Restoration Stewards at The Morton Arboretum
More than half of The Morton Arboretum’s 1,700 acres are managed as natural areas, including woodlands, prairie, and wetlands. Extensive restoration efforts are underway on this land, which was used for farming, cattle grazing, timber, wood lots, and other activities for many decades before it became part of the Arboretum.

The Arboretum’s restoration heritage includes the pioneering re-creation of the Schulenberg Prairie more than 50 years ago and Plants of the Chicago Region by Arboretum staff members Floyd Swink and Gerould Wilhelm, a major work in conservation biology and restoration ecology.

Today’s restoration efforts are undertaken in the light of Arboretum research in forest ecology,  plant conservation biology, urban forests, and other areas, and in collaboration with staff scientists and with the help of many volunteers. Lessons from the Arboretum’s restoration efforts can inform the studies of conservation biology and ecology as well as efforts elsewhere to preserve and restore native plants, animals and ecosystems.

Restoration at the Arboretum is guided by a Master Conservation and Management Plan, based on a comprehensive environmental survey supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The survey of our wooded natural areas and adjacent leased property establishes critical baseline information. The data helped us elicit patterns of land use histories throughout the natural areas and associate them with successional changes.

A thorough analysis of historic vegetation, past and present land use practices, and current vegetation provided insight into how these communities changed through time, and provides a basis for future conservation efforts.

Woodland restoration at The Morton Arboretum
A healthy woodland provides habitat for a high diversity of native plants and animals. Oak woodlands were once more prevalent in the Northern Illinois region, but today, healthy woodlands are rare. Here at The Morton Arboretum land managers, volunteers, and volunteer woodland stewards are restoring 60 acres of our East Woods. The demonstration project seeks to advance ecological restoration practices; enhance our knowledge of how a woodland ecosystem works; and serve as a model for other initiatives that aim to recover a woodland's health and long-term sustainability. LEARN MORE

Managing woodlands
The Morton Arboretum’s efforts to restore its woodland habitat offer insight and practical help to other land managers. Learn more

How you can help
There are many ways you can help restore woodlands and other natural areas at the Arboretum and beyond. Homeowners and large property owners such as community associations can use native plants and other measures to manage their landscapes more sustainably. 

Woodland Stewardship Program
At The Morton Arboretum, trained stewards are vital partners in restoring the glory of the oak woods. Learn more