Photo by Jill Kennay

Natural Land Institute (NLI) recently purchased 160 acres of land in Ogle County, known as parcel 7 of the Leaf River Ranch (Ferguson Farm), to protect because of its natural habitat. With support through a loan from The Conservation Fund, NLI was able to purchase the property to protect its ecologically high quality habitat and scenic views. NLI will hold this distinctive parcel for Byron Forest Preserve District (BFPD) for up to three years. The BFPD will begin management of this land immediately. When BFPD has funding in place, NLI will convey the land to them for public open space.

“Since its inception, NLI has facilitated the acquisition of natural areas for other local and state land protection agencies. This will be an important holding for the BFPD, and NLI is pleased to be a part of protecting this land for future generations,” said Kerry Leigh, NLI’s Executive Director.

Woolly Milkweed
Photo by Jill Kennay

The BFPD sought assistance from NLI to acquire this property for protection after becoming aware of the

significantly high quality of plants found in the remnant prairies scattered throughout the rolling hills, including the state endangered plant called the woolly milkweed. There are many native prairie species that were discovered on this land. Historical aerial photographs dating back to 1939 show that this area was mostly covered by upland prairie with one hilltop oak savanna in the southern part of this parcel.

Todd Tucker, Byron Forest Preserve District Executive Director, stated, “I appreciate the Natural Land Institute pre-acquiring this property for us within a tight timeline.”

NLI has a history of working with Byron Forest Preserve District. Together they worked with the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission to protect the Jarrett Prairie Nature Preserve in the late 1980s.

“We are so delighted to be part of this project that supports local natural area conservation and recreation access”, said Clint Miller, Midwest Project Director for The Conservation Fund.

Photo by Jill Kennay

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