State forestry council to discuss threats to resources at I Hotel

State forestry council to discuss threats to resources at I Hotel

Since 1961, the number of Illinois sawmills has decreased by 72 percent.

This alarming figure has brought attention to the declining status of the State's forestry resources, and the Illinois Forestry Development Council has set a meeting Tuesday evening at the I Hotel's Chancellor Ballroom to discuss threats and forestry issues.

IFDC Director Bill Gradle said the main focus of conversation will be discussing the major threats to the forestry resources outlined in the Illinois Forest Action Plan. The conference will highlight the loss of forest industries and mills statewide and will conclude with a letter to the General Assembly.

"It's mainly getting folks to prioritize those threats while we propose ideas on how to address those threats," Gradle said. "Every year, we write a letter of a report to the General Assembly on our recommendations as to what needs to happen with forestry to protect our forest resources."

The invite-only conference expects 55 guests, including representatives of government, industry and nonprofits from across the state.

The meeting will highlight threats to Illinois' forestry such as exotic invasive plants, insects and pathogens, and damage from floods, wind, and livestock grazing. Gradle said the summit will address many issues that most Illinois natives are unaware of. Specifically, one threat identified in the plan is the loss of oak-hickory forests, the original native ecosystems in many parts of the state.

"A lot of people think of Illinois as a corn and soybean state," he said. "We have 5 million acres of forest land, and trees and forests are a resource that contributes greatly to not only our quality of life but also economically. People just need to be aware of that."

The Illinois Forest Action Plan evaluates the status through a series of topics, including loss of oak-Hickory forests, fragmentation of large forest blocks, increasing forest-health threats, lack of trained forestry professionals, reduction in forest industries and mills, extreme pressure and challenges on urban and community forests, and insufficient forestry funding.