The Mission of the Natural Resource Management Department
The farsighted individuals who drafted the legislation that created the Conservation District Act in 1963 were concerned that the primary mission of such districts would be the protection and proper management of lands being set aside in perpetuity for future generations. Cognizant that the important task of allowing public access to protected lands was fraught with the potential to degrade and diminish those very lands if done poorly, they added section 7111.11 to the act. This important clause clearly defines the long-term protection and management of open space as a primary function of all conservation districts. The section reads:
Every district shall consider the preservation of natural conditions and protection of flora and fauna, as part of its principal purpose and to that end shall set aside a substantial portion of its land to remain in an essentially undisturbed condition.
In 1963 when the Conservation District Act was authored, ecologists were just beginning to understand the depth and breadth of the destruction of Illinois original natural heritage. The 1978 Illinois Natural Areas Inventory, a meticulous assessment of the remaining high quality natural land statewide, revealed that only .07 of 1 percent of the state’s land remained in its original condition.
Acting on newly emerging insights about the complexity and fragile status of the state’s natural heritage, the McHenry County Conservation District enacted a bold and visionary land management policy in 1985. This policy, the first in the nation of its type, sought to not only insure that those few remaining high quality sites owned by the District remained in good biological health, but to ensure the restoration of ecologically damaged lands owned by the agency as well. The Natural Ecosystem Management Policy charts a daring, innovative course for the District by stating:
The primary goal of District natural ecosystem management efforts shall be to maintain and reconstruct the best possible approximations of native communities, by restoring natural ecological processes, structure, and composition.
(MCCD Natural Ecosystem Management Policy)
The Philosophy of the Natural Resource Management Department
The philosophy of the Natural Resource Management Department rests upon three basic principles that form the core of the NRM departmental personality. These three principles include hard work, high expectations, and uncompromising commitment to the mission of the District and the department. These core beliefs are codified in the simple statements summarized in the NRM departmental handbook.
Exegi monumentum aere perenniu
“I have raised a monument more enduring than bronze”
This statement reflects the belief of the NRM department that the true monuments to unborn generations are those that can continue to inspire, evoke, and stir the heart and mind. A healthy vibrant environment, alive with the intrinsic beauty of the natural world in all its diversity and splendor, speaks to our respect for the future and the health of ecological systems that must continue to sustain all life on the planet.
The Natural Resource Management Department works closely with each of the other departments within the District. Good working relationships, free exchange of resource related information and most importantly a shared vision of the District’s goals and objectives are critical to the successful integration of the major concentrations of the agency’s mission. While District departments work together routinely to ensure coordination on major projects such as site master plans, there is also an informal exchange of crucial information on a daily basis as well. Natural Resource Management partners on a regular basis with the following departments:
- Administration – NRM routinely provides natural resource related information for grant proposals, potential environmental impacts, and proposed land acquisitions. The Department prepares an updated edition of the NRM Land Acquisition Recommendations every 12-15 months for use in long term land protection planning.
- Planning & Development – NRM provides updated Natural Ecosystem Management Plans, specific site-related resource information, and coordination of planning issues with the preservation of critical site natural heritage elements. The Department works closely with P/D staff on site development plans to ensure that public access to District lands does not impact the very resources for which the land was protected.
- Educational Services – NRM works closely with Educational Services to provide resource related information for public programming, identify appropriate activities on restoration projects that can involve educational program participants, and integrate the design and opening of Research Field Station displays with public programs. In addition, the NRM staff provides significant public outreach in the form of direct interpretive programs and activities planned in close coordination with the Educational Services staff.
- Land & Facilities – NRM partners closely with Land & Facilities on specific projects that involve both a facility and resource related need. NRM equipment and staff is used frequently for diverse Land & Facilities related projects as building demolition, trail clearing, and facilities development such as campground improvements. NRM attempts to integrate yearly departmental project planning for activities such as brush removal in areas that may be also slated for the installation of site amenities to reduce overall project costs.
- Communications – NRM’s knowledge of resource related issues are often utilized by the Communications Department for appropriate press interviews, direct public contacts, and public presentations to citizen’s groups, scouts, and service organizations. NRM works directly with Communications to ensure that adequate and positive contact has been made with surrounding neighbors prior to the implementation of large-scale restoration projects. The Department also works closely with Volunteer Services to place interested citizens wishing to become involved with ecological restoration activities into the Volunteer Stewardship Network.
- Law Enforcement – NRM is involved on a routine basis with the Law Enforcement Division on numerous issues, especially those related to the recreational hunting and fishing program.
- Wildlife Resource Center – NRM partners closely with the staff of the WRC on wildlife reintroduction projects, and on other wildlife-related activities as they arise. In addition WRC staff work directly in the implementation of the countywide amphibian-monitoring program.