Category Archives: Wild Illinois

Posts relating to conservation issues for the Shawnee, Hackmatack, wetlands and DNR.

Asian Carp Advance On Lake Michigan; Trump Halts Project to Stop Them, Threatens To Cut Off All Great Lakes Funds

Yesterday an invasive adult silver carp was caught within nine miles of Lake Michigan in the Calumet River. The 8-pound fish was captured in a gill net by a commercial fisherman working for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC) as part of their seasonal intensive monitoring program looking for this invasive species within Chicago’s waterways. This critical work is funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which President Trump has proposed to eliminate all funding for beginning October 1. More information about current carp control efforts is available here.

The Trump Administration has also halted efforts to upgrade the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, downstream of the electric barriers, to prevent the movement of Asian carp upstream. The Army Corps of Engineers was set to release the study for public review in late February when the White House blocked its release.

Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter Clean Water Program Director Cindy Skrukrud released this statement:

“The capture of a silver carp past the electric barrier and just 9 miles from Lake Michigan is a potent reminder of how the Trump Administration is failing to address the huge problem that aquatic invasive species pose to the Great Lakes. While alien invaders are headed towards Lake Michigan, Trump and his team are halting projects to keep them out and dismantling Great Lakes protection programs. It is urgent that Governor Rauner and our entire Congressional delegation call on President Trump to release the Brandon Road Lock and Dam study that his administration is holding hostage, and demand that he commit to fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. If Trump is allowed by Congress to cut off all Great Lakes funding October 1, Illinois DNR will not be able to continue the critical work underway right now to catch and control these dangerous invaders.”

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Want to take action? Here’s how you can help:

Sign the Great Lakes Protection Pledge and tell your Member of Congress to do the same

Tell your Members of Congress to support legislation to stop Asian carp

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Silver carp captured in the Illinois Waterway on June 22, 2017 below T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam.
Image courtesy of Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
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The Brandon Road Lock and Dam upgrade would increase protection for Lake Michigan

 

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Spring & Summer Pollinator Events In Illinois

Wed 5/17/17 Weed (the verb) and Wine at the EVG Garden Eagle View Group (IL)
Sat 6/10/17 Churchill Woods/Glacial Ridge Forest Preserve Service Event River Prairie Group
Sat  5/20/17 Pollinator Family Day Heart Of Illinois Group
Sat 5/20/17 Spring Valley Native Plant Planting Project NW Cook County Group
Sun  6/09/17 Gardening for Butterflies and Hummingbirds Stickney-Forest View Public Library District
Wed  5/31/17 Saving the Monarchs DuPage Monarch Project
Sun 6/11/17 Bluff Spring Fen Annual Botanical Hike (late spring) River Prairie Group
Sun 7/09/17 Children’s Monarch Festival Elmhurst Garden Club’s Garden Walk & Faire
Sun 7/23/17 Monarchs & Music: Monarch Mania Family Fun Fair Hackmatack Monarch Coalition; Crystal Lake Main Beach Pavilion

Reviving the Everglades of the North

0700-kankakee1January 26, 2017  The Kankakee River Basin lies just south of Chicago in Kankakee and Iroquois counties. The Basin was once considered among the most important freshwater ecosystems in the world. Dubbed The Everglades of North,  it had some of the highest concentrations of wildlife on the planet and was known as Chicago’s food pantry.

Last year the Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area (NWR&CA) was formally established. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is now taking the next step in the refuge planning process to preserve and enhance the remaining wetland habitat along the Kankakee River Basin.

Support the USFWS in the development of a Land Protection Plan (LPP).

Protecting the remaining remnants of wetland landscape and working with landowners to interconnect them will protect the many endangered plant and animal species that depend on wetland habitat for their survival.

Please take action today to let the USFWS know you are in support of the Kankakee NWR&CA. The USFWS comment period ends January 31st.

You can learn more about the Refuge and the Conservation Map here.

Shawnee Parkway — New Name for a Decades-old Proposal in far Southern Illinois

Sierra Club is opposed to the Shawnee Parkway, a proposed multi-lane, high-speed highway to facilitate the trucking industry through a portion of southernmost Illinois. The negative impacts to the environment far outweigh any perceived advantages.

