Partners collaborate to increase Illinois River floodplain habitat protection
Ducks Unlimited has transferred ownership of a 225-acre parcel of land, known as Chillicothe Bottoms, from Wetlands America Trust to the Illinois Audubon Society. The property is adjacent to the city of Chillicothe and contains high quality examples of wetland, swamp and floodplain forest habitat.
The original purchase was completed by Ducks Unlimited in 2012 with assistance from private donors and grants from Grand Victoria Foundation and Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. Illinois Audubon Society took possession of the parcel in August 2018.
“We are very pleased to have the opportunity to join with other partners in the protection and restoration of wetlands and bottomland forest habitats in the Illinois River floodplain,” stated Illinois Audubon Society Executive Director Jim Herkert. He added, “Chillicothe Bottoms will be held as a natural wildlife sanctuary in perpetuity.”
The area has been identified as a Conservation Opportunity Area in the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan (IWAP) and is a conservation priority in the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s North American Waterfowl Management Plan.
A total of 152 bird species have been identified at the site including many IWAP species of conservation concern. These include American black duck, great egret, lesser scaup, canvasback, brown creeper, northern harrier, marsh wren, yellow-billed cuckoo, northern flicker, bald eagle, wood thrush, yellow-breasted chat, short-billed dowitcher, hooded merganser, Connecticut warbler, Kentucky warbler, osprey, pied-billed grebe, prothonotary warbler, brown thrasher, greater yellowlegs and blue-winged warbler. Two of these species—the northern harrier and osprey—are state listed endangered species.
This was the first of five parcels protected under a multi-year grant from Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation to Ducks Unlimited. All five properties, including Chillicothe Bottoms, have been subsequently transferred to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and to Illinois Audubon Society for long-term care and management. “Chillicothe Bottoms is in good hands,” said Dennis O’Brien, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “The goal of the Middle Illinois River Project was to preserve wildlife habitat for the benefit of Illinois citizens and Illinois Audubon Society has a long-standing record of getting people out into nature.”
The protection of Chillicothe Bottoms is part of a broader effort to protect and restore the Middle Illinois River and represents Grand Victoria Foundation‘s vision to create a connected system of protected lands and waterways in Illinois. “The partnership between Ducks Unlimited and Illinois Audubon Society creates a wonderful opportunity to protect land at scale, ensure healthy habitat for a diversity of bird species, and engage more people in the work and beauty of conservation,” commented Executive Director Sharon Bush of the Grand Victoria Foundation.
“Ducks Unlimited is pleased to partner with Illinois Audubon Society, Peoria Audubon Society, Grand Victoria Foundation, Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and many others to advance the vision of Illinois River conservation. We look forward to completing future habitat conservation projects together,” commented Mike Sertle, Regional Biologist, Ducks Unlimited.
Illinois Audubon Society plans to enlist Peoria Audubon Society as the lead in overseeing management, providing stewardship and expanding future public use of the property. ” Peoria Audubon Society is particularly well suited for community involvement and stewardship at this site, ” explained Mike Miller, Peoria Audubon Society and Board of Directors, Illinois Audubon Society. “Working with Illinois Audubon will be a great partnership.”