In the late 1990s, there was an explosion of suburban development in southwestern Illinois. Land was being consumed at a rapid pace. HeartLands Conservancy, at that time known as Southwestern Illinois RC&D, had been around for less than ten years when Sally Brown and her family approached the organization about conserving their land.

The Brown Family’s farm was located north of O’Fallon at the time. (Today, it’s entirely surrounded by and within the City Limits of O’Fallon). Having grown up on the farm where her parents and grandparents had lived and raised buffalo and crops, the family began seeing the surrounding farmland and forests rapidly becoming subdivisions.

The water in their creeks, which was once clear, began to flow brown with excess soil and other runoff. The wildlife that rested within their woods started to decrease. Birds that once landed in their forest were appearing less and less.

Their view of the rolling countryside was being overtaken by houses.

So in 1998, when the Brown Family called to ask for help preserving their land – the land they tended and cared about for generations – HeartLands Conservancy stepped in to assist as a conservation land trust. Sally and the Brown Family’s farm was permanently protected in 2001 through a Conservation Easement. A conservation easement is a restriction placed on the land that prevents it from becoming a subdivision or other type of development. The family can continue to own and live on the land – even farm it! HeartLands Conservancy monitors the land and ensures it stays as a farm or natural area. Forever.

The Brown Family did an amazing thing back in 1998 and inspired an entire region to follow their lead.

We at HeartLands Conservancy are grateful for everyone in southern Illinois who, like Sally, care deeply for our region’s wildlife, farms, and people. You are what makes our region wonderful.