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Natural Land Institute

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Environment, Land Resources Conservation

Mission: The mission of the natural land institute is to create an enduring legacy of natural land in northern illinois for people, plants and animals.

Programs: Land preservation - protect natural areas through acquisition or conservation easements. Addison foss farmthe estate of addison burr foss made a 410-acre bequest, located east of roscoe, to nli. The gift features farmland, woodlands, grasslands, and dry run creek flows through the eastern tract. Nli is committed to honoring addison foss' intent to protect his family farm. Nli will continue to rent the cropland for farming to generate the funds needed to restore native vegetation to the other parts of the property. The land will be managed to restore habitat for grassland birds like bob-o-links, grasshopper sparrows, and meadowlarks. William and gayle keefer nature reservegayle keefer donated 36. 5 acres to the natural land institute to be managed as a nature reserve. Chinquapin oaks and ironwood grow in the woodlands, and spring beauties are among the spring wildflowers. Nli's long-term plan is for the local community to be able to access and enjoy this reserve, and to participate in its stewardship. Conklin preservethe richard conklin estate gave the natural land institute 125. 35 acres of land four miles southwest of rockton on the south side of the pecatonica river. The gift has two forested pieces within the floodplain of the pecatonica river. These forested sections are part of a larger farm, which has been owned by the conklin family since the late 1800's. The southeastern tract has a forest canopy composed of bur oaks, swamp white oak, basswood, butternut hickory, and hackberry. The shrub layer is composed of hawthorn and prickly ash. The herbaceous layer has plants such as jack-in-the-pulpit, wild geranium, virginia wild rye, virginia waterleaf, tall bellflower, and green dragon. The northwestern tract contains a mixed forest canopy including basswood, american elm, hackberry, and silver maple. A diverse composition of spring ephemerals occurs here, including virginia bluebells, trilliums, wild ginger, false rue anenome, virginia waterleaf, and blue phlox. Both pieces of the conservation easement contain oxbow scars, varying from light depressions in the forest to open oxbow ponds. The illinois endangered northern harrier, sandhill cranes, and bald eagles have been observed at this site. Additional birds of conservation concern include the bobolink, hooded merganser, dickcissel, ovenbird, and american redstart. Valley of edennancy hamill winter donated the 410-acre valley of eden bird sanctuary to jo daviess conservation foundation and transferred the conservation easement on the land to nli in 2017. The land is in the rush creek valley near stockton, illinois and is a refuge for birds with hardwood trees, 50 acres of restored prairie, and more than 150 acres of cool-season grassland habitat. Today, more than 120 species of birds have been documented on the property, including 21 listed in illinois as species "in greatest need of conservation and two state-endangered species: the northern harrier and the short-eared owl.

nygren wetland preserve - restoration of 721-acre preserve at the confluence of the rock and pecatonica rivers. At the nygren wetland preserve, nli continues restoration efforts, growing and planting thousands of plugs from our greenhouse into the different community types at the preserve. We are establishing a diverse range of species in our floodplain that are able to compete with the invasive reed canary grass and provide habitat for our native fauna. Wildlife monitoring was expanded from bluebirds and amphibians to bats, dragonflies and damselflies at ngyren wetland preserve. Staff and volunteers monitor birds using the ebird app to establish data about birds and migration at the nygren wetland. A full moon, two bonfires, the prairie trail lit by luminaries provided great ambiance for guests of all ages who attended the winter themed event at the wander at the wetland on february 10. Nli hosted family nature day, a free educational event that appealed to all ages, on june 24 at the nygren wetland preserve. There were 10 learning stations and kids received a junior naturalist badge for visiting 6 out of 10 stations. Guided tours of the anne meyer prairie garden were given throughout the event. Party on the prairie was a summer event held at nygren wetland preserve that provided opportunities to take horse-drawn carriage rides and self-guided hikes in the preserve, as well as offering live music, a silent auction, socializing, and a southern dinner. An evening of nature themed poetry and prose was held in august at nygren wetland to celebrate the natural world. The fall prairie harvest day was held in september to collect seeds from prairie wildflowers and grasses at nygren wetland preserve. Hononegah high school honors biology students used nygren wetland preserve as an outdoor classroom where they studied the water quality of raccoon creek, the physical environment of the preserve, observed prairie ecology and did a macroinvertebrate study.

