What We've Been Up to...

bison - Copy IDNR IL Habitat Fund Grant Supports Restoration Efforts for Bison Grazing at Pleasant Valley
McHenry County Conservation Foundation was awarded a $36,630 grant from The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Illinois Habitat Fund to assist with restoration efforts at the newly-established bison grazing area at Pleasant Valley Conservation Area in Woodstock, IL.  The grant enables the McHenry County Conservation District to convert 90 acres of row crop to prairie, and enhance 33 acres of grassland and 50 acres of oak savanna within the bison grazing enclosure. This restoration work will improve habitat for multiple species in the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan including Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, Monarch Butterfly, Henslow’s Sparrow, Upland Sandpiper, and Bobolink. The grant also supports the reimbursement of a Flail-Vac seed harvester which allows the Conservation District to collect more than 1,300 lbs. of native seeds per year that are used in habitat restoration projects on Conservation District properties throughout the county.    

BaltimoreCheckerspot - CopyProtecting the Habitat of the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly
Thanks to donations made directly to the McHenry County Conservation Foundation, McHenry County Conservation volunteers planted 700 turtleheads, one of the main larval host plant of the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly, at Glacial Park this past spring. The Foundation has committed $10K to support the multi-year reintroduction project, which aims to increase the population of this rare pollinator by increasing the sites where over-wintering plant hosts are found.  (In 2021, 1,500 plants were planted as well.)  Baltimore checkerspots are rare in the entire Chicago region. Important native “host” plants that adult butterflies visit to deposit their eggs and developing caterpillars rely on for food include Turtlehead (Chelone glabra), hairy beardtongue (penstemon hirsutus), and English plantain (Plantago lanceolate). 

oaks_WThomas - Copy McHenry County Conservation Foundation Purchases 160 acre Camp Lakota
A Rare Land Protection Opportunity 
The McHenry County Conservation Foundation—with the help of Illinois Audubon Society, Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, and individual donors—purchased one of the last remaining, high-quality natural areas not under permanent protection in McHenry County.  Thanks to donor support, a 160-acre parcel in Hartland Township formally known as Camp Lakota, has been permanently protected for the benefit of all McHenry County residents. The property is adjacent the Conservation District’s Brookdale Conservation Area, a 1,620 acre complex of wetlands, prairie, and woodlands. A significant stand of remnant oak trees exist on the property and the juxtaposition of woodland and wetlands make this property ideal for supporting breeding populations of amphibians. The land also serves as an important recharge area for the county’s groundwater resources.  (2021)

Brookdale Mature White Oaks Awarded IAPD 2021 Best of the Best Partnership Award
The Illinois Association of Park Districts recognized the collaboration between McHenry County Conservation District, McHenry County Conservation Foundation, the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, and the Illinois Audubon Society for their purchase of 160 acres in Woodstock, one of the last remaining, high-quality natural areas in McHenry County, and awarded them the 2021 Best of the Best Partnership Award. The former Camp Lakota scout property is located just north of the 1,630 acre Brookdale Conservation Area. Thanks to the collaboration of this partnership, 1,837 contiguous acres are  permanently protected for the benefit of all residents.

Donor Wall - CopyFoundation Launches Donor Recognition Wall
McHenry County Conservation Foundation hosted a donor reception and celebration for the official launch of their donor recognition wall, which is on permanent display at Lost Valley Visitor Center in Glacial Park.  The donor wall marks the beginning of a new way to acknowledge significant commitments to nature and all that it makes possible.  Together, we can have a powerful impact on the open lands and natural areas in McHenry County.  We all can make a difference in the lives of current and future generations. Fall 2021


Ensuring the Vitality of our Wetlands
Over the past two years, Foundation support has made it possible for District staff to manage more than 60 acres of the Elizabeth Lake site. This work includes removing buckthorn and hiring a contractor with access to the appropriate equipment to apply herbicide to purple loosestrife and Phragmites. The District was also able to purchase a necessary mulching attachment for one of their tractors and use it to cut invasive brush, which opens up the area and gives native plants the opportunity to reestablish themselves.  
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Hollows Photo - CopyEmpowering Youth Through Programming
Youth and Family Center of McHenry approached McHenry County Conservation Foundation this summer with a funding request to cover the $500 cost of transporting people to a District-hosted program in Cary. With the cost of bus rental covered, forty children and adults from Youth and Family Services braved the 110-degree heat to make it out to The Hollows on July 1 for a family-oriented canoeing and fishing program on Lake Atwood. 

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OakChallengeFoundation Awarded $7K Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation Grant
The Community Stewardship Challenge Grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation offered an opportunity for members of our community to get involved in volunteer land stewardship and raise funds for the care and maintenance of Glacial Park's critical oak habitat. The first part set a $7,000 fundraising goal matched 3:1 = $28,000. In addition, The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation donated a bonus $4,000 after volunteers logged over 400 hours. These funds included purchasing native trees, shrubs, and hand tools, as well as supporting overall site upkeep and stewardship. The District successfully hosted seven stewardship events where over 120 volunteers helped plant 330 trees and shrubs, monitor and record pollinator species, and additional restoration efforts to help ensure that our oak woodlands survive for future generations.  The project was completed in 2020.