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posted: 1/27/2014 6:00 AM

Caring in Action: CFC helps natural habitats to thrive

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  • CFC volunteers freshen the nesting sites on Baker's Lake Island with discarded live Christmas trees from Barrington. Eighty to 100 trees were taken across the ice to the island.

      CFC volunteers freshen the nesting sites on Baker's Lake Island with discarded live Christmas trees from Barrington. Eighty to 100 trees were taken across the ice to the island.
    Photos courtesy of CFC

  • Citizens for Conservation members walk in the 2012 Barrington 4th of July parade, winners of the Village President's Award.

      Citizens for Conservation members walk in the 2012 Barrington 4th of July parade, winners of the Village President's Award.

  • A. Wendy Paulson helps fourth-graders combine their bags of big blue stem seed. The seeds are processed and used in prairie restorations in the greater Barrington area.

      A. Wendy Paulson helps fourth-graders combine their bags of big blue stem seed. The seeds are processed and used in prairie restorations in the greater Barrington area.

  • Students and teachers from Wauconda's Da Vinci Waldorf School perform an afternoon of service for Citizens for Conservation at Flint Creek Savanna South.

      Students and teachers from Wauconda's Da Vinci Waldorf School perform an afternoon of service for Citizens for Conservation at Flint Creek Savanna South.

  • Every June, the CFC holds its native plant sale to raise money and perpetuate native species in area gardens

      Every June, the CFC holds its native plant sale to raise money and perpetuate native species in area gardens

  • Students seine with Citizens for Conservation.

      Students seine with Citizens for Conservation.

  • Members collect seeds at the Grigsby Prairie in Barrington Hills.

      Members collect seeds at the Grigsby Prairie in Barrington Hills.

  • Sam Oliver

      Sam Oliver

 
Daily Herald staff report

"Saving Living Space for Living Things," is Citizens for Conservation's motto.

The Barrington area organization is proud to have saved more than 3,000 acres of natural land since 1971. As well, the classes, programs and volunteer opportunities CFC offers year round is broad in scope.

This organization is a perfect fit for "Caring in action," since for this group, caring about saving our natural habitat comes with a great deal of action. And we can all take part.

We talked with staff director Sam Oliver about the organization, its diverse projects and the fun they've had saving the habitat over the years.

Q. What is CFC's biggest success story so far?

Oliver: Citizens for Conservation is the largest nonprofit landowner in Lake County. We own 415 acres in the Barrington area, and have helped preserve 3150 acres. That's an important part of the fabric of life here -- it's what people can see, feel and relate to.

Q. What was your best volunteer event (and what made it so great)?

Oliver: Everything we do is a volunteer event, because that's how everything is accomplished. Each aspect of CFC has its own character and flavor, whether it's a weekly winter workday, a community education program, a youth education program, etc. However, a wonderful example of a special volunteer event was the September celebration of the 25th anniversary of CFC's Flint Creek Savanna, a preserve of 135 acres of prairie, savanna and wetland that was acquired over the years by donations from our members and community supporters, and restored by thousands of hours by our committed volunteers and interns. Flint Creek Savanna won an Excellence in Restoration award from the Environmental Protection Agency and Chicago Wilderness and the celebration was the culmination of all of this -- with plans for the future.

Q. Who are your volunteers?

Oliver: Our volunteers are truly amazing. In 2013 they contributed more 11,000 volunteer hours, setting records for numbers of volunteers and hours in our restoration projects. CFC volunteers are all ages; families with young children, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Eagle Scouts, corporations and businesses who come on special workdays, restoration volunteers who, in some seasons, work three days a week, high school students, college students, retired executives, men and women who work both in the office and in the field. They come from a wide geographic area and some are quite experienced; new volunteers join constantly and are always welcome. Some of our volunteers specialize in providing programs for the community, others are devoted to our youth education programs. Still others are wildlife monitors. The most important point is that there is a place for everyone who wants to be involved.

Q. What do you use donations for?

Oliver: Since so much is accomplished through volunteers, the major use of our funds is for land acquisition -- Saving Living Space for Living Things. We do have wonderful gifts of land, but often a piece has to be purchased in order to be preserved. Of course, in any of the transactions, there are legal fees, survey fees, all of which is necessary to achieve our mission.

Q. What is one thing people misunderstand about the conservation movement?

Oliver: Often they think they don't have the knowledge to make a difference on their own. However, there is a great amount of energy and education right now going into helping homeowners understand that each private property can contribute significantly to conservation, one yard at a time, through the use of native plants and healthy yard maintenance practices. This initiative is quite exciting and has great potential.

Q. How should we as a society engage children in conservation?

Oliver: We have excellent examples close to home. CFC is very engaged in Leave No Child Inside programs year round, ranging from raptors to astronomy and caregivers are required to attend, so the whole family gets involved. We are involved with the District 220 elementary science curriculum, where all of the third- and fourth-graders are on the prairie in the fall, learning to appreciate that whole new world, making discoveries and also actually helping with seed collecting. We are also involved at the preschool level. Outside -- early and often!

Q. What is your dream, concerning CFC? Is there one overriding thing you want to see CFC accomplish in your lifetime?

Oliver: In this area, where people have been aware for such a long time of the unique landscape that we share, we have the potential to be a model of best practices. We can all, by becoming even more knowledgeable and committed, put together many yards and green corridors, a "national park" of sorts that protects our water table, air quality, native plants and wildlife for everyone to enjoy. We have the expertise and will continue to foster the will, the community understanding and spirit that can make this happen.

Q. What is the best thing about Citizens for Conservation?

Oliver: The people and their passion.

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