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The Environmental and Forestry Commission aims to preserve and enhance the forest canopy, publicly accessible open/green space and walkability of the Village of Winnetka.IMG_1718

In all natural environments, an ecologically balanced and publicly accessible open space must be maintained and enhanced. This open space is necessary for a multitude of needs that include but are not limited to visual and kinetic enjoyment, storm water management and maintenance of biodiversity. Even though most of the larger, green (forest) and blue (lake) open spaces are managed by the Forest Preserve, Winnetka Park District and schools, the Village manages a large amount of open space such as streets, sidewalks and parkways. The Village’s commitment to preserving land is evident by its status as a “Tree City USA Community”.

More details can be found in the Forestry section of the Village’s Public Works page.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

What is IPM?

According to the Midwest Pesticide Action Center (MPAC), IPM is a process you can use to solve pest problems in your turf and gardens while minimizing risks to people, animals, and our environment. IPM is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties. IPM is the way pests werecontrolled by humans for thousands of years before synthetic pesticides were developed (which was only 60 years ago). IPM is a proven, cost-effective (University of California) pest controlapproach that eliminates the causes of pest infestations instead of merely treating the symptoms. It consists of steps to identify and eliminate pests' food, water, and access, which helps prevent future infestations. The goal is to make structures unattractive and inaccessible to pests so that pests can’t get in and make themselves at home.

Over the years, the pest control industry has relied heavily on one strategy to control pests -- pesticides. Pests develop resistance to pesticides and these chemicals become less effective over time. Most entomologists agree that the “spray and pray” method is outdated and ineffective; so too is routine monthly “preventative” spraying. With an IPM, pesticides are used only after monitoring indicates they are needed according to established guidelines, and treatments are made with the goal of removing only the target organism. Pest control materials are selected and applied in a manner that minimizes risks to human health, beneficial and nontarget organisms, and the environment. IPM is a safer and more effective way to control pests, and is more cost effective in the long run.

IPM practitioners analyze each pest situation to determine the best management approach using five basic steps: inspection, identification, recommendation, treatment/control, and evaluation. Inspection and identification are necessary to diagnose a problem and develop a customized action plan.

Pesticides and IPM

Pesticides are toxic chemicals designed kill specific plants and animals/insects. According to the EPA, about 5.2 billion pounds of pesticides are used worldwide each year, with 1.1 billion pounds being used in the United States. Pesticides target insects, plants, fungi, and animals we want to eliminate. Unfortunately,targeting can bring unintended consequences, such as harming beneficial insects, other wildlife, and sometimes even ourselves.

The use and misuse of these chemicals have been linked to a number of serious health and environmental effects. Strong scientific evidencehas connected pesticide exposure to a host of health hazards from asthma and ADHD in children, to cancer and reproductive problems in adults. The production and use of pesticidesmay also reduce fertility of the soil below, pollute our water ecosystems, and threaten our drinking water sources and wildlife. Moreover, avoidance of pesticides, will attract more earthworms, which aerate and fertilize soil naturally (and freely), which in turn increases plant life thatattractsbirds and other pollinators.

It’s important to be fully aware of the harmful effects of pesticides so we can understand the need for alternative strategies for pest control, and help promote healthier communities, homes, and schools.

5 Steps of IPM

  1. Inspect, Identify and Monitor: Place insect sticky traps in kitchens, bathrooms, pantries, and storage closets, and post pest sighting logs in areas where pests are commonly found. Encourage building occupants to report any pest sightings or signs of pest activity (droppings, scratch marks, shed skins, etc). If an infestation is suspected, a thorough inspection should be conducted to identify exactly
    what pest you’re dealing with and how severe the problem is, so you can focus your efforts on choosing an appropriate course of treatment.
  2. Restrict Access: The easiest way to prevent infestations is to keep pests out of your facility. You can restrict access by: caulking or cementing cracks and holes on the outside and inside of the building including along baseboards; installing door sweeps and avoiding propping doors open; screening windows; placing dumpsters far from your backdoor.
  3. Eliminate Basic Needs: All living things need food, water, and shelter to survive; eliminate these things and pests will be forced to move elsewhere. Good sanitation (especially in areas where food is prepared, stored or eaten) is an effective way to prevent pests. Periodically clean behind equipment and appliances and under shelving. Store food in pest proof containers. Make sure all garbage cans have tight fitting lids. Repair leaky pipes and remove standing water. Clean drains on a regular basis, especially floor drains in food areas. A messy room provides many places for pests to hide. Get rid of clutter! Adjust shelving so that you can easily see and clean under it.
  4. Treat Responsibly and Appropriately: There are a wide range of nonchemical and least- toxic chemical options available. You can choose a treatment only after a thorough inspection of the structure and accurate identification of the pest. Any chemical treatment must be targeted to areas where pests are seen or known to be living. Least toxic options like baits, traps and dusts used properly are more effective and safer than sprays, bombs, and fumigants. Keep monitoring throughout the treatment to make sure it is working.
  5. Evaluate the Program: The IPM program should be evaluated on a regular basis so that problems may be identified and addressed. Work with your Pest Management Professional and get feedback from building occupants to improve the program.

