A Brief History of TLC
In 1988, a small group of local residents including Bill Wingate and Ed Collins - pictured at right - formed a committee of the McHenry County Defenders for the purpose of creating an organization that would work with private landowners to help them preserve their property with donated conservation easements. Prior to that time, the McHenry County Conservation District (MCCD), a unit of local government whose board is appointed by the County Board, had provided that option, but as MCCD’s land holdings grew, they felt it was a better use of their resources to acquire and manage land for public use.
The Committee felt that a new type of organization, known nationally as a “land trust” should be formed to focus on accepting conservation easements from private landowners. They named the organization The Land Foundation of McHenry County (LFMC), and in September 1991, the group was officially recognized as a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization by the IRS.
In 2000, MCCD created its own non-profit called the McHenry County Conservation Foundation to assist the District with land acquisition using a $1 million payment from a pipeline company as seed money for the organization.
There had been some conversation with LFMC board members and members of the MCCD board and staff about the possibility of the LFMC providing that assistance to MCCD, but this idea was not preferred by MCCD.
By August of 2002, LFMC had accepted 12 conservation easements that together preserved 149 acres of land. Two months earlier, the group’s Executive Director had left after just six months of part-time work. A new full-time executive director started in August 2002, and was told the group had funds in the bank to pay her salary for 6 months.
At that time, LFMC had 45 paying members, and several potential conservation easements as well as one possible land donation pending. Earlier in the year, LFMC had agreed to participate in a capacity building project for Chicago area land trusts through the Land Trust Alliance, but the project was just getting underway.
Additionally, LFMC was in the midst of addressing a development project at one of its easements, the Woodstock Center property owned by MCCD. MCCD proposed building a parking lot, bathroom and picnic shelter on a portion of the property known as Brookdale Conservation Area that was protected with a conservation easement (by the prior owner) in 1999.
This was the first challenge that LFMC faced to the conservation values of one of its easements, and there were strong emotions expressed by individuals on both sides. After consulting with Land Trust Alliance experts, LFMC’s legal counsel, and members of the family that placed the conservation easement on the land, an agreement was reached to amend the easement. Approximately two acres of land were removed from the easement to allow for construction of the parking, picnic area and bathroom, and replaced by an area of equal size that had higher conservation values.
In 2003, LFMC officially changed its name to The Land Conservancy of McHenry County (TLC) to reduce confusion with the MCCD Foundation that was making small grants at that time. That same year, TLC purchased property for the first time - a 6.7 acre sedge meadow that was on the county's natural area inventory.
In 2004, TLC hired a second full-time staff person as land protection specialist, and in 2005 the organization hired a part-time administrative and membership assistant.
In 2005-2006, TLC explored merging with Fox Valley Land Foundation – a similar organization working in Kane County – but ultimately decided against the merger. FVLF ended up merging with The Conservation Foundation out of Naperville which was already working in Kane County.
By the end of 2007, TLC had preserved over 1,000 acres of natural, agricultural and scenic land, which included 100 acres of land owned outright.