Tom's Blog

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Visit from McHenry County (IL) Conservation District

Today we had a nice visit from the restoration specialists at the McHenry County (Illinois) Conservation District. Conservation Districts (some of them are called Forest Preserves) seem to be an Illinois specialty. We don't have anything like them in Wisconsin. These county conservation districts own 170,000 acres of preserved land in Northeastern Illinois. These are not "parks" but natural areas and they are separate from the agriculturally focused Soil and Water Conservation Districts. McHenry County owns over 22,000 acres of prairies, savannas, woodlands, wetlands, and open spaces. This land is cared for by a professional team of restoration and management specialists whose job is to protect and enhance the natural areas. It was this team that visited us today.

I like their mission statement: "The McHenry County Conservation District exists to preserve, restore, and manage natural areas and open spaces for their intrinsic value and for the benefits to present and future generations."

The focus of the visit was on our savannas and how we are restoring and preserving them. Over a 2 and 1/2 hour hike, we had nice discussions about control of invasives, seed collecting and planting, prescribed burning, and recovery of oak savanna structure. Many of our problems were similar, and sharing ideas is very important.

I was asked why Wisconsin had never adopted the Conservation District concept. Good question. It seems a natural for a state with such a strong environmental focus. Perhaps we are handling these problems in other ways?

At the end of the tour, the leader told me that our site was "awesome". Nice!


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