The Natural Land Institute, a not-for-profit, land conservation group based in Rockford, has acquired a 4-acre addition to the Harlem Hills Nature Preserve with funding from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation (ICECF). The ICECF is an independent, Chicago-based, not-for-profit grant-making institution, created to support efforts that protect and improve the environment in Illinois communities by increasing energy efficiency, expanding the use of renewable energy resources, and preserving and enhancing natural areas and wildlife habitats.
ICECF has made several grants to local agencies and organizations in northern Illinois, including the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District, Boone County Conservation District and the Natural Land Institute. The foundation helped the Natural Land Institute purchase 233 acres of bottomland forest along the Kyte River in Ogle County and provided funds to preserve Potawatomi Woods, 293 acres in DeKalb County, owned by the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District. As an independent foundation, the ICECF gets the money for its programs from investment income earned on its endowment provided by Commonwealth Edison.
Jerry Paulson, executive director of the Natural Land Institute, said, Its great that the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation is there to support important projects like this when state funds have been drastically cut. He said the addition to the nature preserve will provide protection for the rare plants, butterflies, insects and other wildlife found there.
The owners of the tract purchased by the Natural Land Institute, Kenneth and Mary Jane Wylie, wanted to protect their land, because they knew about the pasque flowers, cream wild indigo, leadplant and prairie dropseed that make it a high-quality gravel hill prairie remnant. They also knew it would make a significant addition to the Harlem Hills Nature Preserve. More than 20 years ago, they entered into an agreement that when they were ready to sell their land, they would first make it available to a conservation organization for purchase.
At 55 acres, the Harlem Hills Nature Preserve is Illinois largest and finest remaining example of a gravel hill prairie. It has a great diversity of plant species, including several that are threatened or endangered in Illinois. The preserve is east of Forest Hills Road and north of Windsor Road in Loves Park, and is open to the public. It is owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The Natural Land Institute will add the Wylie tract to the nature preserve.
From the June 1-7, 2005, issue