Land and Water Protection

Donor support helps purchase seeds, stewardship equipment, and other resources necessary to restore and maintain our natural areas as high quality habitat. Previous projects that have been made possible thanks to donor support include:

20220405_131758 Mike Evans & ecologist John Peters - Copy (2)Sept. 2023  -$25K Enbridge Fueling Futures Grant Awarded
The Conservation Foundation was awarded a $25,000 grant from Enbridge’s Fueling Futures program. Funds were used to purchase a 200 gallon portable firefighting unit, an essential tool for land managers who use prescribed fire as an essential land management tool, that will support the Conservation District’s Prescription Burn Program. Regular implementation of prescribed burns help remove invading brush, recycle nutrients into the soil, promote the growth of native plant species and allow for the creation of a mosaic of habitats for a variety of plants and animals, including numerous threatened and endangered species. 

_DSC2040 - Copy (2)Sept. 2023  -  Conservation Foundation Awarded Nicor Gas Oak Ecosystem Conservation Grant

The Conservation Foundation was awarded a $9,995 Nicor Gas Oak Ecosystem Conservation Community Projects grant to assist with woodland reforestation efforts at Marengo Ridge Conservation Area. Funds supported McHenry County Conservation District’s Big Woods planting program, where nearly 600 native trees and shrubs will be planted on 10+ acres at Marengo Ridge Conservation Area in Marengo, IL. Members of the public were invited join in two Big Woods “Oaktober” planting parties. This tree planting will complete a 27-acre reforestation project within the 818-acre woodland site.

DSCN0086July 2023 - $245,176 Awarded for Habitat Connectivity Project in Partnership with Wisconsin DNR
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and McHenry County Conservation Foundation, the philanthropic partner of McHenry County Conservation District, were awarded $245,176 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s State Wildlife Grant Program for a partnership project to improve habitat connectivity in Southeast Wisconsin and Northeast Illinois. By partnering across the WI-IL border, restoration work will connect habitat areas on nearly 235 acres of public land for pollinators, birds and reptiles associated with the wetland, prairie, savanna and oak woodland. These species include the federally endangered Rusty-patched bumble bee, Monarch butterfly, Henslow's sparrow, Blanding’s turtle and other Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) identified in the IL and WI state Wildlife Action Plans.  More>>

20130710_173153June 2023 - $8K Schwemm Family Foundation Grant for Glacial Park Prairie Restoration
A recent $8K grant from the Schwemm Family Foundation helped the McHenry County Conservation Foundation reach their $73,000 fundraising goal for restoration of 21 acres at Glacial Park Conservation Area in Ringwood, IL. These funds will be combined with previous grants received from Enbridge Fueling Futures, the Fairways Foundation, the Gerry and Bill Cowlin Foundation, and from individual donors to purchase the rich and diverse native seed mix necessary to restore high-quality prairie. More >>

October 2022 - Foundation Awarded $25K Grant for Glacial Park Prairie Restoration
The McHenry County Conservation Foundation was awarded a $25,000 grant from the Fairways Foundation to assist with restoration efforts of 21 acres at McHenry County Conservation District’s Glacial Park in Ringwood. Funds will be combined with an Enbridge Fueling Futures investment to purchase the rich and diverse native seed mix necessary to convert land to high-quality prairie grassland. This project ties together several hundred acres of restored and managed land within Glacial Park and supports the conservation of numerous threatened or endangered species, including the Blanding’s turtle, monarch butterfly, and the rusty patched bumblebee. The land conversion will also improve the ability of this area to recharge groundwater, which is where McHenry County residents receive 100% of their drinking water.

