McHenry County Conservation District protects 49 acres with Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation Grant

The Clean Energy Community Foundation awarded McHenry County Conservation District a $223,500 grant through their Natural Area Acquisition Grant Program for the protection of 40 acres in McHenry Township.

The property, located south of Ringwood Road and east of Pioneer Road, includes an additional nine-acre land gift from the heirs of Ronald E. Heuer, for total land protection of 49 acres.

The land lies within the Dutch Creek headwaters area and contains roughly 14 acres of wetlands, 10 acres of remnant oak savanna, two acres of prairie and is directly contiguous to several previously protected natural areas that is all, encompass nearly 300 protected acres along the North Fork of Dutch Creek. The headwaters of the North Fork of Dutch Creek rises from the wetlands near the center of the property and meanders south for approximately one-half mile along the western portion of the property.

The land has been identified as a conservation priority by McHenry County Conservation District for decades due to its concentration of important natural resource elements including a headwater stream, high quality sedge meadows and stands of mature oaks.

"This project completes a 30-year journey to protect the headwaters of Dutch Creek, an area known for its high-quality natural areas, critical ground water fed wetlands and presettlement oak stands," said Ed Collins, director of land preservation and natural resources for McHenry County Conservation District. "It is an excellent example of how the marriage of private conservation easements, alternative agriculture in the form of a Christmas tree farm, and publicly protected open space can power conservation efforts on a greater scale to ensure that the county's natural heritage will be available to future generations."

In addition to the acquisition grant, Clean Energy Community Foundation awarded $10,000 for restoration activity that will occur over the next 12 months, which includes seeding with native grasses and forbs, and the removal of invasive brush in the wetland and savanna communities.

The project area is identified as an ADID Wetland and Environmental Resource Area within the McHenry County 2012 Green Infrastructure Plan and much of it is included within the McHenry County Natural Areas Inventory Site known as Pioneer Fen.

In addition, the land is identified in the Illinois State Wildlife Action Plan for Lake-McHenry Complex Conservation Opportunity Area and within the Chicago Wilderness Green Infrastructure Vision.

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