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:

McHenry 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. 

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.