Moeller Woods Preserve, which protects a tributary of Plum Creek in Crete Township, will expand by 200 acres this year.
The land acquisition was approved in June by the Forest Preserve District's Board of Commissioners.
This new parcel is directly south of the existing 191-acre Moeller Woods Preserve, which is located along Exchange Street, east of Route 394. The preserve's original acreage was acquired in 2003 from Trinity Lutheran Church after parishioner Adeline Moeller bequeathed 360 acres to the church and the church sold a portion to the District.
The church had hoped to build on the remaining 200 acres, but those plans have changed and the church agreed to sell the remainder of the parcel to the Forest Preserve District this year. Moeller Woods is part of a Plum Creek preservation system that conserves more than 2,300 acres.
Expanding Moeller Woods will help the District close a gap between that preserve and Plum Valley Preserve.
Funding for the acquisition is coming from the District’s $25 million 2020-2024 Capital Improvement Program. The program provides $12 million for land acquisition and $13 million for preserve, facility and trail enhancements.
Currently, most of the parcel is in agricultural production, and those acres will be incorporated into the Forest Preserve’s farm license programs as an interim land use until restoration can occur.
This acquisition and another approved earlier this year at Plum Valley Ravines will push the Forest Preserve over the 22,000-acre milestone of owned, leased and managed land throughout Will County.
Using capital plan funds, the Forest Preserve has identified 1,943 acres of high priority parcels throughout the county for possible acquisition. Expanding the preserves will provide additional flood water storage, underground aquifer replenishment and enhanced atmospheric carbon storage, contributing to cleaner water, cleaner air and better protection against flooding for local communities.
“We hope to add 1,500-2,000 acres of protected property during this program and surpass 23,000 acres,” Schultz said.
Since its creation by referendum in 1926, the Forest Preserve has grown from 143 acres in 1930 to now more than 22,000 acres that are owned, leased or managed by the District. This preservation came at a time when the county’s population grew from 92,000 in 1920 to almost 700,000 residents today.
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