Brush mowing at Illinois DNR Franklin Creek Natural Area April 2020

On March 31, 2020 the Fecon 200 brush mower was trucked to FCNA. The mower is owned and operated by the Middle Rock Conservation Partners, a private non profit.
Notice in 1939 this area was prairie pasture and farm field. Prior to this it was prairie and oak savanna sustained by frequent fires set by Native Americans and their ancestors for centuries and millenia. Former prairie pastures left fallow became dense brush.
Mowing started at the end of March, 2020

Red lines are old woven wire fence and posts that were removed.

Curt Brauhn of DNR hauled fence and junk for a morning.

We planted a rich mix of seed harvested from Nachusa Grasslands with an agricultural combine.

Two grain wagons of seed were planted, about 30-40 pounds of seed per acre.

The seed is a rich mix of flowers and grasses.

6 simple interpretive fliers were mounted around FCNA

Facebook posts describing how and why the work was done were posted with the Franklin Creek Conservation Association

Major trails were hand cleared of scattered branches from the mowing. This took ten hours.

The Middle Rock Conservation Partners service truck was important for supporting the machine and its operators. Here the cutting knives are being sharpened.

Before and after brush mowing. This bur oak is in middle of both photos.

1950s Desoto before and after mowing

Before and after brush mowing

FCNA below in 2016 and in 1939 as black and white aerial

Former prairie pastures left fallow became dense brush. Mowing was mostly invasive box elder and exotic bush honeysuckle, with occasional cherry, Osage orange, honey locust, and elm

Nachusa Grasslands has been mowing brush for three decades. Below is a brush mower in 2003 mowing primarily elm trees that had been encroaching the wet meadow. The background photo is the unit currently, handsome and diverse.

Brush mowing slash looks ugly but is temporary. Within a year the slash was hard to find on the ground. Mowing opens the habitat to sunlight, and prescribed fire keeps it open.

We do this work to create healthy diverse habitat for all sorts of species.

Meet the brush mowing operators

On the left is Bill Kleiman whose day job is running Nachusa Grasslands the last 28 years. Bill is a director with the Illinois Prescribed Fire Council, and has been a burn boss on over 400 fires. He co-leads the Grassland Restoration Network publishing a blog for them. Bill serves as a volunteer with the Middle Rock Conservation Partners. He has received recognition from the Natural Areas Association and the Society of Ecological Restoration.

On the right is Damian Considine, longtime volunteer supporting many natural areas in the region. Damian had a career with the Department of Transportation in Lee County. He is the Volunteer Hunting Coordinator for Dixon Park District and competes in archery.

Bill and Damian were volunteers on this project, with Middle Rock Conservation Partners the owners of the 200 horsepower brush mower.

Thank you to DNR's Matt Hoogerwerf and Russell Blogg for their support of natural area restoration at Franklin Creek Natural Area.


Most photos by Bill Kleiman with handsome photos by Charles Larry and others.