Organization Challenges McHenry County To Protect Its Oaks

Jan 28, 2020

Credit THe LAnd Conservancy of McHenry County

Illinois is known as "The Prairie State," but oak woods and savannas make up an important part of the state’s natural ecosystem. An environmental group launched a campaign to preserve one county’s remaining oak woods.

Lisa Haderlein is executive director of The Land Conservancy of McHenry County. She said it’s been working for several decades to protect the original landscape. But, like other parts of Illinois, there are only remnants left. That’s why her organization launched “The 5,000 Acre Challenge.”

“We got to a point," she said, "where we thought, ‘Okay, we’ve made some progress, but we’ve got to kick it up a notch, and get more people on board with this.’”

That means educating landowners on how to best care for their oaks. It also encourages negotiating conservation easements -- voluntary, legal agreements that protect land.

Haderlein says the collective efforts of private landowners, public agencies and The Land Conservancy over the decades have so far preserved more than 3,700 acres of oak woods in the county. She says getting to 5,000 acres would be a good step forward. But that still leaves the majority of what remains unmanaged and unprotected. 

The Land Conservancy, as part of its web page on the Challenge, has created an interactive map showing the location of historic oaks based on the 1837 survey of Illinois.