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Forest Preserve supporters seek end of burning ban

Thursday, April 28, 2005
Morton Grove Champion
by NICK KATZ

Supporters of controlled burning in Miami Woods Forest Preserve plan to keep up pressure on Cook County Board President John Stroger to lift a moratorium he imposed in 1996.

Earlier this month the Friends of the Morton Grove Forest Preserves submitted a petition to the Cook County Board, which also serves as the Forest Preserve District Board, asking that the moratorium on burning between Dempster and Oakton streets be lifted to allow them to better restore and maintain the site.

At the same time, the Morton Grove Village submitted a resolution iasking that the moratorium be lifted.

Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin,D-13th, who favors lifting the ban, said he plans to have Morton Grove residents who want the ban lifted attend all of the monthly Forest Preserve Board meetings to convince Stroger, who also serves as president of the Forest Preserve Board, to allow prescribed burning in Miami Woods.

"I think we'll be able to get that done in the future," Suffredin said. "I just think it's the right thing to do."

But so far, at least, Stroger has no plan to lift the moratorium.

Steve Mayberry, a spokesman for the Forest Preserve District, said there is no time table for considering a change in the policy.

"It's something he's (Stroger) committed to looking at in the future," Mayberry said. "We're certainly not at the point when the moratorium will be lifted. It's not an issue that's off the radar."

Jane Balaban, a forest preserve steward who lives in Skokie, said the lack of burning for almost 10 years in Miami Woods as well as Bunker Hill and Sauganash located in Chicago has caused a build up of buckthorn and other non-native plants that have cut off light and used up nutrients needed by some native species. As a result, she said, some types of prairie plants have died off and animals that need them for food also have left.

"They kill off many of the native plans and the insects and animals that depend on them are out of luck," she said. "It's like thatch building up in your yard."

In addition, she said, some native plant species need fire to germinate.

Balaban noted that the moratorium initially was imposed by Stroger in response to safety concerns by some residents of the Sauganash area about the use of burning. "A lot of people listened to what a few people were saying," Balaban said.

She said since that time the Forest Preserve District has educated residents about the use of controlled burning and much of the opposition has declined.

"The one person keeping it (ban) in place is President Stroger," Balaban said.

Balaban said she is "hopeful" the moratorium will be lifted. And Suffredin said he would like to see it ended by the fall burning season.

"We're not going away," Balaban said. "Too many people have worked to take care of the place. We're not giving that up."

The resolution submitted by the village cited piles of dried buckthorn in Miami Woods which "create a serious fire hazard which could prove to be a safety hazard to the members of the Village of Morton Grove Fire Department as well as residents and property owners surrounding the Forest Preserve District."

The resolution also noted that the burns are conducted by professional burn teams from the Forest Preserve District and only done in a controlled environment. In addition, the resolution said, no prescribed burn has ever gotten out of control and caused damage or injuries to people or property.

 

 



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