In 1963, the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission (the Commission) was established by the Illinois legislature as the first statewide system for protecting natural areas. Since then, the Illinois Nature Preserves System (the “System”) has legally protected 596 sites across the state, totaling 115,061 acres, as dedicated Illinois Nature Preserves and registered Land and Water Reserves (the Preserves). Because this ambitious System set its sites so high, collaborative organizational support has always been needed. Many individuals and not-for-profits have stepped up to help on an ad hoc basis, again and again.
By 2020, it had become clear that Illinois Nature Preserves need increased support.
We believe that the time has come to establish a dedicated group of conservation-minded people across the state to support the Illinois Nature Preserves System. Recent updates of the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (INAI) showed that sites that were well managed during the last 30 years retained their quality species. But those that received intermittent or no stewardship had lost natural quality due to invasion by exotic species and/or the lack of fire to abate invasion of invasive shrubs in prairies and/or shade tolerant species such as sugar maple into oak savannas and forests. Annual fiscal issues and the backlog of stewardship needs, accumulated over the years across the state, combine to present a clear, present and future threat to the integrity of the Illinois Nature Preserve System. More simply put, species are being lost.