Skunk CabbageAugust 2022 - Foundation Receives ComEd Green Regions Grant
 The Foundation was awarded a $7,500 ComEd Green Regions grant to support an engineering study for hydrologic restoration of a rare graminoid fen at Boger Bog Conservation Area in Bull Valley, IL.  As groundwater discharge areas, fens are good indicators of shallow aquifer health. For McHenry County residents, where 100% of drinking water comes from aquifers, and protecting and restoring our wetlands ensures the long-term integrity of the county's water supply. Once engineering is complete, the Conservation District will ultimately complete restoration of this wetland community.  Read More >>

Summer PrairieAugust 2022 - Foundation Awarded $10K Enbridge Fueling Futures Community Investment 
The Conservation Foundation was awarded a $10,000 community investment grant from Enbridge’s Fueling Futures program to assist with restoration efforts of 21 acres at McHenry County Conservation District’s Glacial Park site in Ringwood, IL. Encompassing 3,439 acres, Glacial Park is one of the largest contiguous areas of publicly managed land in McHenry County. Funds provided by the Enbridge Fueling Futures program will be used to purchase a portion of the rich and diverse native seed mix necessary to convert land from current row crop production to high quality prairie grassland.  Restoration work will decrease sedimentation runoff into the North Branch of Nippersink Creek and the land conversion will improve the ability of this area to recharge groundwater. The total cost for this project is $99,965 and the Foundation is actively seeking additional support for the work. Read More >>

HighPointSeedNursery July 2022 - Foundation Funds Future Native Seed Nursery at High Point Conservation Area
McHenry County Conservation Foundation received a $10,000 grant from The Gerry and Bill Cowlin Foundation to support prairie restoration at High Point Conservation Area in Harvard. The funds help purchase native needs to establish a five-acre native seed nursery. Seeds will be planted over the 2022-2023 winter season. It takes three to five years to fully establish a self-sustaining, diverse prairie habitat. Once established, the Conservation District will offer opportunities for residents to gather locally sourced native seeds to cultivate on their own property.

Bison release day June 2022 - IDNR IL Habitat Fund Grant Supports Restoration for Bison Grazing
 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 - CopyApril 2022 - Protecting 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). 

Elizabeth LakeMcHenry County Conservation District - Elizabeth Lake Wetland Restoration

Foundation support made it possible for District staff to manage more than 60 acres of this 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 Distict 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. 
Learn more about this work. 

Oak Challenge Tree PlantingFoundation 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.

Foundation Awarded a $5,300 Mission Grant
McHenry County Conservation Foundation was the 2020 recipient of a $5,300 Mission Grant awarded by The
Community Foundation of McHenry County. Resilience was the theme of the 2020 Mission Grant award. “It implies a sense of strength, adaptability, and perseverance. We believe the incredible charitable organizations in our community have the resilience to help move McHenry County through these tough times and emerge even stronger in the future,” stated Deborah Thielen, Executive Director of the Community Foundation. 

Crystal Lake Park District – Sterne’s Fen Wetland Restoration

Funding for this project helped to restore a biologically significant Nature Preserve near Crystal Lake.  Restoration activities included extensive brush removal and exotic species control and led to the enhanced natural quality of the site.  The site now provides habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species that are dependent upon the high quality calcareous graminoid fen and sedge meadow found there. Removal of exotic and invasive plants helped to promote the diversity of native species and has allowed better management through prescribed burns. Volunteers and trained staff were responsible for completing this important habitat restoration, helping to return this unique site to its natural state for all to enjoy.

Environmental Defenders of McHenry County–Natural Area Site Design and Management Planning
This grant enabled the Defenders to prepare a natural area site design plan that will improve and restore the quality of existing native plant communities and integrate natural areas within landscaped regions of their site.  This eight-acre parcel is located in Woodstock at the Kishwaukee River headwaters and is the new home of the McHenry County Defenders.

McHenry County Conservation District – Development of a Comprehensive Computerized Scientific Database
This grant allowed the District to enter and manipulate all of their hand-written biological inventory, management data, and historical land use records into a comprehensive database system. Developed by the Conservation Research Institute, this collaborative effort now allows the District to advance our understanding of the effectiveness of land management, contribute to the ecological knowledge of our county and its flora and fauna, and to communicate more effectively with land managers and planners throughout the county and neighboring communities.

McHenry County Conservation District – Development of a Digital Record of the Nippersink Creek Re-Meandering Project
This grant allowed the District to record for scientific study and historical record the first of its kind efforts to re-establish the historic meanders of the Nippersink Creek prior to its channelization for agriculture. Both photographic documentation and detailed written records were collected from all phases of the project, including planning, implementation and following completion.  Comprehensive digital capture will allow this project to be used for educational purposes and provide great historical value for how the landscape of the Nippersink basin was changed on a grand scale.

