As COVID-19 doubled down on the world in 2021, HeartLands Conservancy doubled down on conservation in southwestern Illinois.  

  • We continued to expand our conservation easements by preserving wetlands currently under restoration. 
  • We expanded Poag Sand Prairie by purchasing an additional 10 acres and began restoration planning of the site. The property is a sanctuary for threatened Illinois Chorus Frogs. 
  • We continued our partnerships with communities, like Godfrey and Lebanon, to plan parks and neighborhood enhancements.  
  • We expanded our community forestry efforts, distributing hundreds of trees in 2021 to communities and organizations in the metro east region. 
  • We began work on watershed health in the Portage des Sioux and Prairie du Pont watersheds. Both watersheds directly drain into the Mississippi River and are home to many residents, businesses, and special natural resources. 
  • Volunteers continued to be essential to the mission of HeartLands Conservancy, logging 983 hours in 2021. 
  • And, we continued to encourage people to get outdoors in southwestern Illinois. In fact over 500 people participated in the 2021 Jingle Hike Challenge! 

We are incredibly grateful to the people of our region and beyond who have stepped up to support the conservation mission of HeartLands Conservancy. Your support has kept the organization thriving and reaching new people and communities every day. See all that you have accomplished in 2021.

Going forward, we are preparing for exciting things to come for HeartLands Conservancy. 2023 will see a renewed vision and strategy developed by our Board of Directors. We will be rebooting some beloved events of the organization, and we will be expanding our volunteer efforts and programs thanks to the support of donors like you, so stay tuned! 

See you outside!

HLC’s Impact on Conservation in southwestern Illinois

Because of generous support from our members and sponsors, HeartLands Conservancy has been able to conserve, connect, and restore the diverse natural and cultural resources that sustain the people and communities of southwestern Illinois.

The successful protection of this additional habitat would not have been possible without the support of our partners, including Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), which provided valuable research and data on the Illinois Chorus Frog and its habitat needs. Through our collaborative efforts, we were able to make a tangible impact on the conservation of this species and its habitat in southwestern Illinois.

We are proud of this accomplishment and look forward to continuing to work with our partners to protect and restore critical habitat for the Illinois Chorus Frog and other imperiled species in our region.

In 2021, HeartLands Conservancy (HLC) achieved a major milestone in our mission to conserve critical habitat for threatened species in southwestern Illinois. Through the support of partners including the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, we were able to protect an additional 9 acres of habitat for the Illinois Chorus Frog, a species that is considered threatened by the state.

This additional acreage connects directly to 50 acres of habitat previously protected by HLC and the IDNR, creating a contiguous area of protected land that will give the Illinois Chorus Frog population the room it needs to grow and thrive. This is a critical step in ensuring the long-term survival of this species, which is facing numerous threats, including habitat loss and fragmentation.

The City of Lebanon

The Neighborhood Plan for the southeast quadrant of Lebanon, Illinois, known as The Flats, is a prime example of the impact of HeartLands Conservancy’s community engagement and planning efforts. Through extensive outreach and collaboration with local residents and partners such as the City of Lebanon, Friends of McAllister Park, and the PHACT Center we were able to develop a plan that reflects the community’s values and vision for equitable investment in their neighborhood.

The SE Quadrant has a rich history of racial integration and diversity, and it was important to the residents that this tradition be preserved and celebrated in the plan. The resulting plan not only honors the past, but also serves as a toolkit for future advocacy efforts to ensure continued investment in the neighborhood.

Through our partnership with the city, we were able to provide resources and support for residents to participate in the planning process and ensure that their voices were heard. The success of the Neighborhood Plan for the SE Quadrant is a testament to the power of community engagement and the importance of preserving the unique character of our neighborhoods.

We are proud of the work we have done in the SE Quadrant and look forward to continuing to support the residents as they advocate for their community.

