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A witness to history

October 17, 2020

I have been a volunteer steward for the Forest Preserve District of Will County for nearly 30 years.  I have a site assigned to me that I have been working on throughout those 30 years.  I also do restoration work days throughout the county.  At our semiannual meeting of Resource Management Volunteers we were given information on an initiative to try and find some of Illinois' witness trees.  These trees were marked in the early 1800s as land surveyors went out to map the State of Illinois.  Several volunteers decided to take the challenge and go to sites to try to find some of these witness trees.  At my site there were several white oaks and a sugar maple.  After studying the information at the witness tree website, I had a feeling I knew where one of those trees might be.  I asked a fellow volunteer to come along with his smartphone that has GPS and we went to verify that the tree I knew of was indeed a witness tree.  After taking readings and photos and submitting information, we were thrilled to know that we had found one of those sentinels of a time gone by.  I felt a real sense of history even standing near this giant. I thought about how life has changed so much since this oak was a seedling.  The tree looks incredibly healthy and part of my restoration efforts in the year to come will be to try to insure the continued health of this witness tree.  I encourage all citizen-scientists to get involved with the quest for finding these witness trees.  Information on witness trees can be found here:

And, happy hunting.

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