The Illinois Audubon Society has received a donation of land from Dr. Maury Brucker and Emiko Yang of Peoria, Illinois. The 160 acres of rich farmland in eastern Stark County is the second-largest gift the Illinois Audubon Society has ever received.
The property had been in Brucker’s family since 1939. Eventually inheriting the property, he enlisted the aid of neighbors who have tenant farmed the property for 25 years, allowing Brucker to focus on a hobby he shared with Yang, restoration of natural habitats. Their work led to the dedication of Oak Bluff Savanna Nature Preserve, a 22-acre high quality oak woodland, savanna and hill prairie in Marshall County which was donated to the Peoria Audubon Society in 2015. The couple then restored 11 undeveloped lots in a subdivision on the bluffs over the Illinois River, known today as the Hopewell Hill Prairies Nature Preserve and Fern Ridge Nature Preserve and donated to the Illinois Audubon Society in 2019.
“During his 2002-2014 tenure on the Illinois Audubon Society Board, including two years as President, Brucker drove into our collective consciousness that the Society must commit to being exemplary land stewards as well as landowners,” remarked Illinois Audubon Society Executive Director Jim Herkert.
“At the forefront of our decision to make this donation was that we could see the value the Society places on the preservation and management of high-quality lands,” Brucker, a life-long birdwatcher, explained. “We appreciate the fact that the focus of the organization is birds, bird habitats and restoration of Society-owned lands.”
Under the donation agreement, income from the farm will be put toward stewardship activities.
“The Illinois Audubon Society has increased our land holdings over the last couple of decades necessitating an increased need to care for the land,” Herkert said. “The generosity of this couple will ensure that lands protected by the Illinois Audubon Society will be adequately managed for many generations.”