MONTICELLO — Allerton Park was inducted into the Old-Growth Forest Network on Earth Day on Saturday, April 22, 2023. Staff from the Old-Growth Forest Network presented a plaque to Park officials at a short recognition ceremony followed by a hike to showcase the spectacular natural features of the park.
Allerton Park, owned by the University of Illinois, consists of about 1,500 acres of natural areas. The Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (INAI) surveyed Allerton Park in 1976 and 2008 documenting 470 acres of very high (old growth and second old growth) and high (old growth and old second growth; grazed) quality forest on the site. This is the largest area of high-quality forest in the Grand Prairie Natural Division. Allerton Park holds INAI category designations of I (high-quality natural communities) and II (specific suitable habitat for endangered or threatened species). Dominant tree species at Allerton Park include White, Black, Northern Red, and Bur Oak, Shagbark, Shellbark, Mockernut and Bitternut Hickory Hackberry, Silver Maple, and American Sycamore.
According to Nate Beccue, Natural Areas Manager at the park, “Allerton Park is one of the most beautiful forests in Central Illinois and also one of the largest areas of contiguous forests. Large, forested tracts like Allerton are important breeding areas for many neotropical birds whose populations have declined dramatically as forest fragmentation has created smaller isolated woodlots throughout the region.”
The mission of the Old-Growth Forest Network (OGFN) is to connect people with nature by creating a national network of protected, publicly accessible forests. The organization’s goal is to ensure the preservation of at least one forest in every county in the United States that can sustain a forest, estimated to be 2,370 out of a total of 3,140 counties. OGFN’s program works to identify forests for the Network, ensure their protection from logging, and connect people to these forests to experience mature and old-growth forests. OGFN also educates about the extraordinary ecological and human wellness benefits of old-growth forests, and speaks out regarding immediate threats to specific ancient forests. Founded in 2012 by Dr. Joan Maloof, OGFN has recognized over 190 forests in 33 states. Allerton Park will be the second Illinois forest to join the Old-Growth Forest Network, following Beall Woods State Park in Wabash County on April 15th. The full list of forests in the Network may be viewed at www.oldgrowthforest.net.
Nick Sanchez, Network Manager for OGFN said, “Earth Day is the perfect day to celebrate and recognize Allerton Park. Whether you’re seeking an immersive time in nature for spiritual renewal, or seeking answers to questions that have informed more than 300 research papers, this forest provides outsized benefits that extend far beyond its boundaries and we are proud to welcome it into the Network.”
OGFN depends on volunteers in each U.S. county to help identify and induct forests into the Network. Interested volunteers are welcome to contact OGFN through www.oldgrowthforest.net.