A range of land types, such as wetlands, floodplains, forests, savannas, and prairies, provide crucial ecosystem services, habitat, and recreational amenities to the region. The conservation areas local strategy map identifies areas that may be considered priorities for conservation, and reflects county-level green infrastructure plans where they exist.

Regional conservation priorities

Will county open space.

Regional conservation priorities include wetlands, 100-year floodplains, protected open space, and unprotected Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (INAI) sites, oaks, prairies, and savannas. Also included are 200-foot buffers around wetlands, INAI sites, prairies, savannas, and oak stands of greater than 10 acres. Regional Conservation Priorities also include 200-foot buffers around surface water, protected open space, and current and programmed trails included in the Regional Greenways and Trails Plan. Regional priorities are included independent of whether they are also part of subregional green infrastructure plans, although most core priority areas are also included in these county plans.

To the extent possible, CMAP has taken advantage of existing data sets that have used screening or ranking criteria that ecologists and other experts have developed, such as those produced by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois Natural History Survey, and Chicago Wilderness. Analysis of these data sets revealed common resource types, such as wetlands, floodplains, preserved land, aquifer recharge areas, groundwater and surface water resources, and oak, woodland, and prairie ecosystems. They also provided a range of thresholds for inclusion in a map or study, such as minimum contiguous acreage and the size of buffers around resources, which informed the thresholds CMAP used to develop the conservation areas local strategy map.

Local conservation priorities

McHenry County open space.

Local conservation priorities are environmental resource areas identified in the Kane, McHenry, and Lake County green infrastructure plans. The majority of these areas were captured within the Regional Conservation Priorities analysis. However, there are additional areas within county green infrastructure plans that were not captured in the Regional Priorities analysis that are considered local (i.e., county) priorities and are shown as such on the map. As other counties develop green infrastructure plans, they may be added to future versions of the local strategy map.

Conservation opportunities

Trees in McHenry County

Conservation opportunities include non-oak forest patches greater than 50 acres that were identified in the regional analysis but not included as environmental resource areas in county green infrastructure plans. Because forest patches are important resource areas, they are included as conservation opportunities, but based on the review of past green infrastructure mapping projects completed in the region, it appeared to be appropriate to consider them in a different category than the regional conservation priorities. As research into the region’s natural resources continues and experts develop new data sets, other landscapes may be added as conservation opportunities in future versions of the local strategy map.

Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge (authorized boundaries)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge for land protection given the unique biodiversity in this area of McHenry County. The authorized boundaries include existing conservation lands, as well as proposed refuge conservation core areas and proposed refuge conservation corridors, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to establish by working with local landowners.