What does $68 million buy? DuPage Forest says 473 acres and counting
Five years after voters approved a $68 million tax increase so the DuPage County Forest Preserve could buy more land, officials report they have acquired 43 properties and more than 473 acres so far.
The biggest purchase came three years ago of 94 acres for $12.3 million to protect a unique wetland near Bartlett, Kevin Stough, director of land preservation, said in a recent report to forest preserve commissioners.
The deal "will protect the Klein Road fen, which sits below the land," he said. "Whenever it rains in that area, it feeds the fen, so it will be good not to have some development destroying that."
Fens are some of the rarest of wetland communities, and many fens in northern Illinois were drained and ultimately lost to development, forest officials said. In addition, West Branch Forest Preserve as a whole supports more than 700 species of plants and animals, nine of which are on the Illinois endangered or threatened species lists.
In addition to the tax increase funds, the forest preserve also secured $3 million in grants that were used to buy some of the new land, Stough said. Those grants, paired with cheap land prices stemming from the recession, worked in the forest preserve's favor.
"The timing has worked for us, since land prices started dropping in 2007 and have gone down more steeply in recent years," he said. "So that's something where we have been very fortunate."
In total, the district has purchased 143 acres of floodplains, 124 acres of wetland and the remaining 206 acres are primarily forested areas, all accessible to the public. And Stough said the forest preserve still has money left to purchase more land.
"We are still evaluating and pursing purchases, especially since there is still land available to add on to existing preserves, or near major river ways like Salt Creek, the (DuPage River) East Branch or West Branch," Stough said.