12/06/2012 13:12


Lest we forget, the land that sustains life on earth is a good reason to be thankful. Taking care of the land is our gift to future generations. The most important thing to the passengers on the Mayflower was sighting land. The first Thanksgiving was, at last in part, a response to the bountiful harvest that came from that land.

                As European settlers experienced more of the vast land of this new country, they marveled at its beauty and wealth. In the early years the settlers reported on the specialness of the land they were exploring but at the same time they brought with them the idea that individuals or groups could own the land. In 1872 the country established Yellowstone Park as the first national park in the world. This established a way for people to preserve and protect the best of what they had for the benefit an enjoyment of future generations. www.nps.gov

                Local, county, state, and national governments continue to protect and preserve special land areas to be shared by the public and future generations -- including the living things that depend on that land. A majority of the land in the U.S. is still owned by private landowners and government at all levels has had to provide education, assistance, and regulation to assure that the land is preserved and protected now and for future generations.

                In addition to government efforts, many interested individuals have formed not-for-profit organizations to help accomplish preservation and shared access to special land areas. An example of one such local organization is the Northwest Illinois Audubon Society (NIAS).

                Recently 50 acres of land three miles south of Leaf River was donated to NIAS by Joanne Tarbox Styles, a retired teacher.  Styles took her students to visit the woodland she owned and expressed the wish to preserve the property and to give children the opportunity to explore it in the future. NIAS accepted the responsibility to carry out her wishes.

                Responsibility for special land areas is not new to NIAS. Since 1999, the Society has owned and managed a 43-acre Elkhorn Creek Biodiversity Preserve on the southeast corner of Freeport Road and West Grove Road. The Society has also provided management for the Freeport Prairie Nature Reserve. Volunteers maintain the Preserve, do seed collecting and planting, prescribed burning, enjoy campfires, hold an annual butterfly festival, and conduct bird walks. The Preserve is open to the public.

                You too can get in touch with these special lands and support these gifts to future generations. Monthy meetings are held on the first Tuesday of the month September-May at St. John’s United Church of Christ in Freeport including a program related to the environment. The public is always welcome at Society meetings and events.


Della Moen, Earth Team Volunteer, NRCS/Stephenson Soil and Water Conservation District, an equal opportunity provider and employer, 11/28/12 (for publication on 12/01/12 in the Journal Standard, Freeport, Illinois) Della can be reached at info@stephensonswcd.org