History

 

ParkLands Foundation is the 4th oldest conservation land trust in Illinois and has been acquiring, restoring, and protecting natural lands since 1967. Our mission is to protect and restore natural lands in the Mackinaw River watershed of McLean and Woodford counties in Central Illinois. Our major goal is to create an interconnected network of conservation lands and waters protecting native biota and ecosystems within and along the McLean/Woodford counties’ stretches of the Mackinaw River and its tributaries, its floodplain, and its uplands. Over the years, ParkLands has protected and ecologically restored (through fee simple ownership, conservation easement, or intermediary conservation buyer) more than 3,680 acres (roughly half in Woodford, half in McLean, and a portion in Tazewell counties) of prairie, savanna, floodplain forest, and river habitat primarily in the Mackinaw River watershed (21 nature preserves currently owned, 5 conservation easements, 3 nature preserves transferred to other conservation organizations). This now includes two Illinois Nature Preserve (INPC) designated Illinois Nature Preserves that we own (Ridgetop NP, Merwin NP) and one that we manage in conjunction with our owned adjacent buffer strip (Weston Cemetery NP). We own two INPC-designated Illinois Land and Water Reserves (Savanna L&WR, Letcher L&WR) and are in the process of dedicating two additional owned preserves within this program (Lexington, Sweeney Woods). In 2008, The Nature Conservancy transferred to us 835 acres of natural land based on their confidence in our stewardship abilities. Together these lands protect state-threatened species along with other IDNR Species in Greatest Need of Conservation. Much of the Mackinaw River that we protect is listed as being in the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory due to its high quality. In our restoration, we use native seed of local ecotypes (to the extent possible) for high diversity native plantings. We have an active prescribed fire program following rigorous standards. Biologists guide our restoration plans that follow pre-settlement vegetation history to the extent possible. Biologists also help us do biotic surveys so that our management practices are compatible with, and help, sensitive biota. We have a full-time paid Land Steward (first hired part-time in 2003 and shared with The Nature Conservancy, then in 2007 hired full-time for ParkLands only) and a part-time paid Administrative Director (hired 2012). During the summer we hire part-time student interns. We have many dedicated volunteers that are critical to the success of our organization.