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Article posted: 1/29/2014 9:51 AM

Editorial: Conservation efforts start at home

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By The Daily Herald Editorial Board

After two days of hunkering down and, for the most part, staying inside, it's refreshing to think ahead to warmer days and the ongoing efforts of groups like Citizens for Conservation to preserve land in its natural state.

Even in winter, there are beautiful sights to behold on the more than 3,000 acres of natural land saved by the Barrington area organization. As Sam Oliver, staff director, told the Daily Herald in a report Monday, the land it owns (415 acres) and the land it has helped preserve (3,150 acres) is "part of the fabric of life here -- it's what people can see, feel and relate to."

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Indeed. But in addition to the preserved land that CFC works to protect through its "Saving Living Space for Living Things" mission, it also educates and encourages homeowners to do their part to contribute to conservation.

"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," Oliver said.

A visit to the group's website, www.citizensforconservation.com, helps homeowners get started. For example, a list of seasonal tips includes these for winter: leave plants standing, melt ice without salt and start growing your own plants with seeds.

As we get closer to spring -- yes, only 50 days away! -- plan to refresh your lawn naturally by aerating, raking, overseeding and adding compost. Many more tips await you for spring, summer and fall.

Want to attend classes? A February program will teach homeowners how to deal successfully with rainwater on their property. Or slideshows are available on how to landscape with native plants, trees and shrubs and how to look for and remove invasive plant species.

"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," Oliver said. "We have the potential to be a model of best practices."

Certainly, there is interest from the community in the organization's efforts. Oliver said volunteers contributed more than 11,000 hours during 2013. There is no reason not to expect that number to grow this year. "There is a place for everyone who wants to be involved," she said.

Organizations like Oliver's are not unique to Lake County. The Conservation Foundation at conservationfoundation.org, for example, focuses on similar efforts in DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties. We encourage residents to get involved in these efforts, as preserving open spaces and learning how to best work with the nature surrounding us -- at home and in our communities -- is beneficial to all.

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