Forest preserve district receives $1-million-plus grant for park, preservation

Local News

Rusty Patched Bumblebee (photo courtesy of Rock Island County Forest Preserve District.)

The Rock Island County Forest Preserve District Commission has received a $1,033,200 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation to support acquisition of about 172 acres of land in East Moline. If finalized, the acquisition would establish the district’s seventh park and advance preservation efforts within Rock Island County, a news releases says.

The potential $1.2 million land purchase is made possible exclusively through awarded grants and endowments., the release says. In addition to the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation grant, the district will use a $75,000 grant from the Conservation Fund and an endowment for the district administered by the Quad City Community Foundation. 

“This recognition represents a huge win for conservation efforts and our community as a whole,” said Jeff Craver, director of the Forest Preserve District. “It’s a historic moment for the Forest Preserve District. The preservation of this land and the species that come with it will positively impact our community for generations to come.”

With funding and contingent purchase agreements in place, the district must receive a concurrence from the City of East Moline. Should the City of East Moline provide a concurrence, the acquisition process will proceed, marking the District’s first significant land acquisition since the 1950s, the release says.

(map courtesy of Rock Island County Forest Preserve District.)

The new land offers the opportunity for critical protection of several endangered and threatened species. In recent years, the District’s Illiniwek Forest Preserve, located just miles from the new site, has confirmed sightings of the endangered Rusty Patched Bumblebee. Illiniwek has also recently identified sightings of the American Bumblebee – whose population has declined 90 percent and vanished from eight states in which it was previously abundantly found – as well as endangered bat species.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Indiana-Bat.jpg
Indiana Bat (photo courtesy of Rock Island County Forest Preserve District.)

“We are stewards of our environment, and it’s up to us to protect threatened and endangered species. This applies especially to the pollinators we rely on so much,” Forest Preserve Commission President Kai Swanson said. “I’m grateful the Clean Energy Foundation sees us as an effective partner in this critical work.”

In addition to the two bumblebee species, the endangered Indiana Bat and threatened Northern Long-Eared Bat were detected through U.S. Fish and Wildlife sonar readings. All the mentioned species are recognized as being in greatest need of conservation in the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan (IWAP).

The 172-acreage sought by the District is mainly comprised of oak-hickory forest with approximately 40 acres of fallow field space that will be restored to native prairie in order to attract these species and other native pollinators, birds and bats. Establishing a high-quality habitat for these species and other native wildlife will be the district’s main management strategy. 

Northern Long-Eared Bat (photo courtesy of Rock Island County Forest Preserve District.)

“Serving the community through conservation is the core of what we do,” Swanson said. “We’re so proud to potentially bring additional conservation land to Rock Island County and continue the success we’ve seen at our other parks. This preserve would be another natural resource and a huge asset in preserving and protecting critical species.”

“This new natural resource also gives our community further bragging rights to tell our ‘QC, That’s Where!’ story – QC, that’s where ‘outdoorsy’ is who we are and what we do,” Swanson said, referring to the Forest Preserve support page.

The new acreage would be near the district’s existing 173-acre Illiniwek Forest Preserve in Hampton, Ill., and the Elton Fox Bald Eagle Refuge owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Pending City of East Moline concurrence, the district hopes to finalize sale agreements and provide an opening date in the spring of 2022, the release says.

Donations can be made to the Community Foundation endowment here.

About the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District

The mission of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District is to maintain and acquire lands and facilities in Rock Island County with the intent to restore, conserve and protect the waters, forests and prairies they contain and the goal to create educational and recreational opportunities for the residents of Rock Island County and beyond.
 
The Rock Island County Forest Preserve District is governed by the Forest Preserve Commission. The Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission governs six forest preserve areas totaling 2,529 acres. They include Loud Thunder Forest Preserve, Illiniwek Forest Preserve, Niabi Zoo, Indian Bluff Golf Course and Forest Preserve, Dorrance Park and Martin Conservation Area.

For more information about the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District, visit here.

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