Hall headquarters.

“Knowing that Middlefork Savannah is near and with Lake Forest Academy to the south, we do our best to be a good neighbor,” explained John Bostrom, senior advisor for operations and security.

Bostrom and Forest Director of Community Engagement and Partnerships Rebekah Snyder congratulated staff and volunteers, and they were soon followed by stewardship ecologist Kelly Schultz, who labeled Buckthorn in the same way that some Bears fans are describing Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. can.

“Buckthorne is a jerk,” said Schultz. “It’s not just a weed, it’s a really invasive plant. It causes a lot of harmful issues. Part of why it’s so bad is that it spreads really quickly.”

He said the buckthorn breeds very quickly, changing soil pH and moisture content, making it difficult for native species to thrive.

“In fact it is changing the foundations of other trees and flowers that were here,” she said.

After Schultz offered some advice on how to cut back deer-invading plants, a roughly 30-member group set to work with pruners and hand saws, with LCFPD volunteers offering some guidance.

A lesson learned quickly was that buckthorn-infested branches can drop early.

“Buckthorne love to tangle. When you get a vine out there, you don’t know which way or where something is going to hit, so you always have to be on your toes,” said volunteer Brian Campbell Explained.

Among the Bears staff who participated was Brian Pete, director of stadium and event operations, who watched the trees.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of buckthorn,” he said. “I thought it was more of a weed than a tree.”

With a team of about 30 people working on the field, a large swath of buckthorn trees and shrubs were removed, and Bostrom said there was no longer a place to replant the area.

“We want to keep it natural,” he said.

Bostrom said similar events may take place in the future after discussions with LCFD and that in addition to environmental goals, team executives like to promote volunteerism for their employees.

“Our people are having a good time and it’s very productive work,” he said.

The volunteers were later promised a tour of the team’s indoor practice facility, the Walter Peyton Center.

For his part, Campbell said he hadn’t watched a football game in years, but was happy he could contribute to the buckthorn elimination process.

“Knowing that we are building a better habitat for everything,” he said. “It’s satisfying to know that you are making a difference to ecology in the area.”

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