Diverse natural areas preserved

December 22, 2010

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

Services provided at no charge by nature are worth far more than the real estate value of any ecosystem. While the actual price tag has been placed on some specific services such as bee pollination, most are beyond measure. Basic life support services such as providing clean air and water, waste decomposition, maintenance of biodiversity, renewal of soils and pest control are provided free by naturally functioning ecosystems.

Most people take these services for granted. However, some groups recognize their value and actively work to preserve natural systems.

Three area organizations—including the Prairie Preservation Society of Ogle County (PPSOC), the Byron Forest Preserve District (BFPD) and The Nature Conservancy’s Nachusa Grasslands (Nachusa)—have been preserving natural ecosystems and rare natural areas in Ogle County for present and future generations to enjoy and appreciate. More than 900 acres were added to preserved lands this month. While the efforts share a common goal, each has unique features.

With the help of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, PPSOC purchased an 83-acre tract east of Daysville Road near Oregon, Ill. The land, locally known as Prairie Ridge, had been part of Sinnissippi Forest’s Christmas tree operation, which closed last December. The land has long been known as an outstanding sand prairie, an extremely rare landscape. Mike Jones, a local biologist, surveyed it in 2007 and suggested it be listed as an Illinois Natural Areas Inventory site. A dedication ceremony will be held in spring, timed to coincide with early spring blooms.

BFPD recently purchased the Barrick Homestead Farm on Tower and Oak roads north of Byron, Ill. Not only is it a historic homestead, it has wetlands and forests that the BFPD plans to restore to “give peaceful respite for years to come.” They also purchased 280 acres of oak-hickory forest at Meridian and Weldon roads. Restoration of Hall Creek and some understory management has already been done. The land abuts both Coleman and Severson Dells to produce one macro-site.

Nachusa will increase its nearly 3,000 acres by purchasing 350 acres just west of Lowden Road, 150 of which are remnant prairie that will be restored to its original quality. Protecting this land will help protect the Lost Lake watershed, tributary to the Rock River. According to Bill Kleiman, both the size of the prairie remnant and the overall property are hard to find in this area so close to Nachusa.

The Natural Land Institute (NLI) has recent acquisitions outside of Ogle County. NLI both purchased an easement and received a land donation. Mark Agnoni, owner of Ottertail Marsh along the Sugar River, sold an easement to NLI. The 131-acre wetland contains floodplain forests and sedge meadows and is home to Blanding’s turtles, little green heron and recently returned river otters, unique plants including cordgrass, tussock sedge and sweet flag.

The 45-acre Silver Ridge Preserve in Winnebago County was donated to NLI by Barbara Fell, widow of NLI’s founder, George Fell. The site features woodlands with spring displays of wildflowers.

Citizens of north-central Illinois are fortunate to have these extremely diverse natural areas preserved.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the Dec. 22-28, 2010 issue

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