New site will serve as waterfowl refuge and waypoint on National Scenic Byway
East Peoria, Ill.- Feb. 21, 2009 - Ducks Unlimited (DU) donated 370 acres along the Illinois River to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) today during its annual state convention in East Peoria. A crowd of about 250 DU volunteers were on hand to applaud IDNR Director Marc Miller as he signed an agreement accepting title to the property on behalf of the state agency.
The property, known locally as Wightman Lake, is approximately 20 miles north of Peoria near Sparland, IL. Over the past three years, Ducks Unlimited has invested more than $400,000 in habitat improvements to turn Wightman Lake into a wetland conservation showcase. Designed for use by both waterfowl and people, the project represents a new era of cooperation between Ducks Unlimited and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
“Our members are delighted with the renewed commitment to conservation that Director Miller has helped bring to IDNR,” says Eric Schenck DU Regional Biologist. “Partnerships like the one here at Wightman Lake have become increasingly important to Ducks Unlimited.”
In addition to serving as a waterfowl refuge, Wightman Lake is designated as a “waypoint” on the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway. At Wightman Lake travelers will have a chance to observe 84 species of birds as well as the decurrent false aster, a federally listed threatened plant that flourishes in DU’s restored wetlands. Part of the tourism experience will include a lesson on the State Wildlife Action Plan—a statewide blueprint for conserving fish and wildlife in Illinois.
Sensitive to the budget issues that IDNR currently faces, Ducks Unlimited has agreed to continue management oversight of the property during a three year transition period. This will provide time for newly restored habitats to become fully established and to phase in public access that is expected to help boost the local economy.
Commenting on the donation, IDNR Director Marc Miller stated, “IDNR is very appreciative of this generous conservation gift and we look forward to working closely with Ducks Unlimited on other projects in the future.”
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with almost 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.
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