In celebration of Earth Day, Peoria chapter chairman Mark Schore led a small group of DU volunteers on a tree planting mission at DU's Jenkins Marsh property.

On April 26, the group planted 75 swamp white oak and burr oak trees along the edge of one of the site's wetlands. Schore said this was the first opportunity for several of the volunteers to get a close look at DU's local conservation work.

"It gives people good background and an understanding that Ducks Unlimited is doing something in their area," he said. "And it was also a chance for them to give back for Earth Day."

Schore, 34, is DU Illinois' state secretary and an employee of Caterpillar. He used trees donated to Caterpillar by Living Lands and Waters, another conservation organization based in Illinois.

"I've always enjoyed the conservation side of DU, and seeing where the money is spent. Seeing the projects makes the story a little bit easier to tell," he said of the planting effort.

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, 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 declined by more than 90 percent because of degraded water quality and wetland habitat conditions.