Barefoot Savanna - Land preserved near Marengo
In June 2013, TLC accepted the donation of 30 acres north of Marengo. The donor, Eric Tauck, grew up next door, on the land owned by his parents. Eric bought the land to protect it from development. Now, he knows it will remain natural forever.
Prior to Eric's purchase in 2005, the Martin family had farmed the land for many years. In 2007, Eric received assistance from a state program called “Illinois Acres for Wildlife.” Through this program, part of the field was seeded with native prairie species. Bruce Kessler, a restoration ecologist from Harvard, has been removing invasive species and has observed the native seedbank springing back, especially in the area he has cleared along the intermittent stream. This low-lying, moist area contains an abundance of great blue lobelia, Michigan lily and many other wildflowers and sedges, now that the brush has been cleared.
Eric’s field lies adjacent to the land his parents have owned since 1973. Gilbert and Susan Tauck worked with The Land Conservancy to place a conservation easement on 61 acres back in 2004. They, with a lot of help from Bruce Kessler, have restored their property to native woodland and prairie. The conservation easement will ensure that no matter who owns the land in the future, it will be kept in its natural state, never to be developed.
Eric married and moved away from the area in 2011. By 2013 he made the decision to donate the land to TLC. Eric’s donation is significant in a number of ways. Combined with Gilbert and Susan’s 61-acre easement, it provides a total of over 90 acres of permanently protected land. Larger expanses of managed land are important to wildlife. Susan has counted over 95 bird species and many amphibians, insects and mammals. This new addition ensures that wildlife will have a home for many years to come.
The Tauck’s land is located on a glacial ridge known as a moraine. The Marengo Moraine trends north-south in western McHenry County. It is the oldest moraine in our area and one of the most striking glacial landforms in Illinois. An intermittent waterway that flows to the Kishwaukee River intersects the land. This waterway is part of the system that flows north through TLC’s Land of Oz.
In addition to the Tauck’s land, other families along the Marengo Moraine have protected their property with conservation easements, including Dale Shriver and Judy Rogers, and Nancy and Keith Shevel. A 60-acre parcel along the moraine was purchased by TLC from Nate Ozmon in 2009, now called Land of Oz.
The Land Conservancy is working on a management plan to return the land to its original open oak savanna condition, by planting prairie and savanna grasses, wildflowers and native shrubs in addition to various oak species. Looking at the land use history, soils, historic maps, and doing plant inventories are all part of figuring out how to restore and manage any piece of land. We look for clues to what the land wants to be, or would have been before invasive species were introduced, and native species were removed.
The 1872 plat shows a homestead on the property, owned by “T. Kaneley.” But there is no evidence of any structures that may have once stood on the land. By 1872, this particular field had been cleared of trees, which would have been primarily oak and hickory. The 1872 plat map is very useful because it shows where the oak woodlands stood at the time. It also shows the landowner’s name and where farms, churches, schools, mills and other cultural features were located. Soil maps tell us that most of the 30-acre field is made up of soils that were developed under an oak/hickory landscape.
The land donated by Eric Tauck will be called Barefoot Savanna, in part as a tribute to Eric, who has never liked shoes and named his business Shoeless Computers. The Savanna part of the name is a tribute to the land, and what it wants to be, again.
article and photos by Linda Balek