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Shawnee Parkway Study Area MapThe Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has invited the public to review and comment on the draft Purpose and Need Statement for the Shawnee Parkway Study. The study is being conducted to evaluate the need for a new east/west transportation “improvement” from the intersection of Illinois Route 3/146 and Interstate 57 in Alexander, Pulaski and Union Counties. The 350-square-mile study area includes several important natural resource areas that provide important habitat for federally listed species and migratory birds including migratory waterbirds, neotropical migrants and various raptors.

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Indiana bat. USFWS photo.

Nationally recognized Important Bird Areas include Horseshoe Lake State and Fish Wildlife Area, the Thebes-area Mississippi Kite Complex, and Union County State Fish and Wildlife Area. Cypress Creek NWR is globally recognized as an Important Bird area and the Cache River and Cypress Creek Wetlands Area RAMSAR site is located within the study area.

Illinois Natural Inventory sites within the study area include Brown Barrens’ Nature Preserve, Berryville Shale Glade Nature Preserve, and McClure Shale Nature Preserve. Additionally, the federally endangered Indiana bat has been documented throughout southernmost Illinois, with known hibernacula within the study area.

800px-Mississippi_KiteThe biologically rich and diverse environment and natural beauty of the entire study area makes it an important place for high-quality outdoor recreation experiences such as hunting, fishing, bird watching, canoeing, hiking, camping, nature photography and much more. Impacts from a multi-lane, high-speed, heavy trafficked highway on outdoor recreation enjoyment include noise and air pollution, intrusions on rural viewsheds, and damage to the ecosystem recreationists have come to visit.

h_truckMajor highways cause damaging environmental fragmentation to the landscape. Studies have shown that reduced landscape connectivity and limited movements due to highways, particularly those with high speed and high traffic volumes, result in higher wildlife mortality, lower reproduction rates, ultimately smaller populations and overall lower population viability. The fragmentation effect of roads forms a barrier to movement where animals become reluctant to move across roads to access mates or preferred habitats for food and cover. The degree of aversion to roads can generally be attributed to features associated with the road, e.g., traffic volume, road width or major habitat alterations caused by the road.  High-volume and high-speed roads tend to be the greatest barriers and most effective in disrupting animal movements and population interchange.

Cape Girardeau, Missouri and the trucking industry would be the primary benefactors of a high-speed truck transit route through Illinois, while southern Illinois has nothing to gain and everything to lose. The region would not only suffer from the negative environmental impacts brought by a multi-lane highway, Illinois would forever be responsible for the cost of its maintenance. We have difficulty keeping the two interstate highways already running through the study area in good repair—it would be fiscally irresponsible to add a third such highway.

Southern Illinois would be better served by IDOT if existing roads and bridges in the study area were adequately maintained. Additionally, enhancing existing recreation and tourism opportunities would create construction jobs while maintaining the integrity of the fragile environment. We would like to see projects such as expanding the Tunnel Hill Trail into a web of interconnected bicycle trails and lanes, and hiking trails throughout the region; additional campgrounds and compatible lodging; and full staffing and educational programming at the Cache Wetlands Center.

Comments can be sent before March 15, 2016 to:

Jeffrey Keirn
Illinois Department of Transportation
Division of Highways
Region 5, District 9
PO Box 100
Carbondale, Illinois 62903-0100

Background

The Shawnee Parkway proposal is the latest in a long line of proposals going back decades for running a major highway through the heart of southernmost Illinois. The three most recent proposals began in the early 2000s with a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet proposal to continue Interstate 66 from Paducah, Kentucky through Illinois to connect to Interstate 55 at Cape Girardeau, Missouri. That proposal died when Kentucky’s Purpose and Need Study showed no economic feasibility to build the highway.

In 2012 Cape Girardeau initiated a $3.6 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation with a 20 percent match from IDOT (thanks, Cape Girardeau!) generating a total of $4.5 million to conduct a new feasibility study. This proposal was given a new name, 66 Corridor, but was otherwise basically identical. A Community Advisory Group (CAG) was formed and a Purpose and Need Study was developed. In early 2015 payments to the outside firm conducting the “study” were halted and by July the project was cancelled.

