JDCF Protects Iconic Stockton, IL Area Landmark

JDCF recently acquired 70 wooded acres southeast of Stockton. Adjacent to the 335-acre Wards Grove Nature Preserve, JDCF’s acquisition creates a more than 400-acre complex of conserved land that will never be developed and will always be open to the public for outdoor enjoyment.

According to the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, “Its large size, unbroken canopy, mature understory, and position with respect to other regional forested areas, make Wards Grove a very valuable site for area-sensitive bird species. Acadian flycatcher, ovenbird, American redstart, scarlet tanager, veery, pileated woodpecker, and black and white warbler inhabit the forest.”

Wards Grove is also an Illinois Natural Area Inventory (INAI) site. Created in the 1970’s and updated throughout the years, the INAI provides information about high quality natural areas, habitats of endangered species, and other significant natural features throughout the state. Information from the INAI is used to guide and support land acquisition and protection programs by all levels of government as well as by private landowners and conservation organizations like JDCF.

In addition to its quality woodland habitat, “Wards Grove is geologically remarkable,” said JDCF Executive Director, Steve Barg. Wards Grove is one the many natural mounds that make the Driftless Area so iconic. The Wards Grove mound is itself a natural marker for the very eastern edge of the Driftless Area. “Rain falling on Wards Grove’s eastern edge flows into Yellow Creek and ultimately the Rock River watershed, while runoff on the Wards Grove’s western edge finds its way to the Mississippi River via the Plum River,” Barg said.

Stockton native and JDCF Special Projects Director, Tom Clay, noted that Wards Grove presents itself on the far southeastern edge of the Driftless region, which blankets the landscape in southeast Minnesota, southwest Wisconsin, northeast Iowa, and northwest Illinois. “Much like the Driftless region as a whole, Wards Grove is a woodland island unto itself and a great representation of what makes this area so beautiful and unique,” Clay said.

The majority of funding for this acquisition was generously provided by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. JDCF’s land acquisition fund provided the funding remainder to complete the project.