The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) approved more than $1.9 million in grants for 13 wildlife habitat projects through the Illinois Habitat Fund Special Wildlife Funds Grant Program.
The program provides for enhancing game and non-game wildlife habitat through projects developed by not-for-profit organizations and governmental entities. Funding for the Illinois Habitat Fund Special Wildlife Funds Grant Program comes from the sale of Habitat Stamps to sportsmen and sportswomen.
The Illinois Habitat Fund Advisory Committee this spring approved $1,941,000 in funding for the 13 projects. The local projects in the southwest Illinois region are outlined below.
- National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC) Habitat Strike Team, East Alton, Lewis and Clark Community College – A project to extend the equipment capacity and personnel capabilities of the NGRREC Habitat Strike Team to restore and improve habitat with stewardship management practices across 8,000 acres of the Great Rivers Confluence area within a 90-mile radius from East Alton, Illinois. This habitat stewardship area has five state parks and three nature preserves. $283,632 of state Habitat funds were awarded, with the grantee providing $300,442 in matching funds. http://www.ngrrec.org/
- Clifftop NFP – A project to purchase a fire suppression pump skid unit to assist in the safety of the prescribed burns of nature preserve areas in Monroe, Randolph, and St. Clair counties.
Clifftop conducts prescribed burns at White Rock Nature Preserve (306 acres) and Land and Water Reserve (169 acres) routinely, among others. Of the 535 acres included in the site, every year a third of the prairies and woodland will be burned.
Prescribed burns help control several invasive species, including bush honeysuckle, Japanese honeysuckle, and Tree of Heaven and will prevent the establishment of woody species in the blufftop area prairies. $10,500 of state Habitat funds were awarded. http://www.clifftopalliance.org/
- Shawnee RC&D – The Shawnee Resource Conservation and Development Area Inc. (RC&D), River to River Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA), IDNR, and Southern Illinois Prescribed Burn Association (SIPBA) are partnering to reduce the threat of invasive species invasions from the surrounding private properties.
This partnership seeks to provide landowner cost-share assistance on approximately 200 acres of privately-owned forestland infested with bush honeysuckle surrounding the Trail of Tears State Forest.
Land surveys of bush honeysuckle infestations will be conducted by the CWMA to determine actual levels of infestation on each property.
A conservation drone will be used to acquire aerial images to be used for infestation assessments. After the assessments are completed, the coordinator will develop treatment agreements with each landowner to be scheduled for the late fall and winter of 2019 and 2020. Landowner outreach will include density determinations for cost-share rates.
Trail of Tears State Forest is open to the public for hunting and recreation with more than 5,000 acres of high-quality forest. The proposed 200 acres surrounding the state forest are on private land and are not open to the public. $38,133.75 of state Habitat funds were awarded, with the grantee providing $10,000 in matching funds. http://shawneercd.org/
- U.S. Forest Service at Shawnee – A project to boost the Shawnee Forest Strike Team – this project would provide a larger, interagency strike team crew for the Shawnee National Forest. Funding would primarily be used for additional field crewmembers to join an established crew and most of the requested funds will translate directly to more treatments on the ground.
The project will extend one permanent employee from six months per year to 11.5 months per year, add two six-month positions, and add two other new employees, all to construct fire lines, do burns, remove exotic species, purchase new chainsaws and maintain equipment. $192,006 of state Habitat funds were awarded, with the grantee providing $293,860 in matching funds. https://www.facebook.com/shawneenatlforest
- Shawnee RC&D – The Shawnee Resource Conservation and Development Area Inc. (RC&D), along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (PFW), U.S Forest Service (USFS), IDNR, River to River Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA), Southern Illinois Prescribed Burn Association (SIPBA), University of Illinois (U of I), Pope County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), Forest Restoration Support Team (FRST), National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), and several private landowners are working together in order to enhance and recover the historical upland oak-hickory forest ecosystem. Current forest conditions harbor a nearly closed tree canopy, which discourages oak recruitment and the growth of wildflowers and grasses on the forest floor.
Opening the tree canopy allows more sunlight to reach the forest floor to help sustain pollinators, songbirds, and wildlife that depend on these wildflowers and native grasses. It is expected that improving this habitat will benefit state/federal threatened and endangered species, species of concern, migratory birds, and pollinators, as well as, improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, and lessen the risk of wildfire for the surrounding communities.
The resources made available through this grant will go toward restoration activities such as removing undesirable and invasive vegetation.
The project was awarded $230,200.00 in Habitat funds to restore approximately 1,500 to 2,250 acres, with the grantee providing $118,687.35 in matching funds.