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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Bartlett, Illinois, USA

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Bartlett, Illinois, USA
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Registered: October 2008
Posts: 1
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I conducted my environmental stewardship project in a place that is very important to me, Oak Grove Park in Bartlett, Illinois. My house backs up to this small five acre deciduous forest and I have always loved spending time in it with my friends, as a little kid I would spend hours exploring and searching for animals in it. My family and I have always enjoyed seeing the wildlife that lives in the forest venture into our yard, especially whitetail deer.
While I cleaned the forest I saw several species of animals, I would have seen more animals but picking up trash that is buried in crunchy leaves is quite loud and it probably scared many animals into hiding or at least out of my site. Red and Gray squirrels were the most common mammals that I saw and heard as they chewed on acorns. As dusk approached several Cotton Tail Rabbits emerged from their burrows. At the edge of the forest there is a large mowed grass field and a playground, it was almost completely filled with a large flock of Canadian Geese who were making a stop on their way south. I did not see any deer or raccoons but I did find their droppings throughout the woods.
The forest consists mostly of Shag Bark Hickories, Bur and Pin Oak trees, these all produce nuts which is why this small patch of forest can sustain so many animals. When I was walking I got my jeans stuck to a plant that had a stem that was completely cover in thin, brown, quarter inch thorns. It no longer had any leaves on it so I couldnít identify it. By the end of the day I had numerous burs attached to my hoody and socks.
Before setting out into the forest, I collected dozens of acorns from my friends deck to plant and scatter in the forest. I had trouble finding information on planting oak trees so I planted the acorns at various depths ranging from just under the leaf litter up to a foot deep. I choose the oak tree to plant not only because it was easy to collect acorns but because there were nearly no young oak trees in the forest. Without young and medium aged trees there is nothing to replace the old ones when they die. This would result in a food and habitat shortage for the many animals that depend on them. I have seen many species create nests in the oaks including Red Tailed Hawks and Brown Bats.
There was an exceeding amount of graffiti, much of which was highly offensive, on the trees. Instead of picking off the bark of the trees to remove it I covered it with gray or brown paint because it seemed less detrimental to the trees. The graffiti in the forest was ugly and shouldnít be seen by the many children who frequent the forest.
Removing garbage from the forest took up the majority of the day; I began at 10am and ended at 7pm when it became to dark for me to see. There was an abundance of refuse that was obvious to see now that the majority of the leaves were gone. Three sides of the forest are surrounded by homes and this trash made it unsightly. Since the woods can be seen by many it is nice to know people will appreciate my hard work. Scrap wood and nails were quite common and were a major safety concern to anyone walking. It was very disappointing to see that the majority of the trash in the woods was recyclable materials like plastic and glass.
Away to drastically reduce glass and plastic litter would be to create a nation wide monetary return for the deposit of recyclable materials. This law would work like a bottle bill (a law that guarantees you a small payment for each glass or plastic bottle that you returned to the state) which have worked very well where employed. This law would have to accept all forms of recyclable material by weight, this way people could not cheat they government out of money by cutting the materials into small pieces and asking for money for each piece. The monetary reward for returning reusable substances would have to be high enough for the public to think itís worthwhile to collect garbage but low enough so that the government could sell it back to manufacturers to use again and still make a profit. The bill would have to accept all types of matter even the uncommon types for it to work. For the system to be effective it must be as easy and hassle free as possible for people, if the effort put in to picking up the waste is not worth the reward the plan can never succeed. This can be done by having numerous return centers or pick-ups with on-site staff to sort the litter into different categories and determining their value for you then sending a check to the collector.
I am very happy I learned about the Apprentice Ecologists Initiative because it gave not only me but many college bound students a reason to clean up the environment around and the opportunity to win a scholarship for their efforts. Even if I donít win I am still rewarded because I feel good about helping the environment and making Oak Grove Park a nicer and safer place for both animals and people.
Date: October 21, 2008 ∑ Views: 4056 ∑ File size: 38.6kb, 368.9kb: 1125 x 1500 ∑
Hours Volunteered: 7
Volunteers: 2
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 16 to 17
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 5
Trash Removed/Recycled from Environment (kg): 17
Native Trees Planted: 50
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