restoration and management of preservesmore than 2,500 volunteer stewardship hours were recorded at four of nli's preserves (burr oak valley preserve, nygren wetland preserve, silver creek woods preserve, and howard d. Colman dells nature preserve). Nli burned 229 acres on our preserves in the spring of 2017. An early start to our burn season allowed us to begin on february 4 at burr oak valley preserve. In order to build healthy native habitats after we clear brush, nli continued to propagate native shrubs, wildflowers and grasses at its greenhouse located at nygren wetland preserve. Nli has worked hard to remove invasive species from burr oak valley, and in january of 2018, we will begin seeding native species in their place. Before this process began, we completed biological surveys to establish baseline data on life within the preserve. These surveys are designed to be easily repeatable so that over time we can track how populations of birds, plants, butterflies, and dragonflies change in response to our restoration efforts. In 2017, surveys for birds and butterflies were completed. 32 species of birds are known to breed on site, including regionally declining species such as the redheaded woodpecker and scarlet tanager. Twenty-three species of butterflies were recorded, including the northern pearly-eye and red-spotted purple. Nli staff organized the third annual northern illinois native seed network meeting in december for their annual seed exchange. The membership has expanded to include 19 land trusts, conservation districts, and forest preserve districts operating in 16 counties across northern illinois. Volunteer stewardship days were held at four key preserves throughout the year: weekly wednesdays at ngyren wetland preserve, first saturdays at burr oak valley, third saturdays at silver creek woods preserves, and third sundays at howard d. Colman dells nature preserve.

outdoor classrooms - educationnli staff hosted the following workshops to support volunteer and landowner training: january 8, winter tree & shrub identification workshop; march 26, prescribed burn training workshop; and a basic chainsaw safety, usage and maintenance workshop all led by zach grycan. Wildflower walkabout there were 10 spring wildflower walkabout series at a variety of preserves and natural areas from april through the end of june. Nli partnered with severson dells nature center to plan them and recruit the volunteer tour guides from other organizations. Art in natureart in nature is an educational program that was presented to three 4th grade classes and three 5th grade classes from lathrop elementary school at klehm arboretum and botanic garden. They participated in three different sessions covering the topics of tree and plant identification, the art of drawing trees, and writing about their experiences in nature. "oaktober" - oak awareness month in the state of illinois. Nli participated in the state-wide oaktober oak awareness month in october by promoting the oak awareness and held a guided hike at burr oak valley preserve. Outreach the 2017 annual dinner and presentation of the george and barbara fell award were held on march 21. George and marilyn johnson were the recipients of the award and recognized for their efforts to restore and manage natural areas. Arthur person, author of the george b. Fell biography "force of nature," was the featured speaker. As a way to promote nli's mission to young families, children and the broader community we hosted kids activities at rockford city market twice, the rockton river market, and anderson japanese gardens.

Community Stories

2 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters


Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Natural Land Institute became an accredited land trust in February 2018, a status that can be renewed every five years. Accreditation means Natural Land Institute meets national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. Natural Land Institute demonstrated to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission its commitment to excellence. Accredited land trusts meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. These land trusts demonstrate the commitment to excellence by adopting Land Trust Standards and Practices, the ethical and technical guidelines for the responsible operation of a land trust, and meeting the accreditation requirements drawn from them. To learn more about land trust accreditation and the current accreditation status of Natural Land Institute, visit http//www.landtrustaccreditation.org/about.

Board Member

Rating: 5

The Natural Land Institute (NLI) is a very effective agency in our area. Not only does NLI partner with the Winnebago County Forest Preserve and other agencies to help identify and preserve important natural areas and open lands, NLI also holds conservation easements and manages many preserves in the area. NLI's employees have the scientific training and skills to identify and manage natural areas. Also NLI has a dedicated cadre of volunteers who assist in these tasks. In a state with so little land still in "pre-settlement" condition, NLI provides a unique and important role in preserving our natural heritage. I'm proud to be affiliated with NLI.

Review from Guidestar