The Illinois Audubon Society, Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and McHenry County Conservation Foundation—with the help of and individual donors—purchased one of the last remaining, high-quality natural areas not under permanent protection in McHenry County. A 160-acre parcel in Hartland Township previously owned by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and formally known as Camp Lakota, has been permanently protected for the benefit of all McHenry County residents.
“We are thrilled to have been able to work with the McHenry County Conservation Foundation and the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation to protect this very important parcel for birds and other wildlife,” said Jim Herkert, Executive Director of Illinois Audubon Society.
“We are so delighted to support an acquisition that is not only of great conservation priority, but that will connect nearly 2,000 acres of natural area. We thank the McHenry County Conservation Foundation, Illinois Audubon Society, and other funders for inviting us to work with them to make this happen,” said Frances Kane, Associate Program Officer, Natural Areas of Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.
“For more than 50 years, Camp Lakota introduced youth to a wide variety of outdoor activities and provided generations of Scouts the opportunity to immerse themselves in the outdoors and experience nature up-close,” said Brad Semel, McHenry County Conservation Foundation Board President. “By working in partnership with the Illinois Audubon Society, the McHenry County Conservation District, private donors, and the generous financial backing of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, we are thrilled to be able to protect not only the environmental integrity of the site for the benefit of the local community, but also ensure so many Scouting memories are preserved as well.”
In order to ensure the permanent protection of this land, the property will be transferred to the McHenry County Conservation District for long-term stewardship and management within five years. In the meantime, the Conservation District and the Foundation will work together to restore the area.
Immediately adjacent to the property is the Conservation District’s Brookdale Conservation Area, a 1,620 acre complex of wetlands, prairie, and woodlands. In addition to the District’s public lands, the parcel is bound by conservation easements. With the successful acquisition of Camp Lakota, this means nearly 1,837 acres of contiguous lands are protected. The area will serve as an important recharge area for the county’s groundwater resources.
Numerous federal, state, and local conservation organizations consider the property an important acquisition for the protection of many vulnerable species and the preservation of an important migratory corridor. It’s listed on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (INAI) and recognized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as having high quality natural biological features, particularly Advanced Identification (ADID) wetlands. These high quality habitats support diverse natural communities, which in turn support rare and threatened fauna. These include endangered or threatened birds such as least bittern, common gallinule, and yellow-headed blackbird.