The Natural Land Institute (NLI) announced the purchase of a pristine, 39-acre wetland area east of Pecatonica with a $193,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation. The purchase by the local land conservation organization based in Rockford will assure the marsh and wet meadows will remain a permanent sanctuary for birds, ducks, frogs and other wildlife, and help protect water quality for future generations of Pecatonica River Valley residents.
Jerry Paulson, executive director of NLI, said the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation is an independent, Chicago-based, not-for-profit, grant-making institution. It was 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.
Paulson said the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation helped NLI protect the land, because the marsh, wet prairie and sedge meadow remove pollutants from water. Quality wetlands like these have a natural and efficient cleansing system that provides the clean water people in our communities depend on, Paulson said.
The area also contains a deep marsh that is rare in the region and is important habitat for several endangered and threatened species of birds. The wetlands have been described as one of the natural gems of the region by local bird expert Lee Johnson of Shirland. For decades, Lee has been a close observer of birds in and around these shallow and deep wetlands near Pecatonica. Lee has told everyone who would listen how critical they are for species such as sandhill crane, American bittern, least bittern, short-eared owl and yellow-headed blackbird, Paulson said.
The wetlands are about 3 miles east of Pecatonica between Cox and Telegraph roads, and were purchased from Robert Nieman. Nieman said: I am pleased that the Natural Land Institute has been able to purchase and protect this land. My son, Dan, and I have enjoyed a family tradition of pheasant hunting on this land on opening day, but we are glad the marsh will be protected forever.
NLI will name the wetlands the Nieman Marsh. NLI is a member-supported, private, and not-for-profit land conservation organization. Since 1958, it has protected more than 12,000 acres of woodlands, prairies and wetlands in its effort to create an enduring legacy of natural land in northern Illinois for people, plants and animals.
From the June 21-27, 2006, issue