Settled and farmed by the mid-1800s, the contiguous farmsteads that composed Jim Edgar Panther Creek SFWA were purchased from 1968-1974 by Commonwealth Edison for development of a coal-fired, electric-power generating plant and a 5,000-acre cooling lake. The company named the 16,550-acre tract "Site M" for nearby Menard County, where coal to fuel the power plant was to be mined.
Commonwealth Edison leased about half of the acreage for cropland, and through a cooperative agreement with the IDNR also provided limited upland and forest game hunting. Through the years, hunters applying for permits to the area became well-acquainted with the Site M name.
Commonwealth Edison abandoned its plans to build a power plant at Site M in the 1980s. By virtue of its size and location, Site M became an unparalleled opportunity for the IDNR to address critical conservation needs and meet outdoor recreation demands. With funds specifically designated for conservation purposes, the State of Illinois added the acreage to the public trust in June 1993, making Site M the largest tract ever acquired by the IDNR at that time.
Effective January 1, 2001, Panther Creek Conservation Area was absorbed into JEPC in an effort to avoid confusion and simplify site regulations. This brings the total acres of JEPC to 16,550. Panther Creek CA is now known as the West Open Unit.