Coalition urges Illinois communities to plant oak trees

CHICAGO (AP) — A coalition of naturalists wants to educate the public about the dwindling population of oak trees in the Chicago area.

Valerie Blaine of Kane County’s Forest Preserve District says oak trees once made up 60 percent of the tree canopy in the region. They now account for less than 5 percent. Homeowners have favored other trees over slower-growing oaks.

The Chicago Tribune reports the Chicago Region Tree Initiative include the Morton Arboretum, the Cook County Forest Preserves and the U.S. Forest Service.

The coalition is encouraging communities to plant oak saplings and is working on an analysis of oak trees growing in the region. Oak trees provide important habitat for wildlife and reduce flooding by absorbing storm water.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office has designated this month Oak Awareness Month.