Ducks Unlimited Purchases 318 Acres on Rockwood Island
and Works with Partners to Restore Site for Future Wildlife Refuge
Carbondale, IL – July 24, 2006 – Like no other, the Mississippi River is a national treasure. However, America’s most mighty river has undergone many changes over the past century. Out of concern about its current and future ecological condition, Ducks Unlimited (DU) has designated the Mississippi River as a focus area for a new conservation initiative to conserve, preserve and restore vital wetland habitat. The focus area encompasses parts of the lower Ohio River and the Mississippi River upstream from where the two rivers converge near Cairo, Illinois.
Nearly one-third of the nation’s waters drains past this point of confluence towards downstream communities concerned about floods and water quality. The expansive floodplains of these river systems slow water run-off, trap excess nutrients and sediment, and provide a diversity of wetland habitat, including seasonally flooded bottomland forests, which serve as critical migration and wintering areas for waterfowl and other wildlife. DU is working closely with conservation partners in this important region to help acquire high priority floodplain properties, restore them to wetland or bottomland forest, and then to transfer the site to a public land steward like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
In keeping with this strategy, DU has purchased 318 acres along the Mississippi River in Randolph County to restore as a future national wildlife refuge. The property is located on Rockwood Island, a 2,500-acre frequently flooded island that largely had been converted to cropland during the past several decades. The entire island complex has now been included within the boundaries of the newly established Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge and is the headquarters site for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local partners working together to conserve the Mississippi River ecosystem.
Ducks Unlimited purchased the Rockwood Island parcel in close cooperation with the American Land Conservancy (ALC) using proceeds from a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant. ALC has acquired other key properties at Rockwood Island, some of which also need to be restored. DU is working with closely with ALC, USFWS and the Southwestern Illinois Resource Conservation and Development District to plan future wetland and bottomland forest restoration at all of these Rockwood Island sites. DU’s goal is to fully restore former cropland areas before the property is transferred to USFWS.
“Healthy floodplains have many benefits. Waterfowl depend on wetlands and bottomland forests to provide food and protection against severe weather. People depend of these same floodplain habitats to remove pollutants and retard flood flows. Both people and wildlife benefit from sound conservation,” said Ducks Unlimited Regional Biologist, Eric Schenck.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization. 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.