PROPHETSTOWN – Area hunters who favor the Big Bend State Fish & Wildlife Area have more land to prowl, thanks to a $550,000 land purchase made with state funds.
The 274.26-acre, three-sided, wooded parcel is east of Erie and west of Portland; the Rock River defines its northern boundary. It was bought about a year ago from James A. and Fernande M. Nowers of Prophetstown.
According to a recent news release from the state, the site “fits nicely with the existing site and serves migrating waterfowl and supports bottomland forest communities.”
The parcel, which was bought May 21, 2013, is enrolled in the Wetland Reserve Program.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife has worked with the county since the program’s inception to protect the property. Acquisition of this parcel will offer additional hunting opportunities at the site, the release said.
The governor’s office made the Big Bend announcement along with three other conservation land acquisitions, all totalling $2.2 million.
The money comes from the IDNR’s Open Lands Trust, funds that are appropriated by the Legislature to acquire natural and recreational areas for public use. The trust also can be used to help communities leverage additional funds to protect land for conservation and recreation.
“The Open Lands Trust Fund is an important tool that allows DNR to step in to help match federal dollars,” IDNR Director Marc Miller said in the release. “Without it, state and local governments would have a harder time capturing available federal dollars to complete projects like this one.”
Other acquisitions made during the past year were:
• $209,000 to buy a section of right-of-way for the Kickapoo Trail. The recently finalized purchase consists of 19.3 acres of the former CSX Railroad right-of-way within the boundaries of Kickapoo State Park. The deal allowed Kickapoo Trail developers to obtain $2.1 million more in federal Transportation Enhancement Funds last year.
• $760,000 to buy 126.26 acres adjacent to Jubilee College State Park in Peoria County, protecting the land from future housing developments and allowing it to serve as a buffer for the park.
• $737,296 to buy 263.32 acres to add on to Cretaceous Hills State Natural Area in Pope County. Cretaceous Hills is one of the best examples of a barrens natural community in Illinois, a mixed community of grass and stunted trees growing in thin soils, the release said.
Prior to this acquisition, IDNR owned 237 acres here, all of it dedicated to nature preservation. The preserve provides habitat for 17 endangered plant and animal species. Its recreational opportunities include wildlife observation, hunting and hiking, as well as deer and turkey hunting.
About Big Bend
The Big Bend State Fish & Wildlife Area is in Whiteside County, 4 miles west of Prophetstown along the Rock River on VanDamme and Banks roads. Its address is 2010 VanDamme Road.
With this purchase, the area grows to about 2,650 acres of upland forest, native grassland, tree plantings, tracts of woods, two oxbows and several small wetlands and marshes.
While some hiking and fishing opportunities exist, the area primarily is used by hunters.
Available game species include deer (archery only), turkey (heritage youth, spring and fall archery), pheasant, quail, rabbit, fox (red and gray), coyote and skunk.
Go to dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/r1/bigbend.htm or call 815-537-2270 for more information.