The Land Conservancy of McHenry County (TLC) has preserved an 83.5-acre parcel, Crowley Oaks Preserve, in Harvard.
The property includes remnant oak woods, a headwater stream for one of Chicagoland’s highest quality waterways (Piscasaw Creek) and about 14 acres of sedge meadow and wet prairie habitat.
The site includes nearly 50 acres of white oaks, bur oaks and hickories that are over 200 years old. Crowley Oaks is part of a larger oak woodland that is nearly 200 acres in size, making it one of the largest remaining in the county.
Oaks are a keystone species in any ecosystem where they occur. Their value as habitat for insects, birds and a diversity of mammals is unmatched by any other tree species. Additionally, oak woodlands and savannas are among the most threatened habitat types globally. In the Chicago Wilderness region, 85 percent of the historic oak woods are gone, and fragmentation is the biggest threat to those that remain.
The land adjoins two TLC-protected properties, a 13.5-acre conservation easement and a 6.7 acre natural area, allowing for connectivity of native habitats.
TLC’s initial restoration efforts will focus on establishing public access to the site, removing invasive trees and brush, and re-establishing native grasses and forbs. TLC will also create a hiking area through the woods that will allow visitors to traverse nearly 30 acres of this unique site.
The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation provided 80 percent of the funding for the purchase of the land. TLC received a loan for the remainder of the purchase price and is in the process of raising $82,000 to pay off the loan. Donations can be made at www.ConserveMC.org/Donate or by mailing a check to: TLC, PO Box 352 Woodstock, IL 60098.