Displaying items by tag: easement
The end of the year is always a surprise of sorts at TLC. There are usually several land preservation projects brewing that may or may not come together... It can be hard to predict.
After 10 year-ends, it doesn't stress me out anymore. I've learned that everything happens in its own time, and if a project isn't meant to be this year, it may come back around in another three or seven years! Or never. It will happen if it is meant to be.
This year, 2011, we started off with what seemed like a rush of easements on Fleming Road. We finished 8 or 9 by the end of 2010, and are now up to 18 permanent easements along that road. We don't know for sure what the easements will mean for the roadway, but they have most certainly sent the message that not only do the residents want to see the road stay in its same footprint, but they are willing to give up certain rights to their own property to help make sure that happens.
I think of it as an "Occupy Fleming Road" thing...very grassroots in nature! (Or should I say "oak-roots" in nature?)
TLC actually "purchased" some land this year too. Two parcels that comprise an acre on Barnard Mill Road came up for tax delinquent sale in September. We placed a bid on both parcels ($1300 total), and won! After clearing up a lien, and buying title insurance, our total costs were still less than $5,000. And did I mention that the land is adjacent to 26 acres of conservation easement? And that the easements are adjacent to Glacial Park? How cool is that?!
2012 will be known as the year of two acre land donations. Two acres donated in Nunda Township, 2.5 acres donated in Hebron Township (adjacent to the Dick York Memorial Arboretum easement), and 2 acres donated in Dorr Township adjacent to our 7 acre easement in the Country Ridge subdivision.
I like to say that if we keep up this pace, TLC will have preserved all of the County through land donations in about 500 years!
Our "bread & butter" work - accepting donated permanent conservation easements on private land - is still going strong. We closed on a 38.5 acre easement last week that adjoins the Yonder Prairie/Westwod Park complex just west of Woodstock. And we are set to close on a 56 acre easement that preserves prairie, wetland and oak natural areas by the end of the year. The attorneys have agreed on the details, so now it is just a matter of making a few edits and getting some signatures so the document can be recorded!
Finally, I am pleased to report that we now have a signed agreement to purchase the Gateway property in Harvard! Nearly 18 acres that will become a City Park. We'll finish the acquisition sometime in 2012. No surprises, please.
In our work at TLC, we are often reminded of the power of the individual to make a profound difference in the world. An acre at a time, and after twenty years, nearly 3 square miles of land have been permanently preserved in one of the fastest developing counties in the US (until the recession, that is).
But TLC & McHenry County are not the only groups and places that are experiencing a groundswell of private land conservation.
The first census of conservation land trusts in five years found 10 million new acres conserved across the US since 2005, including over 90,000 acres in Illinois and 1,360 acres by TLC here in McHenry County.
The National Land Trust Census, released by the Land Trust Alliance, shows that voluntarily protected land increased 27 percent between 2005 and 2010. In the same time period, the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, a major federal conservation program, added just over 500,000 acres and saw a 38% funding cut. You can find the census is online at www.lta.org/census.
A total of 47 million acres—an area over twice the size of all the national parks in the contiguous United States—are now protected by conservation land trusts. A high percentage of the new acreage comes through local land trusts like The Land Conservancy of McHenry County. In Illinois, land trusts conserved over 90,000 acres between 2005 and 2010, a 42% increase in land protected when compared to 2000-2005. Given declining state and federal budgets for land preservation, this news offers some encouragement: individuals are stepping up and working with nonprofits to help guarantee a legacy of land will be passed down to future generations of Americans!
In McHenry County, TLC permanently preserved 1,360 acres of natural, agricultural and scenic land between 2006 and 2010, a five-fold increase from the 257 acres we had protected from 1991-2005. An important factor in that growth has been an enhanced Federal Income Tax deduction for landowners who place a voluntary, permanent conservation restriction on their land.
But, the biggest factor in the growth of local private land preservation is the fact that McHenry County residents value the land and all it provides. And, local people are investing in our future by working with TLC to ensure clean water, local food and places to play for our children and for generations to come.
I was talking with a landowner recently about the restoration he and his wife are doing on their property, a former farm field. He said "It was a farm field forever, as long as I can remember."
That comment got me thinking about the whole concept of forever. What does that word really mean?
Let's think about that farmfield that's being restored today:
It was farmed for maybe 175 years - possibly from the time the area was first settled. That's a long time, for sure.
There's an oak tree on the property that is about 240 years old. That oak was possibly there before there was a United States of America! I wonder how many oaks were there on the property 240 years ago when that one first sprouted? How many 100s of years had oak trees grown on that land? 500? 5,000?
And what about the wet area on the farm that was drained for farming in the 1920s? How many hundreds or thousands of years was it filled with swamp milkweed, sedges, bullrushes and all of the insects, birds and other wildlife that are coming back to the area now. The rich, deep, organic soils indicate that they were formed over thousands of years of plant growth and decay in a wet environment.
The first TLC easement was accepted in 1991 from Leta & Alice Clark at the corner of Thompson Road & Route 120. The sisters wanted to be sure that their "Wildflower Preserve" was never developed, despite a friend's comment that the corner "would make a perfect spot for a gas station" one day! Actually, legend tells me that the friend's comment is what led the sisters to seek out someone to help them make sure that fate would never befall their lovely corner.
The photo was taken in April 2010 while driving past on Route 120, heading from McHenry to Woodstock. About 10 years ago, IDOT redid the intersection and took some land along Thomspon and 120, which I believe led to the eventual die-off of several oaks that were very near to the roads.
There was an enormous bur oak right at the corner that died in 2009. Some say "fungus" was the cause, but I feel in my heart that the bur oak's fate was sealed as soon as its roots were cut and crushed during the road work a decade ago.