The Village of Godfrey

In 2021, our Resilient Communities Planning Team worked tirelessly to support the Village of Godfrey in creating a comprehensive parks, trails, and open space plan. With partial funding from MEPRD, the team was able to assist the Village in building upon their Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, completing a detailed master plan for Glazebrook Park, and determining where future parks and amenities should be located.

Through this partnership, the team was able to help the Village connect with and embrace their forgotten asset, the Mississippi River, through the activation, branding, and marketing of their “River’s Edge.” This work has not only strengthened the community’s connection to their natural resources, but has also provided opportunities for outdoor recreation and improved the overall quality of life for residents.

HeartLands Conservancy is grateful for the support of our Godfrey partners, the Village of Godfrey and MECO-Hengehan Engineers in making this work possible. We are committed to continuing our efforts in conserving, connecting, and restoring the natural and cultural resources of southwestern Illinois and creating resilient communities.

As part of HeartLands Conservancy’s ongoing commitment to promote and support urban forestry throughout Southwestern Illinois, HLC began partnering with the IDNR in 2021 to create the HLC Tree Stewards program. This partnership has been instrumental in assisting communities to become Tree City USA cities and empowering residents to develop a passion for urban forestry.

Through the HLC Tree Stewards program, our volunteers have provided education and hands-on experience for community members to become advocates for the woodlands around them. We expanded our partnerships with the US Forest Service and Forest ReLeaf of MO and have received sponsorships from Forrest Keeling Nursery and Wetlands Forever.

Thanks to these partnerships and sponsorships, we have been able to plant over 500 new trees in the region and provide educational resources to communities on the importance of urban forestry. Our efforts have created three new Tree City USA cities in Southwestern Illinois.

As we continue our commitment to the conservation, connection, and restoration of natural and cultural resources, we will continue supporting urban forestry and engaging communities in becoming stewards of their local woodlands.

Photo Credit MEPRD

HeartLands Conservancy is proud to report on our successful efforts to address critical issues with stormwater and infiltration in the Portage des Sioux and Prairie du Pont watersheds. In 2021, we partnered with the Illinois EPA and received a Boeing Employee Charitable Fund grant to conduct outreach and inventory existing resources. This allowed us to bring together stakeholders and partners, including Madison County and various state, local, and community-based organizations, to develop a comprehensive plan to address these issues.

Our efforts have already yielded positive results, including improved water quality and increased community engagement in conservation efforts. We are committed to continuing our work in these watersheds and upholding our mission to conserve, connect, and restore the natural and cultural resources of southwestern Illinois.

We are grateful for the support of our partners and donors, without whom our work would not be possible. Together, we are positively impacting our region and protecting the health of our communities and environment.

Otter Photo Credit: MEPRD

The 2021 Jingle Hike Challenge was a resounding success, with over 500 participants exploring southwestern Illinois’s beautiful parks, trails, and natural resources. The bright light of the pandemic was the desire people had to get outside, and HeartLands Conservancy was there to encourage and support this desire.

The Jingle Hike Challenge was a fantastic way to connect people with nature during winter when the community does not visit many parks and trails. The challenge was an excellent opportunity for community members to expand their horizons and discover new parks, trails, and trees they might have never ventured to before.

HeartLands Conservancy is grateful for the support of our Jingle Hike Partners – Bauerhaus Design, Inc., Lochmueller Group, and Property Peddler, Inc. – who helped make this event possible. We are also thankful for the many parks and trails that were part of the challenge, including Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Engelmann Farm Park, Highland Silver Lake Park, and many others.

The Jingle Hike Challenge was a perfect example of HeartLands Conservancy’s mission to conserve, connect, and restore the diverse natural and cultural resources of southwestern Illinois. We are proud of this event’s impact on the community and look forward to continuing to support the connection between people and nature in the future.

Much of HeartLands Conservancy’s work involves targeted real estate transactions and associated relationship-building, due diligence, deal-making, and fundraising. Sometimes we buy a property and steward it permanently. In other cases, we buy land to save it from imminent loss and later transfer it to a permanent steward (e.g., parks department, conservation-minded individual, or a state or federal agency). 