In November 2016 IDOT announced the current, Shawnee Parkway, project. The main difference this time is the endpoints for the highway. Whereas the previous proposals called for the highway to go all the way to Kentucky, this particular proposal ends at Interstate 57 between Anna and Cairo. Since the current study area was derived from the 66 Corridor Project we are concerned about potential future impacts including the development of 66 Corridor. Therefore, it’s imperative that the cumulative effects of potential future development be included in the Environmental Impact Statement.

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Bobcat Rules Open for Public Comment

Bobcat by Valerie aka ucumari Flickr attreq noncomm noder resizedThe Illinois Department of Natural Resources has recently proposed changes to two sections of the Illinois Administrative Code that will allow for hunting and trapping of bobcats in southern and western Illinois. These rules are a result of the statute that passed last year.

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Bobcats were listed as a threatened species in Illinois from 1977 to 1999. When the bobcat was removed from the list there was no follow up management, recovery or sustainability plan written or implemented. 

IDNR’s current statewide population estimate of 3,000 to 5,000 bobcats is derived from non-scientific, anecdotal evidence supplied by hunters during deer hunting season.

The IDNR’s proposed rules will allow a person to trap or hunt bobcats during the proposed hunting season. The season limits one bobcat per person, but the proposed rules allow the IDNR to use its discretion in determining the number of permits that will be issued.

The IDNR does not have a management or sustainability plan for bobcats and is currently working off of a geographically limited and outdated study regarding bobcat populations, habitat, and overall viability of harvest. There is tremendous concern that this proposal does not take into account ecological science for best practices for bobcat protection throughout the state.

The IDNR has done little to determine the current status of bobcats in the state and less to determine the true sustainability of allowing this important and recently threatened species to be hunted statewide. Though species can be delisted from the threatened and endangered species list upon reaching a certain level of recovery, instituting regulations allowing harvest before the species has reconstituted its available habitat range is premature and likely to reverse any progress bobcats have made.

Finally, the Illinois Wildlife Code requires that the harvest of bobcats in the state shall be non-detrimental. This requires that biological and management information demonstrate that harvesting bobcats is sustainable and that the removal of bobcats from the wild would not contribute to the over-utilization of the species, would pose no net harm to the status of the species, would not lead to long-term declines that would affect the viability of the population, and would not lead to significant habitat range loss or restriction. The IDNR has not demonstrated ability to meet any of these requirements.

Without additional science to show that hunting and trapping bobcats can be non-detrimental, these proposed rules should NOT be supported. This species needs to remain protected to prevent it from being added to the threatened list again.

If you’d like to take action, please sign our petition.

 

 

St. Johns Bayou – New Madrid Floodway Project Threatens People and Wildlife

The New Madrid Floodway is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River in southeast Missouri just below the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. It was authorized by the federal Flood Control Act of 1928 to divert water from the Mississippi River during major flood events in order to lower flood stages upstream, notably at Cairo and Olive Branch, Illinois. If it is not used to absorb flood waters during major storms, levees and floodwalls protecting Illinois river communities could fail causing devastating losses in Alexander County as evidenced in the 2011 flooding of Olive Branch, Illinois, which caused millions of dollars in damages. Closing off the floodway will also threatens an integral part of the Mississippi River ecosystem that supports aquatic wildlife.

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed the construction of a  $165 million taxpayer funded project known as the St. Johns Bayou – New Madrid Floodway Project (SJNM Project) that will close the gap in the levee between the Mississippi River and the New Madrid Floodway with a 60-foot high, 1500 foot long levee wall.

This project needs to be vetoed now, before the Final Environmental Impact Statement is released. Senator Durbin has come out publicly against the SJNM Project. But, we need Senator Kirk to join him in opposition. Please join the Thursday SJNM Tweets to Senator Kirk. Email Kim Knowles at kknowles@prairierivers.org and ask to be put on the Thursday SJNM Tweet email list. Kim will send you a reminder along with sample tweets once a week.

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May 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blasted holes in a Mississippi River levee to prevent Cairo from flooding. The water level had reached a frightening 61.72 feet, threatening the home to approximately 2,800 people, 70 percent of whom are African-American, living in an historic city struggling to survive deep poverty and a deteriorating infrastructure. Photo credit: Riverfront Times

Closure of the gap in the levee system will make it even more difficult for the Army Corps of Engineers to operate the New Madrid Floodway during major storms, threatening Illinois river communities during major floods. Such flooding would cause disproportionate harm to the health and safety of low-income populations such as Cairo, Illinois, where census data shows that twenty nine percent (29%) of the city’s residents live below the poverty level.

