Ducks Unlimited recently donated 318 acres at Rockwood Island to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for inclusion in the recently established Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). The site is located along the Mississippi River and is accessible from the Great River Road National Scenic Byway (Illinois 3), which follows the Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota to its confluence with the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.
DU originally purchased the Randolph County property in 2005 using a grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Council. Since that time, DU has planted more than 145 acres of frequently flooded cropland to bottomland hardwood trees and allowed the rest of the property to naturally revert back to wetlands for the benefit of waterfowl and other wildlife.
"Getting this land protected and restored is a real group effort," said Eric Schenck, Ducks Unlimited regional biologist. Schenck noted that DU's donation is part of a strategic partnership effort to conserve wetland and wetland forest habitat along the Mississippi River corridor. "The Mississippi River is America's river, supporting the lives of fish, wildlife, and millions of people. DU is proud to be doing our part to preserve this national treasure."
DU's work at Rockwood Island has been in close cooperation with the American Land Conservancy (ALC). In recent years, DU and ALC have acquired nearly 2,000 acres at Rockwood Island and on nearby Crain's Island with the intent to transfer all property to the USFWS for the Middle Mississippi River NWR. DU helped ALC cover a portion of the acquisition costs of these land transactions with grant funds from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
"We are very grateful for this donation from Ducks Unlimited," said Robert Cail, refuge manager of the Middle Mississippi River NWR. "If it were not for DU and our other Middle Mississippi River partners, this refuge would not have been possible."