Category Archives: Wild Illinois

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

Debunking Myths and Taking Action to Stop Asian Carp

 

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Invasive Asian carp are an urgent threat to the health of the Great Lakes, and the people and economies that depend on the lakes and their resources. The Sierra Club and its partners have long advocated for a comprehensive solution to the risk of these fish invading the Great Lakes, along with the other aquatic invasive species that threaten both the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin.

While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been tasked by Congress with finding a solution to invasives moving into both basins, their current efforts are heavily focused on Asian carp and their upstream movement. The Chicago Area Waterways system provides an artificial connection between the two basins, created over 100 years ago when the Chicago River was reversed to send wastewater downstream to the Illinois and then Mississippi River.  We must address the consequences of this artificial connection to protect our vital freshwater resources.

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Map showing location of locks, Asian carp populations and the current electric barriers within the Illinois river system. 

Earlier this year, the Army Corps completed a draft report detailing their Tentatively Selected Plan to install controls at the Brandon Road Lock in Joliet, Illinois in an effort to prevent Asian carp from moving upstream towards Lake Michigan. The new deadline for submitting comments on this report is December 8, and a fourth public meeting to present the report and gather input will be held on December 5 in New Orleans.

Let’s take a look at what’s included in the Tentatively Selected Plan.

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None of these proposed control methods will stop traffic from moving through the lock. Electric barriers are used elsewhere in the river system, and the other technologies can be deployed without preventing current operations. While this combination of control methods cannot provide 100% confidence that Asian carp will not move through the lock, they will reduce the risk of transfer and add an additional stopgap between the current population and Lake Michigan.

In a recent news article, the president of Illinois Marine Towing Inc. claimed: “The new plan for structural barriers would slow shipping from 11,000 barge passages per year at Brandon down to 7,000.” According to the Army Corps, there is no factual basis for this claim in their analysis, and these figures don’t align with actual lockages at Brandon Road. Obviously, the impacts to transportation would be highest during construction of the project, when the shippers are expected to temporarily use another method of transportation during construction (estimated conservatively at 40 days) and then return to their normal operations after construction is complete. But outside this period, the reduction in lockages is not predicted at this mythical scale.

Another “alternative fact” we’ve seen recently came from the State of Illinois’ Lieutenant Governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti who was interviewed for an article in Ottawa’s The Times: “Last summer a live Asian carp was found in the Calumet River, less than 10 miles from Lake Michigan. But Sanguinetti said an autopsy and other testing shows it did not arrive via the Illinois River.” According to Dr. Greg Whitledge at Southern Illinois University’s Department of Zoology, who performed the autopsy on the fish caught over the summer, it is incorrect to conclude that the fish definitely did not arrive at its collection location via the Illinois River.  The chemistry of the fish’s earstones (otoliths) are consistent with prior residency in the Illinois and Des Plaines Rivers.  Whether it arrived in the Calumet River on its own or was moved there (i.e., transported around the barriers and released) cannot be determined.

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A live Silver carp was found in June 2017 beyond the current electric barriers in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS), just nine miles from Lake Michigan. 

So, it is possible that this Asian carp did arrive via the Illinois River. And it is possible that other Asian carp will move through the Illinois River system towards Lake Michigan without additional protections to stop their movement. While we greatly appreciate the work that staff of state agencies like the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are doing to remove large amounts of Asian carp from the river system, it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to fish these voracious invasive species to extinction.  

It’s far past time to get serious about a permanent solution to the problem of Asian carp and all aquatic invasive species threatening our waterways. The State of Illinois should be working proactively with other states and agencies to identify and implement such a solution, rather than dragging their heels and placing declining waterway use by barges over the future of our most important natural resource. Both can be protected if we work together effectively.  

In the face of these myths and inaccuracies, we must bring science back into the conversation and work together cooperatively to ensure that an effective, holistic solution is implemented to protect the Great Lakes, a national treasure, economic driver and drinking water source for over 40 million people.

Please submit your comments before Dec. 8th to tell the Army Corps to move forward expeditiously with their plan to install controls against invasive Asian carp. For help submitting a comment, use our Action Alert.  

 

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Bill to Protect Monarch Butterfly Habitat Passes in Senate Today

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This year Illinois Sierra Club worked with, Representative Anna Moeller (D-Elgin) and Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake), to pass two important pieces of legislation aimed at helping the monarch butterfly. Back during the spring session, HB2568, designating milkweed as the state wildflower, passed both chambers and was signed into law in August. Also during the spring session, HB685, which provides that counties and municipalities may not classify milkweed as a noxious or exotic weed, passed the House, but got delayed from a vote in the Senate. But, all that changed today when HB685 passed in the Senate  41-6-1.

Over the last 20 years monarchs have seen a precipitous 80 to 90 percent decline in population due to environmental threats, including a drastic reduction in native milkweed, the only source of food for monarch larvae. Of the twenty-three species of milkweeds that are native to Illinois, five are listed as endangered, and one is listed as threatened on the federal endangered and threatened species list.

