DU land acquisition increases public access

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Photo © David Morgan

Waterfowl hunters and birdwatchers alike will soon have increased access to Stewart Lake, one of the best remaining and least disturbed backwater lakes in the Illinois River Valley. Located adjacent to Sanganois State Fish and Wildlife Area in a large, inaccessible area of Mason County, this 1,500-acre shallow-lake wetland is an important natural rest area for migrating northern pintails, mallards, and many other species of ducks.

In early 2014, Ducks Unlimited purchased 745 acres on the west end of Stewart Lake. In 2015, DU secured purchase agreements for the remaining 800 acres on the lake's east end. DU will donate the west half of Stewart Lake to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which will manage the property as a new public waterfowl hunting area. The east end will be donated to the Illinois Audubon Society to become a permanent sanctuary for waterfowl and other migratory birds.

"This is a rare opportunity to acquire and protect a backwater lake in its entirety," said Eric Schenck, DU manager of conservation programs in Illinois. "Waterfowl hunters and birdwatchers share many of the same passions for the outdoors and the same commitment to conservation."

Stewart Lake is a showcase project of DU's Big Rivers Initiative. Funding support for the acquisition of Stewart Lake is being provided by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and Grand Victoria Foundation.