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Celebrating 60 Years of Saving Illinois’ Nature

August 15, 2023 09:35 AM

The Lake County Forest Preserves is taking part in a state-wide celebration marking the 60th anniversary of an agency dedicated to preserving Illinois’ highest-quality natural areas.

Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves is planning programs across Illinois from Saturday, August 26 through Monday, August 28 to mark the anniversary.

Illinois Nature Preserves dedication is the most powerful level of protection a natural area can receive from the state of Illinois. Since its creation 60 years ago, a total of 121,492 acres in 622 preserves have been named part of the Illinois Nature Preserves System.

“Lake County has more biodiversity, including more threatened and endangered species than any other county in Illinois,” said Pati Vitt, director of natural resources at the Lake County Forest Preserves.

Given this fact, it's no surprise that Lake County has 38 dedicated nature preserves, including 22 nature preserves in 16 different forest preserves. Scattered throughout Illinois, these natural areas represent the breadth and quality of the different ecosystems in the state. "To earn this designation is a really, really big deal. It means the land is the best of the best," Vitt said.

The public is invited to learn more about Illinois Nature Preserve status through dozens of tours across the state on the anniversary weekend. “Join us on a guided walk to see some of our favorite places, hear stories of completed restoration work, vision for the future and get to know your public lands a little better,” Vitt said.

In Lake County, three tours are planned on August 26. Registration is required:

  • A guided walk begins at 1:30 pm at Wright Woods Forest Preserve in Mettawa and will feature restored oak and floodplain woodlands.
  • A session takes place at 9 am at Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods. Ryerson supports some of Illinois’ most pristine woodlands and several state threatened and endangered species.
  • A sunset tour takes place at 6 pm at Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest. 

“We’re thrilled to be part of this celebration,” said Angelo Kyle, president of the Lake County Forest Preserves. “The number of Illinois Nature Preserves in our forest preserves is tremendous. And more than 20% of all Illinois endangered species are in state dedicated nature preserves.”

These 16 Lake County Forest preserves have one or more areas that are dedicated as Illinois Nature Preserves: Almond Marsh, Grayslake; Berkeley Prairie, Highland Park; Wright Woods, Mettawa; Ryerson Conservation Area, Riverwoods; Fourth Lake, Lake Villa; Grainger Woods, Mettawa; Grant Woods, Ingleside; Grassy Lake, Lake Barrington; Lakewood, Wauconda; Lyons Woods, Beach Park; MacArthur Woods, Vernon Hills; Middlefork Savanna, Lake Forest; Rollins Savanna, Grayslake; Spring Bluff, Winthrop Harbor; Sun Lake, Lake Villa and Wadsworth Prairie, Wadsworth. Lake County Forest Preserves continues to own and operate the dedicated areas.

The mission of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, which is a state agency, is to assist private and public landowners in attaining legal protection for high-quality natural areas and habitats that are home to threatened and endangered species. The organization promotes the preservation of these lands and provides leadership in their stewardship, management and protection. Areas dedicated as Illinois Nature Preserves may only be used for passive activities such as hiking, wildlife watching, photography and approved scientific research and programming.

“We are grateful to the Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves for organizing a state-wide celebration of this important agency and to all the volunteers who help care for and love these special places,” Vitt said.

The celebration concludes with a public meeting of the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission where state officials, including Governor JB Pritzker, will officially recognize August as Illinois Nature Preserve Month. The meeting, followed by a reception takes place from 2–6 pm Monday, August 28, at Illinois Beach Resort in Zion. To reserve a spot, click here.