McHenry County Department of Health - Groundwater Resources Management Plan (Two Years of Support)
This grant helped the McHenry County Department of Health develop a management plan for groundwater resources throughout McHenry County.  Such a plan was critical in helping to protect and sustain our deep-water aquifers.  Because our county is 100% dependent on groundwater for potable use, the findings of this study have far-reaching implications for all residents.

Illinois Natural History Survey – Population Dynamics of Yellow-headed Blackbirds in Northeastern Illinois 
McHenry County is the last stronghold in the state for this remarkable species. This grant allowed researchers to individually mark yellow-headed blackbirds and monitor return rates, seasonal and yearly movements, assess reproductive success, and quantify how aquatic insect emergence may regulate productivity and guide settlement of yellow-headed blackbirds.  Field researchers monitored 118 nests in eight breeding colonies. During the research, a new breeding site was discovered in McHenry County, which is now the largest breeding colony in Illinois.  This state-listed, endangered species has declined dramatically in population over recent years, and this research will help managers better understand ways to protect and preserve this unique bird. Insight into guiding management for other wetland-dependent birds also was provided.

Illinois Audubon Society – Restoration and Management in the Boone Creek Watershed 
Foundation funds were used in a collaborative effort with the Boone Creek Watershed Alliance to restore natural areas of the ecologically diverse Boone Creek watershed.  The focus of restoration efforts was control of exotic species and removal of woody invasive trees and shrubs along the upper reaches of the waterway.  Exotic species removal and prescribed burning has resulted in the enhancement of native plant communities, including the return of threatened and endangered wetland plant species. Restored areas included dedicated Nature Preserves, conservation easements, and public lands.

Land Conservancy of McHenry County – Outreach to Private Landowners 
Funding allowed planners to identify the protection status of Illinois Natural Area Inventory sites (INAI) within McHenry County and to identify means by which to conserve those not protected through public ownership or private landowner programs. After parcels were identified and prioritized, landowners were contacted in hopes of protecting these vulnerable natural areas through such diverse programs as Nature Preserve dedication, Land and Water Reserve designation, or enrollment in a conservation easement.

McHenry County Conservation District – Digital Mapping (Geographic Information System Database) of District Land Holdings
Project allowed dynamic evaluation of land management activities and provided a planning tool to identify future land acquisition priorities and development of the most effective preserve designs. The new technology now allows the District to use map overlays of soils, land features, biological resources, development, hydrology, tax parcels, and many other features to better assess management needs and to target available parcels.

McGraw Wildlife Foundation – Monitoring of Little Brown Bat Activity at Volo Bog
Funds were utilized by this widely recognized research Foundation for the study of one of the largest maternity colonies of little brown bats in Illinois. This project established an automated remote monitoring system to track individual bats as they traveled to and from the colony.  The development and usage of this tracking system will contribute greatly to the study and understanding of this much-maligned group of mammals. 

McHenry County Conservation District - Glacial Park Headwater Restoration
Grant funds were utilized to expand the District's restoration of the Nippersink Creek within the Glacial Park Conservation Area.  Specifically, grant funds were used to restore the natural structure and composition of an ecologically significant tributary, a headwater stream called “Cow Pie Creek.”   The project holds the distinction of being the first Foundation funded grant project completed in McHenry County.  It resulted in the restoration of 1,000 feet of creek channel and the creation of a 900-foot-long oxbow wetland.

Cary Park District - Carl and Claire Marie Sands/Main Street Nature Preserve
With these funds, the Cary Park District was able to restore four acres of this extremely unique natural community near Cary. The Sands/Main Street Nature Preserve is a dry gravel hill prairie, and just 18.4 acres of this rare habitat remain in Illinois.  Park District Staff and biologists from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources first removed invasive brush, such as European buckthorn, and then applied herbicides to prevent re-growth.  The restoration area had hundreds of native wildflowers blanketing the hillside within the very first spring.

McHenry County College – Restoration of the Silver Bordered Fritillary Butterfly to Glacial Park
Using newly constructed rearing facilities and techniques developed at the college through an earlier grant from the Foundation, the biology department reared larvae from this rare wetland butterfly and released adults to the wild in hopes of re-establishing this species in the newly restored wetlands of Glacial Park.