Forest Restoration and Management

Private landowners often want to learn about and see specific management techniques. LSSI is creating demonstration sites in an effort to provide those opportunities. The goal is to create four demonstration sites in southern Illinois and to have at least one demonstration site within a short drive for most landowners.

Trail of Tears State Forest (established 2017)

This 926-acre demonstration site is in the northern part of the forest and has interpretive signage that allows for a self-guided tour. Foresters are implementing prescribed burns and thinning treatments on the site that mimic natural disturbances. A major goal of this effort is to examine whether prescribed fires should come before or after tree thinning.

There are two control sites and two experimental areas.

Burn First: This area will use two-to-three burns before possibly thinning some canopy trees to increase sunlight reaching the ground.

Thin First: This area will begin with selective thinning to remove up to 40% of the trees. After that, prescribed fires will be used to create space for hickory and oaks.

Control: Two sites are designated as control areas, where no management actions are taken.

What do we know about how to save oak-dominated forests?

Collaborations between biologists and foresters are leading to a shared vision of how to save oak forests. There is an agreement that the process can include carefully planned over-story tree removals, mid-canopy thinning of small trees, the use of prescribed fire, and removal of invasive species.

While the science is providing direction, the challenge has been coordinating efforts to create impacts at scale.

A Vision for the Future

Oak-dominated forests cover hundreds of thousands of acres in; Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky, making-up an area known as the ‘central hardwoods’. These oak forests support many other species directly or indirectly – from deer and turkeys to migrating songbirds, to wildflowers and pollinators. As such, a loss of oaks would be bad news for the species that depend on them.

The Let the Sun Shine In program is making great conservation strides in Illinois and is poised to do big things. As these successes continue to mount, we look forward to exporting this cutting-edge approach to neighboring states with oak forests and similar problems. And that could add up to letting a lot of sun shine into oak forests and making a BIG Difference!!


Maintaining healthy oak forests in southern Illinois involves using a variety of management techniques. WE USE SOPHISTICATED, PROVEN METHODS TO PROTECT AND CONSERVE OUR FORESTS. LEARN MORE ABOUT THEM HERE.

Join us to preserve the forests of Southern Illinois!


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