Basics of Natural Lawn Care

Soil Test: Healthy lawns require healthy soil. Grass thrives with properly balanced nutrients. Perform a soil test every three to five years to help determine exactly what you need to maintain your soil’s health. Testing is inexpensive (a soil test kit can be purchased for less than $20) and reduces unnecessary fertilizer applications.

Organic Fertilizer: Switch to an organic fertilizer made from plant or animal materials. Most commercial fertilizers have too much “fast release” nitrogen. Fast-release nitrogen is like junk food for plants, creating a cycle of dependency between your yard and synthetic chemicals. Grass can’t use all of the nitrogen at once, so a portion washes away, polluting nearby water resources. Organic fertilizers, on the other hand, allow the grass to absorb nutrients as needed as the excess nutrients bind to soil. Grass cycling, or leaving grass clippings on the lawn, is another great natural alternative to synthetic fertilizers. Nitrogen based synthetic fertilizers “green’ the grass leaves, putting all the growth into the top of the plant, whereas the additional nutrients in organic fertilizers feed the root system as well and the beneficial microbes in the soil biome. This helps the plant sink its roots deeper into the soil, where it can find more water and better withstand drought. So you won’t have to water as much. Organically fertilized plants have more developed vertical root systems than the nitrogen centrically fertilized plants, which have shallower root systems that make them more vulnerable to heat and drought.

Grubs may be controlled by using microscopic beneficial nematodes suspended in a water-based solution. Organic lawn services spray the nematode solution on your lawn, where they enter the mouth of the grub larvae. The nematodes secrete a bacteria from their gut that gives the grubs blood poisoning, and they die within 24-48 hours. Whichever methods are employed on your turf, fertilize only in the Spring and in the late Summer/early Fall when you reseed and grasses, not weeds, grow the most

Reseed and Top Dress Annually: Reseed at least once a year, in the spring or fall, with a mix of grass seed and compost. Select a variety of grass that is well suited to your region. Use hardy grasses such as fescues and ryes when possible. To establish the seed, water slightly each day for at least two weeks. Top dressing with compost will naturally replenish your lawn, providing nutrients and microbes that keep your soil healthy.

Eliminate Weeds Naturally: Use a hand weeder to get the root source. Instead of using synthetic pesticides on your lawn and garden. Consider using corn gluten meal (CGM) (an organic, corn by-product that is a natural preventative weed control that breaks down over time as an organic nitrogen source) to reduce weeds. Apply it early in the spring usually right after the ground thaws and before the forsythia bloom to get a jump on weeds, which emerge before grass each year. Use a drop spreader for best results. Proteins in CGM inhibit root formation on newly-germinated seeds, killing the plant — it’s called the allelopathic effect. CGM should be applied 6 weeks before seeding or two weeks after, because it can kill grass as well if it’s applied too close to seeding. Do not apply CGM in areas that can run off into watersheds, since it contains nitrogen. Over the course of a few growing seasons, you will see how it reduces weeds naturally. Invest in a sturdy weeding tool and go after weeds as they appear, rather than all at once. Remember that a thick, healthy, dense turf is your best defense against weeds.

Water Correctly: Watering correctly is not about watering your lawn a fixed number of times each week. Instead, you want to water deeply and infrequently early in the morning to minimize evaporation and safeguard against fungus. Ideally, you want one inch of water delivered once a week. Use a tuna can to measure when you have reached one inch. Daily, brief watering discourages deep root growth, one of the essentials of healthy turf grass.

Mow Properly: Mow your lawn to at least three inches high. Correct mowing will increase the strength of the root system and naturally shade out weeds. Don’t mow your lawn every week out of habit if it doesn’t need it. Mow with sharp blades that make a clean cut. Dull blades will rip the grass and weaken your lawn’s defenses.

Diversify Your Yard: The reason turf grass takes so much work to maintain is that it is not native to our region. Turf grass is also a monoculture, which can lead to plant pathogens and diseases. Diversifyyour yard to include native grasses, trees, bushes, and perennials. These plants will enhance the beauty of your home, attract birds and beneficial insects, and give you more time to get out and enjoy the summer!

Additional Resources

Midwest Pesticide Action Center

Activist's Toolkit for Residents

Municipal Pesticide Reduction Toolkit


Pesticides are a valuable tool for Illinois' agricultural production and to the protection of humans and the environment from pests, but it is essential to our general health and welfare that they be regulated to prevent adverse effects on humans and our environment.

Below are resources from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Agriculture regarding pesticide usage:

Pesticide Resources (Environmentla Protection Agency)

Pesticide Use & Regulations (Illinois Department of Agriculture)

Restricted Use Product Summary Report (Environmentla Protection Agency)

Urban Forest Utilization

Did you know that trees removed in Winnetka can be recycled into mulch, furniture, flooring and more? In urban forest utilization, sawmills collect removed trees from communities and use them to create various wood products. The Village currently recycles a portion of their removed parkway trees through this practice. For more information, visit the Illinois Department of Natural Resource’s Urban and Community Forestry Program page, or call the Village Forester at 847 716-3535.

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