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Apple River Canyon Conserved with State Wildlife Grants in Illinois
Apple River Canyon is unique
With the help of our Trustees, members, volunteers, partners and other supporters, we continued to protect and restore our precious natural areas, promote voluntary land conservation, and provide long-term stewardship of land in 2011. In 1950 the founder of the Natural Land Institute, George Fell, said, “What we have saved, and what we may save in the next few years, will be all the true wild nature that will remain to pass on from generation to generation in the years to come.” This is still true today, as we continue to create a legacy of natural lands in northern Illinois for future generations to enjoy. This is a summary of what we accomplished during the last year.
Apple River Canyon land added to State Park
The Illinois Nature Preserves Commission approved a 104.7 acre addition to Apple River Canyon Land and Water Reserve on January 24, 2012, bringing the total area of this unique natural area protected by conservation easements to 406.1 acres. The land included in the L&WR was sold to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in 2011 by the Natural Land Institute as an addition to Apple River Canyon State Park. It is bordered on the west by the 85.1-acre Canyon Camp and 34.4-acre Wiley additions to the L&WR, owned by the Blackhawk Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the 442.1-acre Apple River Canyon Nature Preserve, owned by IDNR to the south.
The land included in the addition was purchased by NLI in 2009 from the Marshall Wiley family using grants from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and the Illinois Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. About 43 acres of the land was donated to the Boy Scouts by NLI as an addition to Canyon Camp, and the remaining land was sold to the IDNR for half its appraised value and paid for by a State Wildlife Grant.
Apple River Canyon is recognized for its unique geologic history, located on the edge of the area of northwestern Illinois that was missed by the last continental glaciers, its scenic dolomite bluffs rising from 100 to 150 feet above the river, deep ravines carved into the bedrock, dry prairies on top of the bluffs and rare plants growing on the dolomite cliffs. “The diversity of habitats, coupled with the unique geologic history of the canyon, makes this natural area one of the most botanically rich places in Illinois,” said John C. Nelson, Field Representative of the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission in his proposal to the INPC to register the addition as a Land and Water Reserve.
The IDNR’s addition to the Apple River Canyon Land and Water Reserve includes high-quality dolomite cliff communities, a one-mile segment of the Apple River, extensive upland forests, old-fields and pasture. White camass (Zigadenus elegans) a state-endangered species, and two state-threatened plants, cliff goldenrod (Solidago sciaphila) and sullivantia (Sullivantia sullivantia) are found growing on the cliffs within the new preserve.
The IDNR will develop a plan to restore the pastureland along the river, and establish trails, parking areas and other facilities to accommodate visitors to the site. Hunting and fishing will be allowed according to INPC guidelines for land and water reserves, and a canoe launch may be constructed on the river in the future.
Pecatonica River Woodlands….
Jerry Paulson is the Executive Director for the Natural Land Institute and a lifelong environmentalist.