The quality of Southern Illinois wetland habitat is improving as a major Ducks Unlimited conservation effort moves toward completion.
In 2014, Ducks Unlimited was awarded a $1 million North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant was matched by more than $2 million in partner donations to fund Bottomlands of the Great Rivers project, which will protect, restore, and enhance approximately 3,000 acres of wetlands on the Shawnee National Forest and Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Illinois.
The grant, which continues through 2018, has already conserved nearly 2,100 acres.
"The future completion of the 700-acre Greentree Project at Oakwood Bottoms will really be the capstone to finishing this grant and the perfect segue into our next $1 million Heart of the Big Rivers NAWCA grant," said Mike Sertle, Ducks Unlimited regional biologist for Illinois.
This NAWCA grant was the first of its kind awarded in the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture, a bird conservation planning ecoregion. A host of dedicated conservation partners helped DU secure this grant, including the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wetlands America Trust, National Wild Turkey Federation, Shawnee Resource Conservation and Development, Friends of the Cache River Watershed, Grand Tower D&LD, Forrest-Keeling Nursery and private landowners.
Recent successful projects include nearly 400 acres of reforested wetlands at Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge and 560 acres of enhanced flooded oak and hickory bottomland hardwood at Shawnee National Forest.