Help save 3 acres of rare fen habitat at Kishwaukee Fen Nature Preserve Oct. 17

  • The Land Conservancy of McHenry County and Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves are partnering with the Village of Lakewood in restoring the 35.5-acre Kishwaukee Fen Nature Preserve. Learn more at a volunteer day on Sunday, Oct. 17.

    The Land Conservancy of McHenry County and Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves are partnering with the Village of Lakewood in restoring the 35.5-acre Kishwaukee Fen Nature Preserve. Learn more at a volunteer day on Sunday, Oct. 17. Courtesy of The Land Conservancy of McHenry County

 
 
Updated 10/12/2021 6:46 PM

A new kind of conservation initiative seeks to restore the threatened Kishwaukee Fen Nature Preserve in the Village of Lakewood at 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 17.

All are invited to consider volunteering to restore eco-health to this beautiful and important site. The fens, prairies, and wetlands here will reap the benefit.

 

Three acres here are among the most important rare habitats in Illinois but this 30-acre nature preserve has been overrun by 27 acres of invasive reed canary grass, buckthorn, and other malignant species.

The gems of this legally protected site are its raised and hanging fens.

These unusual ecosystems start deep in a glacial moraine rich with limestone. As pure rainwater percolates through the moraine, it dissolves calcium and magnesium and becomes highly basic (the opposite of acidic). Most plants and microorganisms have a hard time growing in such alkaline or calcareous environments. Specialist "fen plants" adapted to such places thrive here, with the benefit of genes that in the future may help food plants adapt to changing climate conditions.

The public is invited to meet these plants and rare associated animals and learn to care for this precious ecosystem.

"These gems are still hanging on but threatened by the invaders," said Rebeccah Hartz, a volunteer leader for Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves, who is coordinating the kickoff. "The birds, butterflies and the whole ecosystem at Kishwaukee Fen will need the kind of long-term habitat restoration that comes only from a 'work-learn-and-lead' volunteer community."

"We humbly expect this day to be historic," said Stephen Packard, who has helped organize many eco-stewards groups. "Oct. 17 will launch a community that is expected to be an important model of a new kind of biodiversity conservation initiative. What this project needs is community-minded people who are interested in learning by doing, and working collaboratively to restore the ecological health of this site. If this sounds like you or someone you know, we hope to see you there."

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The kickoff event on Oct. 17 is being organized by the Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves and supported by the Village of Lakewood, which owns this site, the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, which oversees its care legally, The Land Conservancy of McHenry County, and many individual stewards from other preserves in the region.

All are invited to join on Oct. 17 from 10 a.m. to noon at Kishwaukee Fen Nature Preserve. Park at the west end of Palmer Drive in the Village of Lakewood. Wear sturdy shoes and clothes you don't mind getting dirty. For the first hour, you will study and discuss. For the second, you will work hard, but at your own pace and stop as needed to share ideas and appreciate rare nature with each other.

"This rare living treasure needs some new friends. Might you be one of them?," asked Hartz.

For more information, visit www.friendsofillinoisnaturepreserves.org.

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