To the editor:
Over the last 30 years, thousands of acres of woodlands have been converted to other uses, thousands of acres of prime farmland have been lost to urban sprawl, plus many gems of prairie disappeared in Douglas County. That is why we need to create a Douglas County Conservation District that can preserve open space and natural lands.
Over the last 40 years, the McHenry County Conservation District in northeast Illinois has preserved over 25,000 acres of open land diverse with woodlands, prairies and wetlands. The district has the power to acquire natural lands by purchase, lease, gift or conservation easement. Funding for the district is primarily derived from an annual tax of one-tenth of 1 percent of the assessed valuation of the county. It can also leverage federal and state grants and issue bonds to be paid by future revenues. Such a district in Douglas County could also obtain revenues from a real estate transfer fee. For example, Crested Butte, Colo., has a 1.5 percent real estate transfer fee for open-space preservation.
Unless we have the foresight to preserve open space and natural lands today, Douglas County will end up like Johnson County within just a few decades. That is why the time to act is now.