Lonnie Morris, an Illinois Sierra Club volunteer and longtime advocate for monarchs, proposed the ideas for both bills. Morris believed that designating milkweed as our state wildflower would raise awareness of its importance as monarch habitat. She also discovered that many municipalities listed milkweed as a noxious weed, preventing people from planting it in their gardens. The passage of HB685 today in the Illinois Senate is particularly important because it comes at a time when habitat for monarchs and other pollinators is being seriously threatened.  We need to be planting more milkweed,  not banning it.

In addition to the Illinois Sierra Club, the Illinois Environmental Council and Prairie Rivers Network supported both bills in an effort to increase monarch butterfly habitat in Illinois. Each spring and fall monarchs make their way through Illinois during their 3,000 mile migration between Mexico and Canada and back to Mexico. But this trip is becoming increasingly perilous due to massive habitat loss, climate change, and unintentional exposure to insecticides and herbicides.

Monarchs were named Illinois’ State Insect several years ago, so recognising the value of milkweed, the monarch’s only host plant,  is a logical next step in monarch protection.

Monarchs serve as a beautiful reminder that all pollinators are vital not only for the survival of native plants and animals, but also that our crop plants require pollinators, making them essential for our food system. In total, pollinators provide $10 billion in economic value annually in the United States.

Time for a time-out on massive warehouse and distribution centers in Will County until a plan is in place that protects our communities

Residents of Will County strongly urge a moratorium be placed on the annexation and zoning for new warehouses and distribution centers in Village and City jurisdictions of Will County until Will County completes a comprehensive land use and transportation plan.  Building on the Will County Community Friendly Freight Mobility Plan’s emphasis on protecting quality of life and improving existing roads, we now need a comprehensive land use and transportation plan that protects our communities from industrial developments that negatively impact our quality of life, natural resources, and air and water quality.

trans-hubs-usWhile the county can lead the land use plan, it is up to municipal officials to approve or deny the zoning for new warehouses and distribution centers. The impacts of new warehouses do not stop at municipal boundaries.  Traffic from warehouses built in Elwood and Channahon affects roads in Joliet and New Lenox.  We need our municipal leaders to work together to protect the quality of life of all citizens.

It’s time for a time-out on massive warehouse and distribution centers until we have a plan in place that protects our communities.  Citizens of Will County want to preserve quality of life so that industry complements rather than overruns the region’s rich agricultural heritage. Citizens want diverse, sustainable economic growth rather than over-reliance on one sector.  Citizens want to ensure their families continue to breathe clean air and drink clean water, and that new industrial facilities don’t pollute and decimate the beautiful natural areas that are important to the community’s identity and economy.  

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That plan is critical to the safety, health and quality of life of my community in that it will:

  • Promote safe and efficient movement of freight through Will County while protecting others on our road system;
  • Protect the prime farmland and open spaces that are growing economic assets to our region, and home to rare wildlife and recreation opportunities;
  • Place the highest value on environmental justice and quality of life for those of us who live, work and recreate near the freight traffic, warehouses and distribution centers.

Five important reasons to create a comprehensive land use and transportation plan:

  1. The transportation infrastructure cannot handle current traffic levels.  I-80 through Joliet is frequently a bottleneck, causing some drivers to divert onto local roads.  The I-80/53 interchange is crumbling and cannot handle traffic levels.  Since our roads are at capacity, it would be illogical to add more warehouse traffic.  traffic-conjestion
  2. Many warehouses sit vacant. It does not make sense to pave over some of the richest farmland in the world when there are empty warehouses and land already zoned for warehouses available.

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    Prime farmland is a prime asset of Will County–it should be protected, not paved over.

  3.  Air quality must be protected. While intermodal is often touted for its environmental benefits in terms of placing containers on rail instead of trucks, the hubs–like Will County– experience massive amounts of diesel exhaust due to the convergence of semis in one area to pick up and drop off shipping containers.  Elected officials need to protect our air quality and health by examining what measures Will County can take to move toward zero-emissions, electric vehicles.  
  4. Sensitive natural areas must be protected. Will County is home to natural areas that provide habitat to rare grassland birds and freshwater mussels. Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and the Kankakee River cannot be replaced and must be protected from the diesel fumes, runoff, and the sound and light pollution that accompanies warehouse developments. 

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    Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Will County stretches across 20,000 acres. Photo: The Wetlands Initiative

  5. We must take a hard look at whether the corporations locating in Will County are paying warehouse workers a living wage. We must also take a hard look at what percentage of goods moving through Will County are made in the United States.  If taxpayers are asked to help pay for the infrastructure to support these warehouses, then taxpayers have a right to question whether this system of globalism makes sense for people and the planet. will-county-openspace

Your car can be more than a pumpkin holder.

Spooky carIt may only be October, but now is a great time to donate your vehicle. When you donate a vehicle that you no longer need or use, your generous donation will not only support Illinois Sierra Club, but you can also benefit from the donation too! When you donate your car, truck or boat to Illinois Sierra Club before January 1st, 2018, you could qualify for a 2017 tax deduction!

The donation process is easy.

CARS will pick up most cars, trucks, trailers, boats, RVs, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, and heavy equipment, making it easy for you to support the Sierra Club’s mission to move toward a greener future.

Don’t let your car just be a pumpkin holder this Fall. Visit us online to give your vehicle a new purpose today!

 

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

 

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.