AMBOY – In some areas, environmentalists are trying to grow more black oak trees. But that’s not the case at the Illinois Audubon Society’s Amboy Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary.
If anything, the group makes sure there aren’t too many of the native trees.
“We’re working on keeping black oaks in their place,” said Tom Clay, the society’s executive director. “Part of our restoration work keeps the number of black oaks in balance with everything else.”
In 2012, the society bought 272 acres of wetlands near U.S. Route 52 and Mormon Road, about 3 miles south of Amboy, and opened the sanctuary the next year. Recently, the group paid $250,000 for an additional 30 acres.
The land is part of the state-designated Green River Lowland Natural Area Inventory, a mostly undisturbed 1,100 acres.
Illinois has the second-most disturbed soil in the United States, because so many acres are under the plow. Iowa is first.
At one time, 60 percent of Illinois – 22 million acres – was prairie, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Of that, only 2,500 acres remain.
How did the Amboy Marsh stay relatively preserved?
“The reason why Amboy Marsh wasn’t disturbed for the most part is its soil,” Clay said. “Instead of the good quality black dirt in Illinois, it’s sand. It just so happens that it had never been drained. It’s one of the remaining jewels in Illinois.”
The Audubon Society wants to acquire more of the Green River area.
“If opportunities presented themselves to increase protected land in that inventory site, we would absolutely be interested,” Clay said.
The recent purchase was funded by the Audubon Society’s land acquisition fund.
The sanctuary, which opened to the public on Oct. 13, features a 2.5-mile marked trail.
Deb Carey, a Lee County resident who promotes conservation, pushed for the Audobon Society’s purchase of the sanctuary.
“They’re not making this land anymore. and we are making people every day,” Carey said. “We keep developing land, and we use up land at an astounding rate. There doesn’t need to be a justification for keeping part of nature. If there are willing sellers [in the natural area inventory], we would certainly be willing to speak with them.”
For more information
The Amboy Marsh Wildlife Sancutary, 1701 Mormon Road near Amboy, is open dawn to dusk. Parking is available at the entrance to the sanctuary.
Call the Illinois Audubon Society at 217-544-2473 for more information.