WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) -- The Winnebago County Forest Preserve District will purchase over 500 acres of land where the Sugar and Pecatonica rivers meet.
Funding will be provided by a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and a donation from Char and Ray Ferguson.
According to a press release, the area is particularly valued for its bird habitat. Sandhill cranes have been documented nesting on this site. Federally endangered whooping cranes have also used it as a stopover during migration. In addition, bald eagles, egrets, pelicans and several species of ducks and geese use the site for refuge and breeding. It is a critical migratory stop for migrating waterfowl as well.
The site also contains two Illinois Natural Areas Inventory sites. Prairie and wetland restoration has been underway over the last several years. That means minimal restoration work for the forest preserve district.
The proposed acquisition touches the northern border of Ottertail Marsh. This addition aligns with the long-term acquisition strategy for creating a complete corridor of preserves along the Sugar River. Currently, 1,500 acres of the Sugar River corridor are protected in Winnebago County.
Public access will be developed for the area. A trail system and observation platform are included in the plans.