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Illinois Projects


Click one of the stars on the map below to read more about the state's featured projects. Or click the names of the color-coded Priority Areas in the key to learn more about GLARO's conservation focus. The blue dots represent one or more conservation projects on which DU has worked. Project information comes from annual state Conservation Reports, available in our Resource Library.

Illinois by the Numbers (as of 01/01/10)

  • Total acres conserved: 43,778
  • Technical assistance acres: 42,145
  • Amount spent on projects: $14,636,567

You can find additional statistics on Illinois's state fact sheet.

Illinois projects map Rock River Illinois River Ohio/Mississippi Confluence Wightman Lake Crane Lake Salt Creek WMA

Meet Illinois's Biologist

Eric Schenck: Regional Biologist, ILEric Schenck, an Illinois native, has 20 years of experience in wildlife conservation, more than half of which has been with DU. Eric's educational background includes a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Management from the University of Idaho and a Master of Science in Forest Science from Yale University. Eric previously worked as director of conservation for the Wildlife Management Institute and chief of environmental services for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Prior to being named regional biologist for Illinois, he served as DU's manager of agricultural policy in Washington, D.C.

Eric Schenck
229 N. Third Avenue
Canton, IL 61520

Wetland work wrapped up at Wightman Lake

The final touches on a 41.5-acre wetland restoration project at Wightman Lake were completed just before Christmas, wrapping up yet another Ducks Unlimited habitat gift to the Illinois River valley. In addition to its benefit to migrating waterfowl, the Wightman Lake project has become a showcase for how naturally functioning ecosystems can be restored on frequently flooded cropland.

In 2005, DU purchased 370 acres on the north end of Wightman Lake in Marshall County, with funding assistance from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and a grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. The property includes half a mile of frontage on the Illinois River and an abundant number of decurrent false aster plants, a federally listed threatened species. DU's goal in acquiring Wightman Lake was to restore it as a demonstration site for wetland and bottomland forest habitat restoration and management.

The primary water source for the newly restored wetland habitat is Gimlet Creek. Using an innovative design developed by DU engineers,a portion of the flow from Gimlet Creek, which now crosses DU's property through an excavated ditch, will be redirected into a series of three wetland impoundments. Water from Gimlet Creek will flow from one wetland to another in a "stair step" fashion before it enters Wightman Lake, and eventually, the Illinois River.

Wightman Lake restoration
Construction of wetland restoration levees at Wightman Lake

The first restored wetland is a semi-permanent marsh approximately 20.5 acres in size, which should provide excellent spring migration habitat for both dabbling and diving ducks. The next two wetlands, totaling about 15 acres, are designed to promote moist soil plant production. A fourth wetland expanded an existing beaver pond by nearly six acres to provide permanent habitat for breeding wood ducks.

In addition to restoring wetland habitat at Wightman Lake, DU planted approximately 22 acres of tree seedlings. DU's forestry objectives were to re-establish pecan, oaks and other valuable hardwood tree species; promote growth of understory shrubs and convert the existing riparian forest — now dominated by silver maple — into anunevenly aged, ecologically diverse bottomland forest attractive to migrating waterfowl and songbirds.

"Another unique aspect of the Wightman Lake project is its benefit towater quality," said DU Regional Biologist Eric Schenck. "The wetlands DU restored for waterfowl also help remove sediment and excess nutrients from Gimlet Creek. This is a 'win-win' for both wildlife and people."

According to Schenck, a study conducted by Bradley University last summer documented seasonal nitrate levels in excess of 12 mg/L in Gimlet Creek. Based on scientific results of similar water quality improvement projects, DU's wetlands at Wightman Lake are expected to reduce nitrogen levels by 15 to 40 percent.

Funding for DU's Wightman Lake project has been provided by The Buchanan Family Foundation, Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation, Miles Hauter Foundation, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, a grant from the Illinois C2000 program, an environmental settlement secured by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Caterpillar, North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the Illinois PRIDE program supported by DU major donors.

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Crane Lake water control structure built to last

Ducks Unlimited has completed the installation of a new water control structure for Crane Lake at Sanganois State Fish and Wildlife Area in Mason County, Ill. The structure will allow the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to better manage more than 1,000 acres of wetland habitat associated with Crane Lake.

Crane Lake is a backwater lake wetland located at the historic confluence of the Sangamon and Illinois rivers. Between 50,000 and 80,000 ducks historically rest on the refuge portions of Crane Lake at the peak of fall migration. During the past couple of years a levee breach upstream on the Sangamon River has increased the flow of water into Crane Lake and hampered the ability of local site managers to draw down water levels for moist soil plant production.

DU designed a high-capacity weir with six stoplog bays to accommodate the increased flow through Crane Lake. The weir structure was constructed with sheet pile to guarantee many decades of maintenance-free service. The total cost of the project, including DU engineering expenses, was $333,360. Funding for the project was provided by the Illinois Duck Stamp program, Crane Lake Game Preserve, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Caterpillar and DU major donors.

Crane Lake water control structure
Water control structure installed by DU at Crane Lake

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Salt Creek Waterfowl Management Area ready for dedication

Crane Lake water control structure
New wetland habitat restored at Salt Creek Waterfowl Management Area

Clinton Lake State Recreation Area has a new waterfowl management area thanks to a conservation partnership involving Ducks Unlimited, Illinois Waterfowl Alliance, Clinton Lake Waterfowl Association, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Exelon Generation Company (Exelon).

Salt Creek Waterfowl Management Area is a 40.5-acre wetland impoundment that was constructed recently by DU. Located in DeWitt County, near Farmer City, the DU-designed project utilizes runoff from adjoining agricultural lands to restore shallow-water habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds and other wetland-dependent wildlife associated with Clinton Lake. Although the project was built primarily to restore spring habitat for migrating ducks, a portable pump donated by Exelon will provide a dependable water supply for ducks and other waterfowl during the fall migration as well.

Funding for the $300,225 Salt Creek wetland project (also known as Trenkle Slough) was provided by grants from the Illinois Duck Stamp program and North American Wetlands Conservation Act. DU's donated engineering costs were supported in part by funds from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Lumpkin Family Foundation, the Randy DeHaan family and other DU major donors. A project dedication is anticipated in summer 2008.

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