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January 2, 2001

Ryan's Open Land Trust Program to Protect Nature Preserve in McHenry County

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today announced the state has acquired 66.3 acres of land in McHenry County through the Open Land Trust Program that will protect the Lake in the Hills Fen Nature Preserve.

"The Open Land Trust program is working to protect the state's rarest resources for our children and grandchildren," Ryan said. "Throughout Illinois, this program is helping communities preserve precious open spaces for future generations to enjoy."

With this acquisition, more than 425 acres have been protected at the fen. The fen is owned and protected by three public agencies working in partnership; the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Village of Lake in the Hills, and the McHenry County Conservation District.

The preserve is a series of gravel hills overlooking a large complex of wetlands along Crystal Creek. There is a series of rare fens at the base of the gravel hills and along the creek and remnant prairie on the hills and ridges above the fens. The area is known for its exceptional scenic beauty, its native grasses and its many rare wildflowers. Nineteen endangered or threatened species of plants and animals occur here, one of the highest concentrations of rare species in the state.

The fen is also home to the tiny blue bell, our smallest damsel fly, which is known to exist in only two sites in Illinois. Most of the endangered species depend on the uninterrupted flow of alkaline groundwater seeping from the gravel hills.

The land, including the remaining mineral reserves, were acquired from Material Service Corporation for $2.8 million. The transaction included a considerable donation from the company. The acquisition will help preserve the gravel resources in the area, ensuring the ground water will be saturated with the minerals needed to preserve the fen and buffer the nature preserve from future development.

"This transaction is an example of how business can cooperate with regulatory agencies in satisfying the concerns of local communities for sensitive environmental issues," said Material Service Corporation President Michael Stanczak. "Material Service Corporation looks forward to continuing its efforts in working with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to address the needs of the communities in which Material Service operates."

The Open Land Trust Initiative, the largest land acquisition program in state history, is providing $160 million over four years for land purchases and improvements to protect the state's most precious natural resources.

"Preserving our open lands, our precious natural resources and our native wildlife is vital to giving every Illinois citizen a safe and healthy environment," Ryan said.

IDNR Director Brent Manning noted that Material Service Corp. voluntarily ceased mining sand and gravel at the site more than a year ago to protect the fen and donated more than 80 acres of land to establish the original nature preserve.

"This acquisition provides a critical buffer to the fen, which contains nine high quality plant communities," Manning said. "Visiting this site is like stepping back in time. Its natural diversity and scenic beauty make it an excellent place to view native landscapes. I'm pleased we were all able to work together to protect its future."


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