Laona Heights Sugar River Colored Sands Sugar River Two Rivers Ferguson Hartley Memorial Trask Bridge Four Lakes Pecatonica River Pecatonica Wetlands Crooked River Grove Creek Seward Bluffs Klehm Forest Preserve Severson Dells Fuller Memorial Cedar Cliff Indian Hill Hinchliff Memorial Kilbuck Bluffs Trailside Kishwaukee Gorge South Kishwaukee Gorge North Rockford Rotary Kishwaukee River Oak Ridge Blackhawk Springs Deer Run Espenscheid Memorial McKiski County Line Kieselburg Roland Olson Stone Bridge Clayton Andrews Ledges Hononegah J. Norman Jensen Millrace Isle Macktown Atwood Homestead Forest Preserve Headquarters


New and Re-elected Commissioners Sworn In

The November 2012 election brought one new member to the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District Board of Commissioners. Michael Eickman was elected for a six year term. As the current President of the Sand Bluff Bird Observatory in Colored Sands Forest Preserve, Eickman is well familiar with the forest preserve district. Eickman has been an active volunteer bird and hawk bander at the banding station for 24 years. Eickman says, “I am very committed to the preservation of natural communities and conservation of wildlife, so I am looking forward to working with the WCFPD board and staff to build on this organization’s legacy of preserving our natural heritage.”

Incumbent commissioners, Cheryl Maggio and Audrey Johnson were re-elected in November. Maggio for a two year term, and Johnson for six. Commissioner Lee Johnson was not re-elected and was recognized and thanked for his valuable service on the board in 2012.

On December 19, 2012, the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District Board of Commissioners elected new officers. Commissioner Judith Barnard was elected President, and Commissioner Mary McNamara Bernsten was elected Vice-president. Both are two year-terms. At the January 16 meeting, the Board of Commissioners appointed the remaining officers. Steve Chapman was appointed as Treasurer, and Commissioner Cheryl Maggio was appointed as Assistant Treasurer. Commissioner Audrey Johnson was appointed as Secretary and Judi Day was appointed as Assistant Secretary.


Preserve Closings & Winter Deer Management

The Winnebago County Forest Preserve District will have reduced vehicle access to interior roads this winter. Most preserves will be gated closed to vehicular traffic for the winter season. We will not be plowing inside of closed gates. Many preserves will accommodate public access by having the front parking lots plowed. Users are welcome to access all preserves on foot for hiking, cross-country skiing and other winter recreation. Paved trails at Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve, Severson Dells Forest Preserve and Klehm Arboretum will be plowed and open during the winter season.

WCFPD will be posting “closed/keep out” signs at some of the south-east area preserves in the afternoons of weeknights that the district will be conducting its deer management program. This will result in the early closure of only two-three preserves at a time, for one to two nights per week from January through early to mid-March.


Winter Events in the Preserves

Severson Dells Nature Center

Winter Bird Hike
Saturday, February 2, 8:00-10:30 a.m.
Join volunteer naturalist Phil Schwab at Severson Dells Forest Preserve as we begin the walk by identifying birds at the feeders. We then will walk outside with the hopes of seeing the numerous winter residents of Severson Dells. Meet at the Nature Center. Bring binoculars and dress for the weather. No fee. Call 1-815-335-2915 to confirm.


Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden

Klehm Family Days 3

Saturday, February 9, 2013

10am – 3pm

This winter, families are invited to engage with nature at Klehm. On the second Saturday of each month, Klehm will offer themed activities for kids of all ages. Your family will find fun ways to learn about nature outdoors through hikes, scavenger hunts and guided tours. After some exploring, warm up in the Visitors Center Gallery with hot drinks and cookies. Kids can continue learning by making a take home craft. Plus, everyone will enjoy watching birds as they come to feed just outside the Visitor Center Gallery windows.


Macktown Living History Center

Keeping Warm in Winter

Sunday, February 24

2:00 – 4:00 pm

Mack House, Macktown Forest Preserve

You’re invited to a celebration of the birthday of Stephen Mack, Winnebago County’s first settler. Traditional foods, winter skills and games will be showcased.  Re-enactors of Native Americans, Settlers, and French Fur traders will demonstrate early nineteenth century skills needed for survival in the harsh winter climate. Era appropriate music on the bagpipe, Native American flute and other instruments will lend the celebration a festive air.  Suggested donation $5.  North of the Macktown Golf Course in the Historic Mack House, 2221 Freeport Road, Rockton, IL.  For more information phone 815-624-4200.  Email:


Winnebago County Forest Preserve District

Spring Celebration- nature education, music and prairie fire

Saturday, March 23

3:30 -8:00 pm

At the “Pec Barn” education center in Pecatonica River Forest Preserve

Entrance at 7260 Judd Road, Pecatonica.

