Eastern prairie fringed orchid, a federally-threatened species, in bloom. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In 2007, the Fund aided the Great Rivers Land Trust and its partners in the creation of the Palisades Preserve, a 430-acre expanse of bluffs and forest overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. Renowned for its scenic beauty and views of downtown St. Louis, this dramatic property is now protected for future generations.
The Palisades has long been a draw for travelers of a national scenic byway known as the “Meeting of the Great Rivers,” and the preserve, located within the largest North American flyway, provides key habitat for migrating birds and other wildlife. The preserve also offers critical habitat for endangered or threatened plant and animal species, including the bald eagle, Indiana bat, Eastern prairie fringed orchid, Prairie bush clover and Decurrent false aster. Its rare forests contain areas undisturbed by humans; notably, less than one percent of such “pre-settlement” forest exists today in Illinois.
Stewarded in private ownership by the Adams Development Company for 40 years, the family-owned company sought to protect the property for future generations through a partnership of local organizations, including the Great Rivers Land Trust and the Lewis and Clark Community College Foundation. The land trust faced the challenge of raising enough funds in time to complete the protection effort. To make this landmark acquisition possible, the Fund provided the land trust with a loan from its Mississippi River Revolving Fund.
With the Fund’s loan in hand, the Great Rivers Land Trust gained the necessary time to find additional funders and to meet the project’s fundraising goals. At the same time, the Fund and Great Rivers Land Trust negotiated the acquisition of the property with the Adams Development Company.
Today, the Lewis and Clark Community College Foundation owns the property, while Great Rivers Land Trust holds a conservation easement on it. In addition to welcoming wildlife and visitors, the Palisades Preserve inspires ecosystem research and education. The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC) will provide opportunities for outdoor education, both to students via Lewis and Clark Community College and to lifelong learners throughout the community.