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Land Advisory Council Meeting Minutes 6-2-14

Winnebago County Forest Preserve District

 

Land Advisory Council

Minutes of Meeting

June 2, 2014

 

 

Members Present: Jerry Paulson, Chairman. Ann Marie Cain, Pam Cunningham, Bill Hoff, James Marshall, and Rebecca Olson. Members Absent: Steve Clark, Lee Johnson, Randy Vogel, and Dan Williams. WCFPD Staff Present: Mike Holan, Tom Hartley, Jamie Johannsen. WCFPD Commissioners Present: Audrey Johnson and Mike Eickman.

 

Call to order: Chairman Paulson called the meeting to order at 4:05 p.m. at the WCFPD headquarters at 5500 Northrock Drive, Rockford, Illinois.

 

Introductions: Commissioner Eickman was introduced. The Council members and WCFPD staff introduced themselves.

 

Minutes of May 15 meeting: It was moved by Olson, seconded by Hoff and approved unanimously to accept the minutes of the May 15, 2014 meeting. Holan said that he will remind the County Clerk to send out the financial disclosure forms to the members.

 

Discussion of the Greenways Plan: Paulson said that the District currently uses the Greenways Plan as a guide for land acquisition. Hartley explained that there have been three versions of the plan. The current plan is digital, and is scheduled to be updated soon. A consultant for RMAP developed it with input from each of the open space agencies in Winnebago and Boone counties, and the help of the IDNR, Natural Land Institute, the county planning agencies and municipalities. The “Priority Acquisition Areas” designated on the map are mostly floodplains or important natural areas. Large areas of upland forest were added to the new plan. The plan promotes the creation of corridors of open space along the rivers that connect preserves into larger blocks. Hartley said that the plan is used to support grant applications to the IDNR and private foundations for acquisition funds.

 

Hoff asked what the effect would be on property taxes if all of the priority acquisition areas were acquired. Holan said that most of the designated areas are marginal farmland or wetland and woodland and are taxed at low rates. Hartley said that in the past the District did not purchase prime farmland, but now buys farmland as part of a larger acquisition. Hoff asked if the County has followed the plan in zoning decisions. Hartley said yes. Johannsen said that the County’s new 2030 land use plan includes a lot of policy language about preserving river corridors and wildlife habitat.

 

Review of current land acquisition priorities: Hartley reviewed the current priorities for land acquisition:

 

  1. Preserve significant natural communities. The first priority is to preserve forests and other natural areas that represent the original native vegetation of Winnebago County. These include remnants of native vegetation identified by the IDNR in the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory. Paulson said that most of INAI sites in the county have been preserved or destroyed and only a few small patches of prairie and an unusual woodland on Kinnikinnick Creek remain unprotected. Olson asked if the District has determined how much of each of the different natural communities are represented in the holdings of the District. Hartley said there is no inventory of the natural vegetation.
  2. Expand existing preserves. The second priority is to expand existing preserves. Hartley said it is easier to manage larger preserves, it reduces travel time and the need for additional facilities, provides better habitat for wildlife, buffers natural vegetation, provides greater opportunities for recreation, and minimizes conflicts with neighbors. Hartley used Four Lakes Forest Preserve as an example of the value of expanding small sites. Olson suggested that the watershed of the preserve should be determined to protect the water quality of the lakes. Hoff asked where is the District’s priority for more land. Hartley said that filling in gaps in the Kishwaukee and Sugar river corridors were the first priority areas.
  3. Create corridors along rivers and streams. Protecting the floodplains and uplands along the Kishwaukee, Pecatonica, Sugar and Rock rivers and their tributaries, Hall Creek, Grove Creek, Kinnikinnick Creek, Kilbuck Creek and Turtle Creek is the third priority for acquisition.

 

Strategic Land Conservation Planning: Paulson presented an overview of the approach to Strategic Land Conservation Planning used by the Natural Land Institute that takes a broader view of conservation priorities. He started by reviewing federal and state plans for conservation including endangered and threatened species, the USFWS North American Waterfowl Conservation Plan, and the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan. The Wildlife Action Plan uses the Natural Divisions of Illinois to identify priority conservation actions in each area of the state, designates “Conservation Opportunity Areas” and sets goals for forests, wetlands, farmland and prairies, and “Green Cities.” Winnebago County is covered primarily by two Natural Divisions–Rock River Hill Country and Northeastern Morainal, with a small part of the Grand Prairie — and three COAs – Sugar-Pecatonica Rivers, Upper Rock River and Kishwaukee River. The COAs overlap with the county Greenways Plan. The Plan sets goals for increasing habitat for interior forest birds, grassland birds and wetland wildlife species. These goals are not included in the District’s current land acquisition priorities, but are considered by private foundations when reviewing grant applications. Paulson then presented several examples of specific project areas in Winnebago County that NLI developed based upon the strategic conservation planning approach.

 

Other planning strategies: Paulson presented additional planning strategies that could be considered in developing a strategic land conservation plan for the District:

  • Shape land use patterns
  • Protect scenic views, cultural and historic sites
  • Expand recreational and educational opportunities
  • Protect farmland
  • Implement economic development policies

 

Additional strategies that could be considered were suggested:

  • Protect water quality
  • Reduce flooding damages
  • Protect groundwater recharge areas
  • Create wildlife complexes

 

Paulson asked the members how they wanted to proceed to discuss the planning strategies. It was agreed to discuss each point at the next meeting. Hoff asked to have a copy of the County’s 2030 land use plan available to review at the meeting. Staff will discuss the staffing and maintenance needs that should be considered when acquiring additional land or creating new preserves.

Next meeting: The next meeting will be held at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, July 7th at the WCFPD headquarters. Marshall said he will be out of the state in July.

 

Adjournment: Paulson adjourned the meeting at 6:00 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Jerry Paulson, Chairman