Daily Herald opinion: Environmental successes deserve attention and thanks

This editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Herald Editorial Board

Protecting open space has always been a quality-of-life issue in the suburbs and the collar counties, a goal under constant pressure from the relentless spread of commercial and residential development.

So, when an opportunity appears to ensure that a large tract is preserved and managed, it is something to be seized and once seized, appreciated. This time, the gratitude goes to the Barrington-based volunteer group Citizens for Conservation.

The group and the Richard Duchossois family announced last week the purchase of the family's 246.5-acre Hill 'N Dale Farm South, making it the 14th preserve in Lake, Cook and McHenry counties under Citizens for Conservation's care.

"We're going to build a beautiful, complex web of Illinois' native life here at this preserve," Jim Vanderpoel, a member of the Citizens for Conservation board, says in a video the group produced on the project.

In reflecting on the family's goals in selling the site to the conservation group, Kim Duchossois, daughter of the late Arlington Park Chairman Richard Duchossois, discussed how "important this land is to the community," but it's worth adding that the preservation's impact will extend well beyond the Barrington area.

Situated just across Lake-Cook Road from the 4,000-acre Spring Creek Valley Forest Preserve, the addition will expand an important wildlife corridor, providing habitat for native plant and aquatic life, grassland birds and endangered species, such as monarch butterflies and rusty-patched bumblebees.

It will protect the equivalent of three-quarters of a mile along Spring Creek, which feeds into the Fox River, and strengthen initiatives for greenways, watersheds and green infrastructure in three counties. It will be open to public access through programs to be managed by the conservation group. It will have an impact on the environment for all of northern Illinois.

"It's all part of an effort to try to connect the landscape to other quality landscapes, but also providing opportunities for nature and people to enjoy the background," Jim Anderson, a Citizens for Conservation volunteer and restoration adviser, says in the video.

The $10 million purchase is funded by a combination of a $4.9 million grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and Citizen for Conservation fundraising.

Ultimately, the project is a testament to the successful record of the Citizens for Conservation in managing such efforts and to the work of volunteers there and at scores of similar groups of various sizes throughout the suburbs. Through their energies and resources, environmentally conscious individuals and groups help assure not just that development and suburban sprawl are kept in check but that natural open spaces will remain for suburban families to enjoy for generations.

Those are important quality-of-life issues for us humans, of course, but it's also important to note that they also will have a critical long-term value for the plant and animal life that they protect.

The achievement of such results cannot go without our notice - or our thanks.

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