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Ducks Unlimited protects 440 acres of land in the Middle Mississippi River Valley, thanks to a $260,

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Ducks Unlimited protects 440 acres of land in the Middle Mississippi River Valley, thanks to a $260,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation

Ann Arbor, MI, December 9, 2003- The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation recently awarded Ducks Unlimited $260,000 for the purchase and protection of 440 acres of critical bottom-land forest and wetland habitat in the Middle Mississippi River Valley. This grant will advance the on-going conservation efforts in this region.

The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, located in Chicago, Illinois, is committed to and invests in clean energy development and land preservation efforts to improve environmental quality in Illinois. The foundation supports programs and projects that improve energy efficiency, develop renewable energy resources, and preserve and enhance the natural areas and wildlife habitats throughout the state.

Ducks Unlimited will purchase two tracts, Beaver Island (245 acres) in Randolph County, and the Big Muddy Tract (195 acres) in Jackson County, from the American Land Conservancy. Once acquired, Beaver Island will be donated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Big Muddy Tract to the U.S. Forest Service, for long-term management and protection. "Without the financial assistance from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, Ducks Unlimited wouldn't have this outstanding opportunity to protect this important habitat for waterfowl in Illinois. An additional bonus is our ability to collaborate with the partners involved with the Middle Mississippi River Partnership to preserve this critical wildlife habitat." Dr. Bob Hoffman, Director of Operations, Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office.

This land transaction will be transferred at no cost to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under its new comprehensive conservation plan. The Big Muddy Tract donation will enable the U.S. Forest Service to consolidate several properties into 650 contiguous permanently protected acres. John Mager, Refuge Manager from the Middle Mississippi River, NWR states that, "The funding and donations received from Ducks Unlimited through the support of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, significantly contribute to the goals of the newly established Middle Mississippi River Partnership, a collection of federal, state and private conservation organizations working toward a healthy, productive river for fish, wildlife and people." The Middle Mississippi River Valley includes a 200-mile segment of the Mississippi River, beginning at the confluence of the Illinois, Missouri and Upper Mississippi Rivers. The entire waterfowl population within the Mississippi Flyway funnel through this relatively narrow area on their migratory routes before they fan out farther south in the Lower Mississippi Valley.

Beaver Island was formerly agricultural land before it was allowed to regenerate to native forest. This site, located within the Kaskaskia Island complex, is recognized under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan as a critical migration site for waterfowl, shorebirds, and forest songbirds. In addition, this tract contains one of the region's most important spawning areas for the pallid sturgeon, a federally listed threatened species. Bald Eagles frequent the area, and the Island's mature cottonwood trees offer high quality eagle nesting habitat. The US Fish and Wildlife Service have identified Beaver Island as a high priority acquisition site for the Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge.

The 195-acre Big Muddy River tract is located near the confluence of the Big Muddy and Mississippi Rivers. This property contains classic "ridge and swale" floodplain wetlands as well as native prairie and bottomland forests that have been restored in cooperation with local conservation partners. Wetlands along the Big Muddy River provide additional foraging habitat for the more than 35,000 waterfowl that annually stage and winter in the 3,600 acre forested wetland of Oakwood Bottoms.

For more information regarding this collective effort, please contact Eric Schenk, Ducks Unlimited Regional Biologist for Illinois, @ 309/647-5651 or e-mail to eschenck@ducks.org

With more than one million supporters, Ducks Unlimited (www.ducks.org /conservation) is the world's largest wetland and waterfowl conservation organization. Wetlands are nature's most productive ecosystems, but the United States has lost more than half of its original wetlands and continues to lose more than 100,000 wetland acres every year.

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