MCHENRY – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has acquired 113 acres of vulnerable wetlands on the McHenry-Lake county line that will help protect the Black Crown Marsh wetland natural area and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities in northeast Illinois.
“Protecting Black Crown Marsh will not only safeguard water quality and protect habitats for rare, threatened and endangered species, but will expand trails and provide people in Northeast Illinois more opportunities to hunt,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Preserving the natural beauty of this area and protecting wildlife habitat is part of our commitment to pass on the natural heritage of Illinois to future generations.”
IDNR acquired the 113-acre parcel – part of the former Oakmount Game Club – to expand protection for Black Crown Marsh, a 236-acre wetland habitat located just east of Moraine Hills State Park. The acquisition expands adjoining state- and locally-managed open space in the area to more than 3,000 acres.
“This historic effort to protect the Black Crown Marsh has been a decade in the making and is a perfect example of agencies working together to preserve natural areas in Illinois,” said IDNR Deputy Director Leslie Sgro. “This acquisition – and the complementary efforts of our conservation partners in the region – is a significant accomplishment in natural resources stewardship in the area.”
The former Oakmount Game Club included approximately 247 acres of open space located in both McHenry County and Lake County. The sale of the property was facilitated by the Corporation for Open Lands (CorLands), which purchased the entire parcel earlier this year on behalf of IDNR and the Lake County Forest Preserve District (LCFPD). The LCFPD Board approved the purchase of 134 acres of the former game club last July, and the LCFPD is managing that parcel as the new Black Crown Forest Preserve.
“We are excited to be a part of something that has such long-lasting benefits for wildlife and people,” said Bonnie Thomson Carter, President of the Lake County Forest Preserves. “It has always been our hope to preserve this land and provide further protection to Black Crown Marsh. Purchasing the new Black Crown Forest Preserve has allowed us to play an important role in regional preservation of our natural areas and to expand public open space in western Lake County.”
“We commend IDNR and the Lake County Forest Preserve District for their leadership in working with CorLands to preserve Black Crown Marsh. The people in our region are fortunate to have this unique habitat,” said Robert Megquier, CorLands Director of Land Preservation. “CorLands is pleased to have had a role in the acquisition and protection of such an important natural area.”
The IDNR Black Crown Marsh area will now consist of nearly 350 acres of wetland and upland buffer habitat. The marsh wetland includes a central area of open water. Nine state-listed threatened or endangered bird species have been found at and rely on the habitat at Black Crown Marsh, including the black tern, common moorhen, American bittern, least bittern, pied-billed grebe, sandhill crane, black-crown night heron, osprey and yellow-headed blackbird.
A 156-acre area of Black Crown Marsh was registered as a state land and water reserve by the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission in 2001. An archery deer hunting program on the site provides sportsmen an opportunity to help manage the large deer population in the area.
IDNR acquisition of the former Oakmount parcel will also provide a new link in the 500-mile Grand Illinois Trail system in northern Illinois. IDNR recently negotiated an intergovernmental agreement with the Village of Island Lake to complete a segment of the trail through a neighboring residential area. The new trail connection will link Moraine Hills State Park and the Lake County trail system.
The 113-acre parcel was acquired at a negotiated fair market value of $5,087,221 with a blend of state, federal and private funding. The funds include $4,268,194 from the state Natural Areas Acquisition Fund, $724,554 from the federal Land and Water Conservation program, and a private donation through the Illinois Conservation Foundation totaling $94,473.