DU's Jenkins Marsh/VanZelst Farm project in Illinois is on its way to becoming an outstanding natural area and fantastic habitat area for ducks that migrate through the Illinois River Valley.
One of DU's flagship projects of the Big Rivers Initiative, Ducks Unlimited in 2010 purchased the 246-acre property with funding support from Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, Grand Victoria Foundation and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
The marsh was celebrated as DU's 75th anniversary project for Illinois. The property adjoins Upper Peoria Lake in north-central Illinois, a naturally occurring lake along the Illinois River.
DU's goals are to restore the site as a semi-permanent emergent marsh to provide habitat for ducks during their fall and spring migration. The restored marsh will benefit lesser scaup, a diving duck species that used to be abundantly found on Upper Peoria Lake during the fall migration but has declined by more than 90% because of degraded water quality and wetland habitat conditions.
DU biologists and engineers are developing a plan to restore 100 acres of emergent marsh habitat on the property. An additional $500,000 in funding is needed to complete that restoration. DU's plan is to transfer ownership of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for long-term protection and stewardship.
Meanwhile, part of the former farmland is starting to rejuvenate itself. A portion of the land now features wet meadow habitat associated with natural springs that flow from the toe of the bluff that overlooks the Illinois River Valley. This unique type of wetland is called a "fen" and is very uncommon in the river valley.
The project will protect this natural fen for the benefit of native grassland birds and wetland wildlife.