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NEW: Senseless actions at LaBagh Woods imperil years-long restoration
Vandalism to fences leaves native shrubs vulnerable to deer browsing
When Katy Krigbaum thinks of LaBagh Woods, she thinks of tiny Witch Hazel seedlings.
“They’re like little lettuces,” she says. “Without fencing, they’ll be gone in a nanosecond.”
Krigbaum and a bevy of other volunteers have been carefully nurturing the landscape at the preserve for the past eight years. What was once a degraded urban woodland has sprung back to life. That’s what makes a recent spate of vandalism so troubling. A person (or persons) have been taking down fencing around vulnerable plants.
“With the uncontrolled number of deer at LaBagh, deer browsing is rampant, and some plantings are already completely gone,” Krigbaum says.
After noticing the downed fencing, volunteers returned and put it back up, only to have it removed again days later, with stakes bent and zip-ties cut. The Cook County Forest Preserve Police are investigating.
“We don’t want to be defeated or stop what we’re doing here,” Krigbaum says.
LaBagh Woods is one of the premier migratory bird stopover sites in Chicago, if not Illinois. It’s a bird magnet amid the highly urban North Side, recording 215 bird species.
Through the years, Krigbaum has made 40 trips to Possibility Place Nursery in Monee, Ill., to pick up native species for planting in LaBagh’s rich soils—4,000 native shrubs have been planted in all. The total costs for the plantings and fencing, sourced by Chicago Ornithological Society from donations, grants and its own funds, is more than $86,000.
For now, planting is paused while the investigation continues. The best thing to do is to be vigilant at LaBagh Woods. Don’t confront anyone, but call police at 708-771-1001 if fencing is being removed.
“We have had minor incidents, but nothing on this scale,” Krigbaum says. “This is threatening to the vitality of our project.”