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Illinois needs more trees — and must preserve its prairies too

Grasslands and oak savannas are vital ecosystems that support important biodiversity and also help sequester carbon, as do trees.

Bell Bowl Prairie in Rockford.
Bell Bowl Prairie in Rockford.
Provided by Cassi Saari

While there is no question that Illinois must play a role in creating and protecting the tree canopy, trees are not the only way to naturally sequester carbon. Grasslands will play an important part in carbon sequestration and as the nation’s Prairie State, Illinois must look seriously at how much grassland is created and protected here.

Studies published in Nature and elsewhere have concluded that prairie grasslands are a major carbon sink that is often overlooked. Although Chicagoans have long recognized that the dominant landscape here is prairie, Cook County does not operate a “prairie preserve” but a forest preserve, one that has planted trees extensively, often at the expense of its native grasslands.

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I love trees as much as the next person and am a proponent of planting more and maintaining the urban canopy that we have, as your recent editorial pointed out. However, grasslands and oak savannas are vital ecosystems that support important biodiversity and also help sequester carbon. We would be wise to not lose sight of the prairies for the trees.

Andrew Mack, Bridgeport

A Schaumburg CEO and Jan. 6

In Jon Seidel’s article on the federal prosecution of former Schaumburg CEO Bradley Rukstales for his participation in the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at our Capitol, Rukstales’ explanation to the court for his actions made me, and I suspect others, burst out laughing.

On one hand, he declares he respects laws and the police and believes in civic engagement. But on the other, he is throwing metal chairs at federal officers, and then physically resisting arrest. To justify why he was there, he further states that he was “frustrated and concerned with our country’s discourse” after last year’s elections.

Hold on — what country and, indeed, what discourse? Apparently by country he means terroristic groups he was allegedly following or involved with, and by discourse he means one-directional diatribes of a defeated Donald Trump, incessantly lying about and tearing down the legitimacy of our national election.

It appears that Mr. Rukstales needs some quiet time to mull over the true meanings of civic engagement, country and honest discourse. A few months in federal prison would be perfect for that.

Michael Collins, Barrington

Keep GOP honest on infrastructure

In the recent past, GOP members of Congress voted “No” on the pandemic relief bill that President Joe Biden signed. But Republicans from New York, Indiana, Texas and Washington state all shamelessly promoted the legislation they fought to defeat.

Now that the infrastructure bill has finally passed, the people and voters of Illinois should be prepared for Illinois GOP House members to take credit for that part of the possible $17 billion that ends up going to their districts, even though they voted “no” on the bill.

I hope the Sun-Times will keep them honest.

George Tafelski, West Elsdon