Nature Preserves Commission
mission of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission (INPC) is to assist
private and public landowners in protecting high quality natural areas
and habitats of endangered and threatened species in perpetuity,
through voluntary dedication or registration of such lands into the
Illinois Nature Preserves System. The Commission promotes the preservation
of these significant lands and provides leadership in their stewardship,
management and protection.
Sentinel Nature Preserve, photograph by Dan Kirk
PROTECTING NATURE'S TREASURES
A tapestry of nature’s treasures is protected in Illinois by a nationally acclaimed program called the Illinois Nature Preserves System. From the Cache River basin’s cypress swamps in southern Illinois to the Illinois Beach dunes along Lake Michigan, many of our state’s most rare, natural areas are protected as nature preserves.
These last remaining remnants of our state’s natural heritage are almost all that is left of the way the state looked in the early 1800s. Today, less than 0.1% of the landscape remains as it did when first seen by Illinois’ early settlers.
Permanently protected by state law, nature preserves are private and public lands that have rare plants, animals, or other unique natural features. Ranging in size from one acre to more than 2,000 acres, nature preserves protect tall grass prairies, oak groves, sandstone bluffs, wetlands, bogs and other threatened natural areas. These lands are the last remnants of the Illinois wilderness, which provides homes for endangered species like the prairie white-fringed orchid, the Prairie Chicken and Illinois Chorus Frog.
Without this protection, many of these exceptional areas would be lost forever. Currently, nature preserves protect over 900 occurrences of endangered and threatened plants and animals. In fact, more than 20% of all Illinois endangered species are in state dedicated nature preserves.
A VISION FOR THE FUTURE
Rapid changes in land use and expanding urban development prompted the Illinois General Assembly to establish the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission in 1963 to create a system of natural areas representative of Illinois’ landscape. The Illinois Natural Areas Preservation Act (525 ILCS 30) governs the Commission and charges it to preserve, protect and defend natural areas and endangered species habitat for public benefit.
This commitment to preserve the state’s rare natural treasures made Illinois the first state to create such an innovative land protection program. The INPC is now a national model, and more than a dozen states have followed its lead. In 1992, the INPC received international acclaim when it was recognized at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro as an “efficient and effective model of how to provide long-term protection for high quality natural areas.”
FINDING NATURAL AREAS
The Illinois Nature Areas Inventory --completed in 1978 and undergoing a thorough update-- designates the state’s most rare nature areas. It serves as a guide for the INPC when determining the eligibility of lands for protection.
Currently there are only 654 high-quality, undisturbed natural communities in the state. Approximately half of these areas are unprotected, and sites are either in danger of being, or have already been, totally or partially destroyed. Each year, 12-15 new nature preserves are dedicated after a thorough and detailed study of an area protecting them into the future.
Many private landowners who have a rare, natural area decide to voluntarily dedicate their property as a nature preserve. Nature preserves landowners:
- Retain title to their land
- Have their property tax reduced by changing the assessed value to $1 per acre
- Receive stewardship assistance for their site
- Preserve their rare land for future generations
INPC staff members work with landowners. Staff discuss the importance of the resources on landowners’ property, the owners' long term wishes, and the voluntary protection programs available through the INPC. Options available to landowners include nature preserve dedication, land and water reserve registration or enrollment as an Illinois natural heritage landmark.
Nature preserves provide unique opportunities for public enjoyment, critical scientific study and education:
Recreation: Many publicly owned nature preserves are open to the public for hiking and watching nature, including birds, flowers, trees and animals that could face extinction in Illinois if not for the safe haven provided by the nature preserve system.
Research: Each year the INPC issues 400-500 research permits for biologists, scientists, and students to study and monitor rare species of plants and animals. This research can lead to improved ways to protect endangered plants and animals. The nature preserves system serves as a natural storehouse of genetic material, some of which could provide the chemical basis for new drugs and medicines.
Education: While protecting the last few remnants of our state’s natural heritage, nature preserves also provide living classrooms to benefit future generations.
CARING FOR THE LAND
INPC stewardship programs are designed to help restore and maintain the natural resources found within the Illinois Nature Preserves, Registered Land and Water Reserves, Natural Heritage Landmarks and other natural areas within the state of Illinois for now and the future.
The INPC actively helps defend nature preserves to ensure these precious areas are not threatened by improper or illegal use.
Every person can help protect nature preserves by respecting these rare treasures and following guidelines that help preserve them for future generations.
Illinois Nature Preserves Commission
One Natural Resources Way
Springfield, IL 62702-1271
Equal opportunity to participate in programs of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, and those funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies is available to all individuals regardless of race, sex, national origin, disability, age, religion, or other non-merit factors. If you believe you have been discriminated against, contact the funding source's civil rights office and/or the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer, IDNR, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702-1271; 217/785-0067; TTY 217/782-9175.