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Forest Preserves of Winnebago County Receives Grant for Land Acquisition on Rock River

Forest Preserves of Winnebago County has been awarded a $501,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation for the acquisition and restoration of 169 acres on the Rock River at the southern edge of Winnebago County.

The new forest preserve features 60-foot high limestone cliffs that extend 800 feet along the Rock River. The former farmland will be restored to short grass prairie habitat and the unique cliff habitat will be protected and cliff plant communities restored. An area of forest near the cliffs will be restored and managed as mesic forest.

Mike Holan, Forest Preserves of Winnebago County Executive Director, says “the addition of a preserve on the Rock River was a priority for the Forest Preserves because there are few protected natural areas on this major river in our county.”

This and the fact that the single acquisition will create a sizeable new preserve made the project a good fit for the Foundation according to Dennis O’Brien, Executive Director. “The Foundation’s mission is to protect natural areas and wildlife habitat for the people of Illinois.”

The primary purpose of the preserve will be for habitat conservation but it will be developed for public access with parking lot, hiking trails and picnic tables. The preserve is anticipated to be open for public use in summer 2018.

The grant funds were awarded through the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation’s Natural Areas Program which supports the protection of wildlife habitat at natural areas throughout the state. The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation was established in December 1999 as an independent foundation with an endowment provided by Commonwealth Edison. To date it has awarded grants to protect 172 natural areas located throughout Illinois totaling over 26,000 acres.

Click here to see plan map.