Starting at 3:30 p.m. with a sneak preview of events/activities coming up in the Forest Preserve District over the next six months. (A chance at some door prizes too.)

Pieta Brown, 5:00 p.m. show

Advance Tickets “Free” to members of SDNC, $10 to non-members; $10 all tickets on day of show. We are so very fortunate to bring Pieta Brown back to the area. Her latest cd “Mercury” has been riding the charts very high for a long time.

After the show (7:00 p.m.) the prairie fire is one of the most exciting occurrences of the spring. If conditions are right (call 1-815-335-2915 to make sure) we will burn the restored prairie east of the Pec Barn. As the sun is setting, view this incredible spectacle as flames reach high into the evening sky.

Sheriff Contract Will Continue Excellent Safety Record

In September, Winnebago County Forest Preserve District commissioners approved a new contract with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department for police service to provide the preserve district with two full-time deputies on patrol year round, and five reserve deputies to make rounds through the preserves during busy warm weather months. WCFPD has contracted with the sheriff’s department for law enforcement services since 1997. The district will continue to employ Terry Nordberg as Law Enforcement Manager to coordinate police coverage. Nordberg is pleased with the one-year contract and is confident that the deputies assigned to WCFPD will be able to maintain the district’s excellent safety record. “We are very proud that there have been no violent crimes in the forest preserves, and we are conscientious about the need for our patrols to be visiting all preserves to insure proper use of the preserves and maintain a safe and enjoyable atmosphere for all who visit,” says Nordberg. Deputies patrol the preserves and trails in a number of ways including patrol cars, on foot, bicycles and snowmobiles.

Your help is needed! WCFPD law enforcement relies heavily on the cooperation and assistance of forest preserve visitors to effectively respond to concerns in the preserves. If you experience a security problem, or see unsafe or suspicious activity taking place in a preserve, please call 815/877-6100 to report it.  If it is after business hours please call 815/282-2600.  If it is a life-threatening emergency call 911.


Join the WCFPD Volunteer Strike Force

Help renew the vitality of our prairies and woodlands! The Winnebago County Forest Preserve Strike Force, a volunteer group, has been implementing ecological restoration work in various forest preserves each Tuesday morning since March of 2012. Under the leadership of Greg Keilback, WCFPD Biologist/Educator, the group’s work has been focused in Forest Preserves that contain Nature Preserves: Colored Sands, Sugar River Alder, Hartley Memorial, Pecatonica River, Severson Dells, Laona Heights. Keilback focuses efforts within the Nature Preserves found on WCFPD lands that tend to hold high quality diversity and are fragile, and therefore unsuitable for management with heavy machinery.


The size of the volunteer group ranges from 5 – 11 workers depending on weather and schedules. The crew is small but mighty and the connection to colleges is growing and kids are coming out to do volunteer work that they get extra credit for.  A total of 388 hours of work have been accomplished at six sites.


The crew has been an incredible asset to the mission of the Forest Preserve in preserving our natural resources.  Its priorities have been:

  • developing plant lists for the different preserves
  • wildlife monitoring
  •  invasive species control and education


Anyone is welcome to join the effort, even if you can’t attend regularly. No experience necessary! Please join us Tuesday mornings from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. Call Severson Dells at (815) 335-2915 for the schedule of work days and further instructions.


WCFPD Plant Inventory: As Told by Ed Cope

In 2012, WCFPD began a district wide survey of plant communities at all 41 forest preserves. Ed Cope, a seasonal employee in the WCFPD Natural Resource Department, was primarily responsible for the inventorying work. Over the last four summers Ed has worked on collecting prairie seed, propagating critical species, and identifying unknown plants.  He is studying habitat management and land rehabilitation at Montana State University, but Ed says his knowledge of local flora is largely self-taught.

