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CHICAGO – March 5, 2021 – Ducks Unlimited (DU) and numerous partners protected, enhanced or restored 392 acres of wetland and grassland habitat on seven Illinois project sites in 2020, greatly improving water quality and wildlife habitat.
The milestones in 2020 were achieved with field staff taking extra precautions and using creative solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. The acres conserved added to a sizeable historical investment in Illinois. Over the last 30 years, Ducks Unlimited has conserved nearly 70,000 wetland and grassland acres across the state, investing nearly $25 million in wetland habitats.
Partners in 2020 included the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Illinois River Valley Conservation Group and Pheasants Forever. Funding sources included DU donors, corporate partners and North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants.
“More than 85% of Illinois’ wetlands have been lost due to human development,” said Michael Sertle, DU regional biologist for Illinois. “Our landscape-level conservation efforts help more than ducks. Wetlands benefit local residents by reducing flooding risk, improving water quality and boosting the economy.”
Highlights from 2020 include:
Natural Area Returning Near Chicago
The Forest Preserve District of Kane County’s 949-acre Burlington Prairie Forest Preserve is just west of Chicago. Ducks Unlimited is helping the Forest Preserve District restore areas of former agricultural land back to native wetlands and prairie communities. The project is in phase two of a three-phase effort and is restoring 45 acres of prairie and nine acres of wetlands. Once the third phase is complete in the next two years, 88 acres of prairie and 23 acres of wetlands will be restored.
Private Lands Work Helps Ducks and Water
Ducks Unlimited helped Pheasants Forever and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program restore and enhance wetlands on about 60 acres of private land in east-central Illinois. These wetlands offer not only the potential for increased breeding habitat but are also in a region of Illinois that is one of the highest contributors to low oxygen levels downstream in the Gulf of Mexico. Counties involved include Grundy, Iroquois, LaSalle, Kankakee, Kendall, Livingston and Will.
Cache River Project Ready for Wildlife and Outdoor Enthusiasts
The bottomland hardwood floodplain forests along the Cache River in Johnson County are home to thousands of plant and animal species, many of which are threatened and endangered. Flood waters from the river fill these forests and welcome tens of thousands of waterfowl annually during fall migration, and in ever increasing numbers during the wintering period. A cooperative effort between the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resource Conservation Service and Ducks Unlimited restored a 30-acre tract from agriculture back to a pre-settlement condition, featuring meandering cypress-tupelo swales rising into oak-hickory ridges.
For a more updates, a complete report of 2020 activities and a look into what’s planned for 2021 and beyond, see the Illinois' Conservation Report and visit http://www.ducks.org/Illinois.
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved nearly 15 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.