Volo Bog was first documented by W.G. Waterman in 1921. It was originally named the Sayer Bog, after the land's owner, dairy farmer George Sayer. Cyrus Mark, the first director of the Illinois Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, managed a fund-raising campaign that collected $40,000 in donations from school children, groups and individuals for the purchase of the 47.5-acre bog in 1958. The land was deeded to the University of Illinois, which retained ownership until 1970.
In the late 1960s, land developers threatened Volo Bog's survival. Local citizens formed a "Save the Volo Bog" committee and worked to ensure the bog's survival. Dr. William Beecher was instrumental in the campaign, which resulted in the transfer of Volo Bog to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Volo Bog was dedicated as an Illinois Nature Preserve in 1970. Three years later, it was registered as a National Natural Landmark with the United States Department of the Interior. More than 1,100 additional acres of land have been purchased to protect and enlarge the state preserve, which now includes marshes, prairie restoration areas, woodlands and two other bogs.
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