To the landowners, the end-result of the land-clearing looked “better” after getting rid of the over-grown, unkempt nursery stock and opening the land up for row-crop farming. I have no doubt the phrase “we’re making progress” was used during the operation.
That’s right, 400 acres of nursery stock were bull-dozed and burned north of Woodstock about a week ago. Thousands of trees are gone forever. Some were quite mature – decades old. The nursery had become a wildlife area in a way, with many birds and other critters finding homes there over the years. Now there is just open, bare ground.
The land will be farmed. Well, technically, the nursery was always a farm, so the land will still be farmed – it’s just that a perennial crop of trees and shrubs that were harvested over the years based on the public’s desire for landscape material, is being replaced with an annual crop that will likely rotate between corn and soy beans.
“Nothing to see here” was more-or-less the official response from the county officials I contacted. It is farmland and state law gives farmers a lot of latitude in managing their land. The owners have all their permits. They are following all the proper regulations. There is no law that says a farmer has to tell anyone about his plans to change crops.
The City of Woodstock had no notice either. The land is in the county’s jurisdiction, and the affected neighbors live in the City.
The neighbors knew the nursery was private land. Some even remember when the nursery actively managed the trees and shrubs before the housing crash. They just never imagined that new owners could bulldoze thousands of trees and shrubs and burn them in giant piles, day and night, without telling the neighbors.
[Note: The Land Conservancy of McHenry County often burns brush piles at our restoration days. And we have permits from the EPA and notify the local fire department the day of the burn. Plus, we notify the neighbors that we will be managing the area and that includes burning brush piles and perhaps the entire property.]
If this were a subdivision proposal, people would have had notice. They would have had a chance to ask for buffers, for some habitat preservation. Instead, the neighbors will have to wait and see what, if any, conservation practices the farmers use to control soil erosion, stormwater run-off and maintain some wildlife habitat on the farmland.
I am not saying that anyone did anything wrong, but I am suggesting that there might be a better way to introduce oneself to the neighbors.