BACT Completes Conservation Easement on Rare Gravel Hill Prairie
The Barrington Area Conservation Trust has completed a conservation easement on a rare native grave hill prairie in Barrington Hills, which will ensure that both the prairie ecosystem and equestrian trails on the property will be preserved in perpetuity.
The private property off Ridge Road is owned by Marius Bialas and Renata Heiberg. The prairie was confirmed as a gravel hill prairie with sand prairie along its western ridge by Randy Nyboer of the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory.
“Most gravel hill prairies are located along the Mississippi region of Ilinois and it is rare to find a gravel hill prairie in this region,” said Karen Yancey, BACT Executive Director. “This conservation easement is a wonderful gift to the community and will ensure that both the horse trails and the rare native plants are protected through ongoing stewardship efforts.”
“Less than one-tenth of one percent of our native Illinois prairie remains. This prairie includes many rare plants and grasses, including a predominance of little blue stem grasses, false boneset, purple prairie clover and green milkweed, said Jo Seagren, BACT president. “I’ve ridden horses along this unique sandy hill for many years and we are so pleased that it will be there for equestrian riders for many generations to come.”
“Before we purchased the property in 2009, we knew that that both the house and the property made it a special place, and we wanted to find a way to preserve it for future generations,” said Heiberg. Shortly after Heiberg and Bialas completed the purchase, Heiberg met Eve Perry and Gretchen Hess, who were members of the Riding Club of Barrington Hills and knew that the prairie and its trails were also a beautiful spot known to equestrians throughout our area. They urged Heiberg to talk to the Barrington Area Conservation Trust to find a way to permanently preserve it.
The couple worked with staff of the Barrington Area Conservation Trust to complete the conservation easement, which restricts future owners from altering the prairie and its surrounding oak forest. Although there is no public access to the site, the easement allows for Riding Club members to continue to use the established riding trails forever. The BACT will offer hikes on the prairie to its members, Yancey said.
The conservation easement was placed on four acres of the property. The BACT is working with Heiberg and Bialas to protect approximately two additional acres on an adjacent parcel. Under a management plan developed for the property, BACT will be assisting the owners in removing buckthorn and other non-native species that threaten the site.
A conservation easement is one of the tools that the Barrington Area Conservation Trust uses to protect the conservation values of private property and ensure that it is not subdivided or developed inappropriately in the future. A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a property owner and a conservation trust that allows the land to remain in private ownership. In return for placing an easement on their property, many landowners are eligible for property, estate, and income tax reductions. In Illinois, most landowners receive a 75 percent reduction in their annual property taxes, said Yancey.
“Conservation easements can be tailored to meet the needs of each landowner and are the best legal tool available to protect private property from being inappropriately developed in the future,” said Yancey. “They have been used on the East and West Coast for hundreds of years to protect open space and scenic views on private property and are increasingly used in Illinois to protect land of high conservation value.”