Pecatonica River Forest to remain wild, natural

Online Staff Report

July 26, the Natural Land Institute (NLI) acquired 142 acres of land along the Pecatonica River and purchased a conservation easement on an adjoining 68 acres of original bottomland forest, ox-bow ponds, marsh and restored wetland, preserving critical wildlife habitat in northern Illinois.

The protected land lies between the Pecatonica River Forest Preserve and land owned by the Illinois Conservation Foundation that is protected by a conservation easement held by Ducks Unlimited, completing a 1,425-acre complex of permanently protected forest and wetland along the river.

More than 100 species of birds have been found in the forests, marshes and meadows, including Pileated woodpeckers, Scarlet tanager, Cerulean warbler, Bald eagle, Sandhill cranes, and American white pelicans.

The spring wildflowers in the forest include large patches of Blue-eyed Mary, Bluebells, Woodland Phlox and Trillium. Stands of white oak, red oak and pin oak intermix with black maple and sugar maple, hackberry and walnut that represent the original hardwood forests that were cut to make furniture by local cabinet-makers and carpenters.

Funds to acquire the land and the conservation easement were contributed by NLI members and from grants by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and the Grand Victoria Foundation’s Vital Lands Illinois program.

Assistance with the restoration of the former cropland is being provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program, the Winnebago County Soil & Water Conservation District, the local chapter of Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited and the Illinois Conservation Foundation.

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