Preserving Land & Open Space 
Forested Fen 
Forested Fen
 
Conservation Land Trusts
working in the Fox River Valley
The Conservation Foundation
The Conservation Foundation
DuPage, Kane Kendall, Will Counties
Land Conservancy of McHenry County McHenry County
Liberty Prairie Conservancy
Lake County
Barrington Area Conservation Trust Barrington and Barrington Hills area
 Openlands
Northeastern Illinois
 
You will find a wealth of resources on their websites about caring for land, controling invasive species, tree care, and more
Monarch 
Monarch on Joe-Pye-Weed
photo by Ray Silva
Preserving Open Space:  Benefits to People and the Fox River
There are many reasons why open space is important for the health of our communities and the Fox River.

Quality of Life
Preserving open space helps preserve our quality of life.  People expect their homes to be good investments for their future. We value clean water in the Fox River and its tributaries, clean air and a healthy environment, and love to hike, bike, camp, fish and enjoy natural areas (i.e. parks and forest preserves) minutes from home.

Healthy Environment
Preserving open space protects watersheds and improves the water quality of rivers, lakes and streams, especially the Fox River.  Open space also helps protect our drinking water and air quality.  Also, protecting lands along streams and rivers helps control flooding.  Open space preserves critical wildlife habitat and protects forests from being cut down for development.

Concern for Over-Development
Preserving open space helps control and manage over-development and sprawl.  More than any other issue, growth and over-development is the biggest threat to our quality of life.

Urgency
The sooner we can preserve open space, the better.  The time to act to preserve open space is now while land prices are selling at a fraction of the cost and before they sky-rocket again.   The longer we wait, the more way pay, the less we get, and the fewer choices we have.

Public Lands
Popular We are lucky in the Fox River Valley to have outstanding park and forest preserve/conservation districts.  These agencies have a proven track record of success as they have passed numerous open space referenda over the last two decades.  According to local surveys, voters overwhelmingly approve of the uses of public funds for protecting forests, protecting wildlife habitat, and protecting the Fox River and local watersheds, and drinking water sources.  Public open spaces are great investments for future generations.

The “Ultimate Tax Cap”
Open space is considered the “ultimate tax cap.” Protected open space can help keep property taxes from going up because increased development leads to increased demand for government services. Preserved open space will never produce homes, schools, roads and other costly infrastructure and public services that will significantly increase our taxes in the future.
 
Resources
List of Open Space Referenda Passed in Chicago Suburbs
Conservation Easement brochure
 
Land conservation
Hollenbach Creek, Subat Forest Preserve, Yorkville 
photo provided by The Conservation Foundation
The Land Conservation Tool Box 
There are many ways to preserve open space in the Fox River Valley.

Fee Simple Acquisition
This is the easiest and most widely used tool in the land preservation tool box.  This is simply a contractual agreement between a buyer and seller on an agreed upon price that reflects the true market value of a piece of property.  Many open space agencies within the Fox River watershed use public monies bestowed to them by voters to purchase land that protects the Fox River and other important natural resources.  Often times, private land conservation organizations, referred to as “conservation land trusts,” are able to purchase properties from willing sellers.

Land Donations
As crazy as it might sound, sometimes landowners want to donate their land to open space agencies (park or forest preserve districts) or conservation land trusts so the public can benefit.  There are many community-minded people out there who love their land and are motivated by community spirit and simply want other people to enjoy their land like they have for generations.  There can be significant tax and other financial benefits to donating land.

Bargain Sales
This is an increasingly popular way to help preserve open space.  A bargain sale is part acquisition and part donation.  The seller agrees to sell the property to a public agency or conservation land trust for less than fair market value.  The local community benefits by saving money on the sale, and the landowner benefits by taking a charitable tax donation for the difference between the agreed sales price and the documented appraised value for the land.  This charitable difference can often help buffer the seller from capital gains taxes.  Depending on their tax situation, a seller may be able to “walk away” with more money in their pocket from a bargain sale than from a traditional fee simple acquisition.

Conservation Easements
By far the fastest growing area in land conservation, a conservation easement is a perpetual agreement between and landowner and open space agency (or private conservation land trust) whereby the development rights are either sold or “donated” and the land is preserved as open space in perpetuity.  Land subject to a conservation easement must provide a “public benefit” and have something of conservation value on it.  The land stays in private ownership, does not have to provide public access, can be bought and sold like any other piece of property, but the perpetual easement stays on the property forever.  The “holder” of the easement, a local unit of government or conservation land trust, agrees to monitor and enforce the terms of the easement in perpetuity.   Combinations of Tools Sometimes, depending on the unique situation of a piece of property, a combination of these tools can be used to achieve maximum benefit for a landowner and a community.

 
A Citizen's Guide to Preserving the Fox River
in Illinois