In other scenarios, we empower a partner to make the purchase by negotiating the terms, securing funding, and managing or assisting with the acquisition on their behalf. Because of this, our finances can look very different from year to year. 

In 2021, we transferred ownership of three significant properties, at a loss, to other entities. We transferred our Cypress Swamp in  Alexander County and an upland forest in Jackson County to the Shawnee National Forest, and we transferred our half ownership of White Rock Nature Preserve to nonprofit, Clifftop, who has been the primary caretaker of the land since its purchase in 2010. These transfers resulted in a significant loss on our financial statements in 2021.

We could not do what we do without the generosity of every one of our donors.

Through your unwavering support in 2021, HeartLands Conservancy increased conservation in southwestern Illinois.

We would like to offer special recognition to the following partners that have provided key strategic support and investment in HLC’s conservation initiatives.


Community Membership

Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery
Prairie State Generating Company, LLC
Wetlands Forever, Inc.
Clinton County Farm Bureau
Nelson & Nelson Attorneys at Law, P.C.
Studio Archaeos
Bauerhaus Design, Inc
Clinton County SWCD
Farm Credit Illinois
Forrest Keeling Nursery
Fulford Homes
Lochmueller Group
Madison County SWCD
Patrick Prindable Insurance Agency
Property Peddler, Inc
Pufalt-Pauley Insurance Agency, Inc.
Volkert, Inc.
Walker & Williams P.C.
Wetlands Forever, Inc.
Memorial Hospitals Belleville – Shiloh
Randolph County SWCD
Madison County Building & Zoning
Madison County Farm Bureau
St. Clair County Farm Bureau
Village of Swansea

City of Belleville
City of Collinsville
City of Edwardsville – Parks and Rec
City of Fairview Heights
Village of Fayetteville
Village of Hamel
City of Highland
Village of Marine
City of Mascoutah
Metro East Park & Recreation District
City of O’Fallon
City of Red Bud
Village of Shiloh
Village of Smithton
Waterloo Park District
City of Waterloo

White Oak Society

Marie-France and Bill Armstrong
Bauerhaus Design, Inc
Belle Clair Rotary Club
Shelli and Scott Bement
Christine and William Boardman
Susan and Kerry Brethauer
Carol and Dale Brockmann
Carol A Burns and Steven E Kraft
Arnold L Busse
Clinton County Farm Bureau
Clinton County SWCD
Kay Connolly
Penelope and Carl Daubach
Jill and Rick Essner
Marilyn and Tom Fahey
Farm Credit Illinois
Forrest Keeling Nursery
Joann and Mike Fricke
Fulford Homes
Carol and David Gentry
Bill Grisley

Janet Haroian
Donna and Robert Hilgenbrink
Christine and Gary Huelsmann
Kimberly Huth
Dawnesha Johnson
Junior Service Club of St. Clair County
Amy Kempfer
Jo and Dennis Kirkham
Cheryl Kowalczyk
Kyle Kratky
Jenny and Mike Krim
Nancy Larson and Bill O’Hara
Lochmueller Group
Laura Lyon and Tim Busse
Madison County SWCD
Stephen Medford
Nelson & Nelson Attorneys at Law, P.C.
Katherine and Robert C Nelson
Patrick Prindable Insurance Agency
Jim Pauley
Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery
Prairie State Generating Company, LLC

Property Peddler, Inc
Pufalt-Pauley Insurance Agency, Inc.
REALTOR Association of Southwestern Illinois
E. William Reichert III
Dianne and Roger Ross
Rotary Club of Swansea
Cliff Schuette
Linda and Glen Schuetz
Robert Seiffert
Susan Stripeik
Studio Archaeos
Lisa and David Tiedemann
Rachel Tompkins and Cartney James
Lynne and John Troyan
Lisa Griffith and Edward Ulkus
Mary and Robert Vandevord
Volkert, Inc.
Walker & Williams P.C.
Kathi and Ed Weilbacher
Anne Werner
Megan and Michael Zanger