Horn Field Campus Gets Arbor Day Foundation Grant for Needed Reforestation Project
January 14, 2013
MACOMB, IL – Thanks to a grant from the Arbor Day Foundation, Western Illinois University's Horn Field Campus will become a model for local reforestation initiatives. In addition, according to Rob Porter, assistant professor in Western's recreation, park and tourism administration department (RPTA), the reforestation project will enable RPTA students, as well as students in other natural resource management-oriented programs on campus, to gain hands-on experience in reforestation.
"It will provide a service learning opportunity in community partnership and reforestation," Porter noted. "The positive effect on the local ecosystem will be a substantial benefit, as well."
According to Mindy Pheiffer, program coordinator at WIU's Horn Field Campus (which is administered by the RPTA department), information about the grant opportunity was originally forwarded to Porter; David King, executive director of Prairie Hills Resource Conservation and Development, Inc., in Macomb; and herself by Barrie McVey, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources District Forester at Argyle State Park in nearby Colchester.
Written by Porter and King, the Arbor Day Foundation's grant award will help facilitate the ongoing strategic plan for WIU's 92-acre retreat: to continue to work toward making Horn Field Campus' forest and prairie areas ecologically healthy, recreationally safe and aesthetically pleasing.
"Unfortunately, the current health of the forest is very poor. It is overgrown with invasive species, which prohibits the natural regeneration of the native hardwoods, so most of the trees are old, with little to no regrowth," Pheiffer explained. "One of the ongoing projects at Horn has been the constant removal of invasive species, and now we are losing trees to oak wilt, so not only is there no new growth, but much of the old growth is also now dying. Some of these trees provide much needed shade around our challenge course, which is utilized by University and community groups from around the region."
The Benefits of University-Community Partnership
King said the grant will provide more than $10,000 for 16,350 saplings to plant at HFC at the challenge course area and in the surrounding woodlands.
"We will oversee the reforestation of Horn Field Campus to ensure the bare-root seedlings are planted properly," King said. "The reforestation will be a huge effort involving many hours of labor and people to help, and we will work with Mindy, Rob, WIU students and others to select a tree nursery or nurseries and species of trees to purchase. Prairie Hills will also help coordinate the transportation, storage, tools to plant and logistics of the effort."
According to King, the underlying mission of Prairie Hills, a non-profit organization founded in 1976, is helping communities help themselves—whether it is for plant, animal or human communities.
"We provide programs and services that help them thrive. Our vision is sustainable growth and productive ecosystems, and we are committed to increasing capacity of organizations, communities, individuals and businesses to protect, restore and mange natural habitats. The Horn Field Campus project is one of many at WIU with which our organization has been involved. In addition, a few of Western's faculty members (such as Curriculum and Instruction Associate Professor Melissa Stinnett, who is a member of our literacy program, and Rob, who is a board member of the Prairie Land Conservancy and the Community Gardens, which are both divisions of Prairie Hills) serve in various capacities for Prairie Hills. Through these associations, networking and common interests, we have been able to produce great projects, such as the Horn Field Campus project, which have substantial public benefits," King noted.
He said for the Horn Field Campus reforestation grant, the Arbor Day Foundation and Prairie Hills will enter into a formal agreement soon, and it will delineate the requirements for the grant-fund distribution for the project. The grant's initial funding period is three years, and after that, Porter and King will request a three-year extension.
According to Porter, the reforestation project will not only help the tree growth at HFC, but it will have benefits for other plant life and wildlife.
"Forest habitat is disappearing in Illinois due to major agricultural activity, Porter noted. "It provides biodiversity not found in prairies or agricultural land. Spring wildflower species, such as prairie trillium, Virginia bluebell and Jack-in-the-Pulpit, thrive in the forest understory, and animal species such as red-headed woodpeckers nest in tree cavities. In addition, burrowing crayfish live along the stream. Other wildflowers, wildlife and migrating/nesting birds depend on these forest patches, too. The forest habitats filter water and prevent runoff and erosion by absorbing rainfall."
For more information, contact Pheiffer at (309) 833-5798 or MJ-Pheiffer@wiu.edu; Porter at (309) 298-1967 or R-Porter@wiu.edu; or King at (309) 833-4747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.