CHICAGO (AP) — Efforts to remove invasive plant species at eight Chicago-area forest preserves appears to be paying off, according to a volunteer restoration project.

A project by the Centennial Volunteers has been targeting river-edge sites in Cook County.

Group officials said native plants appear to be returning to the locations, which range from 10 acres to 20 acres. The areas include Clayton Smith Woods near Niles and Miami Woods near Morton Grove, which saw its native plant coverage jump from 56% in 2016 to 68% in 2019.

(Credit: Forest Preserves of Cook County)

Invasive plants can impact native growth and block sunlight from reaching the ground, which can hurt soil conditions and habitat for wildlife, according to the group. The removed invasive species include buckthorn and honey suckle.

Funding for the project comes from a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The volunteer project was started in 2014 by several organizations including Friends of the Chicago River and the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

(Credit: Forest Preserve of Cook County)

“Restoration in the many diverse habitats of the Forest Preserves is a high priority for us, and collaboration among like-minded organizations expands our capabilities to protect nature for generations to come,” said a statement from Arnold Randall, general superintendent of the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

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