If you drive west out of Woodstock along South Street, you may have seen a new house that looks old. It overlooks an expanse of open prairie, with a remnant oak grove near the road that welcomes the eye. The owners placed a conservation easement over most of their 43 acres in 2011 so that, in their words, “no one could ever develop it.”
Since moving here in 2009, they have spent countless hours removing invasive species, burning and planting more oak trees. They wake up in the morning to a pair of sandhill cranes foraging through the short grasses in the prairie. Their co-inhabitants include fox, coyote, nesting red tailed hawks, deer, owls, and any number of salamanders, turtles, snakes and frogs. They decided to name the land “The Bothie” because it serves as a resting place for them and for the many species of wildlife that stop to take respite here.
Bothie (noun), Scottish; a place to stop and rest when weary.
The Bothie easement is situated directly south of the City of Woodstock’s Westwood Conservation Area, which is directly south of Yonder Prairie, a 40-acre parcel acquired by The Land Conservancy in 2008. It was important to acquire because it was arguably the highest quality prairie remnant remaining in McHenry County that was unprotected.Yonder Prairie and Westwood together equal over 100 acres of such importance that they were designated as Illinois State Nature Preserve in 2010.The Bothie easement adds another 38 acres to make a total of nearly 150 acres of contiguous, permanently protected land.
Connect (verb); attach, join, link, unite.
Habitat fragmentation happens when whole natural ecosystems are broken into smaller parts due to development, roads, farming and other human activities. Habitat fragmentation is considered by many biologists to be the single greatest threat to biological diversity. Wherever there is an opportunity to preserve large areas of connected ecosystems, or link smaller areas of habitat together, we need to do so. The Yonder Prairie, Westwood Nature Preserve and Bothie Easement together form a 150 acre reserve that is an excellent example of many types of habitat linked together: wetlands, prairies, oak savannas, open water ponds and vernal pools are all part of this mosaic, upon which many wildlife species depend. The Blanding’s Turtle, along with many other animals, especially amphibians, rely on larger areas of uplands and wetlands, unimpeded by roads, in which to breed, rear their young and hibernate.
Partnership (noun); collaboration, alliance, connection, relationship.
This large complex would not have happened if each individual landowner had not been involved. Here is a shining example of what can happen when a nonprofit land trust, a municipal government body and a private landowner all take part in caring for their little piece of the earth. Each piece is important. When put together they make a big difference in the survival and sustainability of all living systems: plants, animals, soil and water.