NAPERVILLE, IL – October 23, 2023 – In celebration of “OAKtober” and to positively impact the long-term health of oak ecosystems in the Chicago Region, today, the Nicor Gas Foundation presented a $100,000 grant to support The Morton Arboretum’s Ecosystem Recover Program.
“At Nicor Gas, we have a goal to create, maintain and sustain 10,000 acres of open land within our service area while supporting the region’s tree canopy, reducing threats to the native ecosystem and enhancing the vital and unique role of oaks across the Chicagoland area,” said Tim Hermann, vice president of Gas Operations at Nicor Gas and member of The Morton Arboretum board of advisors. “We are proud to continue our partnership with The Morton Arboretum and the Chicago Region Trees Initiative to remove invasive tree species that are inhibiting our critical oak ecosystem from flourishing.”
The Morton Arboretum is recognizing “OAKtober” this month to educate individuals and communities about the essential contributions of oak trees to the ecosystem not only in Illinois, but throughout the world, where at least one-third of oaks are threatened.
“With this gift from Nicor Gas, we will be able to improve the health of native oak populations, along with a wide range of other native trees and shrubs,” said Lydia Scott, director of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative. Scott said that the funding will be used to collect native seeds and plant native shrubs that support oak ecosystems by creating conditions for native flora and fauna to thrive, rather than invasive species like buckthorn. “Invasive woody plants make up more than forty-five percent of the trees in our region, and it will require everyone working together to eradicate them.”
The Morton Arboretum will also support public landowner efforts to manage invasive species, replant native species and support management practices across the region in parks, forest preserves, and conservation districts. CRTI provides a variety of online resources to help individuals and organizations identify and learn how to properly eradicate invasive species from their property.
“Forty-five percent of the trees in the Chicago region are consider exotic invasive species,” said Michael Brunk, administrator of the Urban and Community Forestry Program with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “These species are prolific at reproduction, are aggressive, and create inhospitable growing conditions for our oak tree ecosystem and other native species. The support of the Nicor Gas Foundation and the work being done by The Morton Arboretum every day is critical to ensuring the oak ecosystem survives and thrives well into the future.”
Oak trees are considered a keystone species, meaning they are depended upon by the entire ecosystem for survival and habitat. Acorns provide food for wildlife and an oak tree’s massive trunk and branches shelter countless species of birds and mammals.
In 2022, Nicor Gas also announced a five-year, $200,000 commitment to help The Morton Arboretum plant and distribute hundreds of trees across the Chicago region. This grant is currently supporting the planting of 750 trees throughout its service territory and is expected to increase the quality of public green space, as well as equitable access to the outdoors.
To learn more about Nicor Gas’ commitment to the more than 650 communities it serves and to increasing sustainability efforts across the region, visit www.nicorgas.com/community.
About Nicor Gas
Nicor Gas is one of four natural gas distribution companies of Southern Company Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO). Nicor Gas serves more than 2.3 million customers in a service territory that encompasses most of the northern third of Illinois, excluding the city of Chicago. For more information, visit nicorgas.com.
About Southern Company Gas
Southern Company Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), America’s premier energy company. Southern Company Gas serves approximately 4.3 million natural gas customers through its regulated distribution companies in four states with approximately 600,000 retail customers through its companies that market natural gas. Other businesses include investments in interstate pipelines and ownership and operation of natural gas storage facilities. For more information, visit southerncompanygas.com.