Vegetation of the Chicago Region as Mapped
by the Public Land Survey 1821-1845

Interactive map available on this page

Understanding the historic pattern and structure of vegetation is critical to its restoration and management. To address these needs, we are reconstructing Chicago region historic vegetation based on data collected by the U.S. Public Land Survey in the early 1800s. We are addressing how the spatial pattern and structure of this vegetation, as well as woody species composition, fit a landscape fire model, with fire-sensitive communities and species restricted to landscape fire breaks.

Our work has produced and interactive vegetation map and technical reports for 7 Chicago region counties. These results show a consistent landscape gradient with prairie in the most fire prone habitats, forest and fire-sensitive trees occurring in fire protected habitat, and savanna and woodland in intermediate habitats. These findings support use of fire to restore and manage remnant vegetation, and provide a model for landscape vegetation pattern and structure.

Selected References

Anderson, R.C. & M.L. Bowles 1999. Deep-soil savannas and barrens of the midwestern United States. pages 155-170 in, R.C. Anderson, J. Fralish, & Jerry Baskin (editors), The savanna, barren, and rock outcrop communities of North America. Cambridge University Press. pdf

Bowles, M.L., M.D. Hutchison, & J.L. McBride. 1994. Landscape pattern and structure of oak savanna, woodland, and barrens in northeastern Illinois at the time of European settlement. Pages 65-73 in, J.S. Fralish, R.C. Anderson, J.E. Ebinger, & R. Szafoni (editors), Proceedings of the North American Conference on Savannas and Barrens. Illinois State University, Normal. pdf

Bowles, M.L., & J.L. McBride. 1994. Presettlement barrens in the glaciated prairie region of Illinois. Pages 65-85 in, J.S. Fralish, R.C. Anderson, J.E. Ebinger, & R. Szafoni (editors), Proceedings of the North American Conference on Savannas and Barrens. Illinois State University, Normal. pdf

Bowles, M., J. McBride, & L. Bell. 1998. Landscape Vegetation Pattern, Composition & Structure of DuPage County, Illinois, as Recorded by the U.S. Public Land Survey (1821-1840). Report to the DuPage County Forest Preserve District, Chicago Wilderness, Fish & Wildlife Service & Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation. The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Ill.  pdf

Bowles, M., J. McBride. 2001. Historic Landscape Vegetation Pattern, Composition & Structure of Will County, Illinois. Report to the Forest Preserve District of Will County, Chicago Wilderness, USDA Forest Service & US Fish & Wildlife Service. The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Ill. pdf

Bowles, M., & J. McBride. 2002. Pre-European Settlement Vegetation of Cook County, Illinois. Report to The Cook County Forest Preserve District, Corlands & The Nature Conservancy. The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Ill. pdf

Bowles, M., & J. McBride. 2003. Pre-European Settlement Vegetation of Kane Co., Illinois. Report to The Kane County Forest Preserve District, Chicago Wilderness, USDA Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, & Illinois Conservation Foundation. The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Ill. pdf

Bowles, M., & J. McBride. 2005. Pre-European Settlement Vegetation of Kendall Co, Illinois. Report to the Kendall County Forest Preserve District, Chicago Wilderness, USDA Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, & Illinois Conservation Foundation. The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Ill. pdf

Bowles, M., & J. McBride. 2005. Presettlement vegetation of Lake County, Illinois. Report to Forest Preserve District of Lake, Chicago Wilderness, USDA Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, & Illinois Conservation Foundation. The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Ill. pdf

Bowles, M., & J. McBride. 2005. Presettlement vegetation of McHenry County, Illinois. Report to the McHenry County Conservation District, Chicago Wilderness, USDA Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, & Illinois Conservation Foundation. The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Ill. pdf

McBride, J. & M. Bowles. 2007. Searching the Public Land Survey for Illinois Natural History. Report to Chicago Wilderness and Illinois Conservation Foundation. The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Ill. pdf

McBride, J. & Bowles, M. 2007. Pre-European Settlement Vegetation of the Chicago Region. Interactive Maps and Reports.  green mapping website