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The Illinois Nature Preserves Commission promotes the preservation of significant lands and oversees their stewardship, management, and protection by offering various land protection options designed to assist landowners who wish to voluntarily preserve their land. The Nature Preserves Commission field staff consists of ten biologists located throughout the state. These Natural Areas Preservation Specialists are educated in the biology of natural areas and trained to assist landowners in the preservation of these important lands. They work with the owners of natural areas to tailor a conservation agreement that protects the natural features of the land while addressing the landowners' use of the property. Nature Preserves Commission programs are voluntary and are available to private and public landowners.

The three following land protection options are available:

Dedication as an Illinois Nature Preserve

Only high-quality natural areas (including areas of ecological, geological, and archeological significance) qualify for this land protection tool. Dedication is the strongest protection that can be given to land and provides permanent protection. The owner retains custody but voluntarily restricts future uses of the land in perpetuity to preserve its natural state and to perpetuate natural conditions. Qualifying lands in private, corporate, or government ownership can be dedicated as an Illinois Nature Preserve. This agreement may result in financial benefits to the landowner, primarily in the form of a charitable contribution deduction on federal income taxes and a local property tax reduction. The biggest benefit to the landowner is the assurance that their cherished land will be permanently and legally preserved while still allowing them to enjoy it now and pass it on to their heirs.

Registration as an Illinois Land and Water Reserve

Lands and waters of Illinois that support significant natural heritage or archaeological resources qualify for this land protection tool. The agreement to register an area as a Land and Water Reserve determines allowable uses and stipulates management objectives. Registered Reserves may be in public or private ownership. The agreement may be for a term of years or permanent. The property can be sold or passed on to heirs subject to the agreement. Land and waters permanently registered may qualify for reduced tax benefits in the form of a local property tax reduction and possibly a charitable contribution deduction on federal income taxes.

Natural Heritage Landmark

This is a recognition program that introduces a landowner to the concept of natural area protection and allows the state to assist with management of the natural area. It is a voluntary program that increases understanding of the value of natural areas and encourages their preservation by private landowners. An agreement document determines provisions and can be terminated by either party on sixty days notice. These programs are designed to preserve the natural features of the land and do not require public access to private property