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The SJNM Floodway is a critical area for millions of animals who depend on the Floodway’s connection to the Mississippi River for clean water and habitat. Hunters and anglers from all over the country rely on the ecosystem services provided by the Floodway, bringing valuable recreation dollars to their states’ budgets. And half of Mississippi River fish spawn or rear in the Floodway. Photo credit: 1mississippi.org

Closure of the gap also threatens an integral part of the Mississippi River ecosystem, which provides vital fish and wildlife habitat, including important spawning and rearing habitat. The connection between the Mississippi River and this vital backwater habitat will result in draining more than 50,000 acres of wetlands, eliminating the most important backwater fishery in the Middle Mississippi River and threatening populations of migratory waterfowl and other wildlife that depend on the wetlands.

Join the Thursday SJNM Tweets and help Stop the Levee!

 

Bobcats in the Crosshairs Once Again

bobcat_kitten_posingOn May 31st HB352, a bill to allow bobcat hunting in Illinois returned to the House for a vote on concurrence. We opposed the bill as written and asked the Department  to include in the legislation provisions for 1) the development of a management and sustainability plan based on scientific studies, including a recovery plan for continued growth of bobcat populations and return of stable populations into all prime bobcat habitat areas statewide; and 2) limits to the areas of the state where bobcat hunting permits could be granted.

Instead, the Department came back with a weak, one-sentence amendment stating that the harvest of bobcats in this state shall be non-detrimental as defined by federal regulations and as determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. However, the federal regulations do not call for a science-based management and sustainability plan, but rather a population estimate based on animals killed.

We will continue to oppose a bobcat-hunting program in Illinois until:

  • Scientific evidence exists that there is a need for reducing bobcat numbers.
  • The Illinois Department of Natural Resources develops a management and sustainability plan based on scientific studies, including a recovery plan for continued growth of bobcat populations and return of stable populations into all prime bobcat habitat areas statewide.
  • The State can demonstrate that the meager $5 permit fee would completely cover the cost of operating the program.

No Need

The primary reason lawmakers give as to why bobcat hunting is needed in Illinois is that bobcats are a nuisance. Yet, there is absolutely no empirical evidence to back that up. We’ve heard from supporters of the bill that bobcats kill livestock and are decimating the deer and turkey populations. We’ve even heard that bobcats weigh 60 pounds and stalk small children! But, the truth is:

In 2013 only 9 nuisance permits were issued and in 2013 only 3 were issued. Bobcats’ preferred diet is rabbits, voles and squirrels. In necropsy studies looking at the stomach contents of dead bobcats, researchers have rarely found deer. Scientists further speculate that the limited deer that bobcats do consume is carrion deer, that is dead deer that bobcats find during hunting season or roadkill deer. Additionally, few birds were found in necropsy investigations, and those that were found were primarily songbirds–not game birds, such as turkey.

A large male bobcat can reach 30 to 35 pounds, with females weighing in much less. Bobcats are shy, secretive creatures that do not have any interest in being near or stalking people.

Lack of Science-based Management Plan

 Illinois Department of Natural Resources does not have a management or sustainability plan in place for bobcats and most of the related research has been conducted in the southern region of Illinois, south of I-64.  There is tremendous concern that this plan does not take into account ecological science for best practices for bobcat protection in Illinois at a statewide level.

Without a proper, scientific management and sustainability plan the wildlife code should NOT be amended to allow the removal of the prohibition of taking bobcats. This species needs to remain protected to prevent it from being added to the threatened list again.

Cost to State

 The bill states that the fee, if any, for a permit to hunt or trap a bobcat will not exceed $5. We question how this low fee can even come close to covering the costs to the Department of Natural Resources of running the program. How can Governor Rauner justify signing HB352, which will cost the state money, at the same time he has announced that State Museums will be closed and programs like OSLAD will not receive funding?

Ask Governor Rauner to do the right thing for Illinois – VETO HB352.