Ed says that “WCFPD began this plant inventory so that we would have a permanent record of each preserve’s vegetation.”  This is useful for assessing the diversity each preserve supports as well as the quality of habitat present. This kind of information is vital when planning conservation and restoration projects, or granting pieces of land special designations such as Illinois Nature Preserve.

The initial inventory was conducted over the course of about two months last summer, but the data will be updated continually.  Any time a new species is discovered in a preserve it will be added to the inventory.  Ed explains that the data were collected by sampling small areas of each preserve.  It would be impossible to survey a preserve’s entire area, so these sample units were chosen to be representative of the landscape as a whole.  Additionally, areas with unique geology were targeted so that species which exist only in these places would not be omitted from the survey.   Every piece of property the District owns, even unnamed or limited-access preserves, were surveyed.

According to Ed, district staff “were able to verify the continued presence of many critical or imperiled species that had been known to historically exist in the preserves.”  Furthermore, new populations of such species were found, especially in our newer properties. Ed says, “Perhaps the most interesting species we found were whorled loosestrife and rock polypody, two species which have not been officially reported in the county for a long time and were presumed extirpated.”

Although Ed had primary responsibility for this initial inventory, he acknowledges the valuable expertise of other district staff. “This survey represents a culmination of the experiences of several very knowledgeable individuals.  Some of the contributors have had a lifetime of experience in the field, and their knowledge of where to find rare plants proved invaluable.”  This data base allows anyone to access this expertise, making it a potent tool for both education and management of our natural resources.   The next step for this project is to make sure the information is accessible.  The data are being formatted into an easy-to-comprehend spreadsheet that will also provide some basic information on each species.  In the future, the inventory will be supplemented as additional species are found or planted in each preserve.

Ed comments that the survey work was enlightening. He explains, “It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked in the field and how many species you’ve seen, there’s always something new that can surprise you.  This project has certainly expanded my understanding of the County’s flora, and I’m sure there are still hidden gems to be found.”


Become a Campground Host

Serving as a District campground host can be a ‘staycation’ opportunity for families or couples. Campground hosts are responsible for assisting campers who are visiting the Forest Preserve District campgrounds. Among a campground host’s duties are greeting and checking in/checking out groups. If you are interested in spending the summer in your RV in Sugar River. Hononegah, Seward Bluffs or Pecatonica River campground, please obtain a complete job description by calling WCFPD Administration at 815/877-6100 or visit and click on the notice on the home page.


Seasons of Nature: Winter

Phenology is the study of natural events—season to season and year to year—in an effort to understand the natural cycles of ecosystems. Watching the seasonal cycles of its plants, animals, and physical systems is a fascinating way to deepen your appreciation and understanding of the diverse natural areas in the forest preserves.


•Beavers begin breeding this month.

•White-tailed deer bucks begin to lose antlers.

•Foxes breed through mid-March.

•River otter litters are born from now until mid-May


Raccoons breed through March.

•Eastern moles active in deep tunnels underground.

•Groundhogs breed through March.

•Mink begin breeding.

•White-tailed deer feed in groups this month. If snow is deep, they “yard-up” in bottomlands.

•Watch for otter slides on snow or mud along rivers.

•Salamander courtship begins in late February if temperatures are in the 30s, and ponds and streams are thawed. Salamanders are nocturnal, thus seldom seen.


•Opossums begin breeding in wooded areas along streams.

•Rabbit reproduction triggered by weather above 60 degrees; males begin fighting and chasing.

•Coyotes breed through early April; listen for howling.

•Chipmunks come out of hibernation.

•Skunks breed through to early April. Nocturnal, skunks are seldom seen.

•Flying squirrels begin breeding. Also nocturnal, flying squirrels are threatened with loss of habitat.

•Opossum young are born and climb into the female’s pouch.


Species Spotlight

Long-tailed Weasel (Mustela frenata)

A long-tailed weasel was sighted and photographed in December at Severson Dells Forest Preserve. These cute rodents are common in Winnebago County natural areas.

The long tailed weasel is a deadly and aggressive hunter with a voracious carnivorous diet. Moreover the long and slender body structure of this animal easily allows it to slip into rodent burrows and tunnels in search of prey. It is not unusual for these weasels to burrow under deep snow in order to hunt its prey. Their diet chiefly comprises of mice, rats, chipmunks, squirrels, moles, shrews, gophers, moles and rabbits.