Johnson Co.-- Deer Pond......................................... 10
Monroe Co.-- Brickey Memorial................................... 11
Ogle Co.-- White Pines Forest................................... 12
Kane Co.-- Bliss Woods Nature Preserve.......................... 13
Lake Co.-- Addition to Skokie River Nature Preserve............. 14
Mason and Menard Co.-- Barton-Sommer's Woodland Nature Preserve. 15
McHenry Co.-- Addition to Sterne's Fen Nature Preserve.......... 16
Morgan Co.-- Addition to Meredosia Hill Prairie Nature Preserve. 17
Cook Co.-- Indian Boundary Prairies/Gensburg-Markham Prairie
Nature Preserve Update.......................................... 18
McHenry Co.-- Cary Prairie Nature Preserve, Name Change......... 19
Adoption of Agenda ............................................. 2
Approval of Minutes of 145th Meeting............................ 3
Next Meeting Schedule........................................... 4
Administration's Goals to Preserve Illinois' Natural Resources.. 5
NPC Staff Report................................................ 6
IDOC Staff Report................................................ 7
Public Comment Period........................................... 8
Update on Purple Loosestrife Biocontrol Project................. 9
Other Business.................................................. 20
Adjournment .................................................... 21
At 10:05 a.m., pursuant to the Call to Order of Chairperson Farwell, the meeting began.
Members present: Thomas Donnelley, Francis Farwell, Don Pierce, John Schmitt, Valerie Spale, and Judith Spasovich.
Members absent: Gerald Adelmann, Anthony Dvorak, and Wendy Paulson.
Others present: John Alesandrini, Brian Anderson, Steve Byers, Sharon Cline, Judith Faulkner, Carolyn Grosboll, Randy Heidorn, Tammie McKay, and Mary Kay Solecki, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission (INPC); Jim Herkert and Sue Lauzon, Endangered Species Protection Board; Carl Becker, Todd Bittner, Dave Cooper, Dean Corgiat, Celine D'Onofrio, Deanna Glosser, Bill McClain, Randy Nyboer, Mark Phipps, Jack Rozdilsky, John Schwegman, Todd Strole, and John Wilker, Division of Natural Heritage, Illinois Department of Conservation (IDOC); Brent Manning, Director, IDOC; John Comerio, Deputy Director, IDOC; Bill Gonterman, private landowner; Gretchen Bonfert, Green Strategies; George Rose, Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT); Marilyn Campbell, Illinois Audubon Society; Ken Spale, Save the Prairie Society; and David Monk, Educational Resources in Environmental Science.
Brian reported one change to the Agenda. Bruce Boyd was to have presented Item 18 rather than Item 19. Unfortunately Bruce was not able to attend the meeting, and Steve Byers will present this item on behalf of him.
It was moved by Pierce, seconded by Spale, and carried that the Agenda for the 146th Meeting be adopted as amended.
146-3) Approval of Minutes of 145th Meeting, October 25, 1994
It was moved by Donnelley, seconded by Pierce, and carried that the minutes of the 145th Meeting be approved.
Brian Anderson reported the locations of remaining meetings for 1995, with all meetings beginning at 10:00 a.m.:
Meeting Date, Location
147 May 2, 1995, Starved Rock State Park,Utica, Illinois
148 August 1, 1995, The Grove, Glenview Park District, 1421 Milwaukee Avenue, Glenview, Illinois
149 October 31, 1995, Pere Marquette State Park, Grafton, Illinois
As a reminder, Chairperson Farwell asked that anyone wanting to be placed on the agenda, please notify the Commission 30 days in advance of the meeting.
Director Manning expressed his pleasure at being able to attend the Commission Meeting. Manning reported that Illinois government had been very hectic in recent months and he expressed a desire to spend more time with the Commission in the future. Manning indicated he thinks this is a very exciting time to be involved in Illinois government and in conservation in Illinois. There are many initiatives underway and the IDOC is working with others together in many facets. Manning feels the IDOC can build on its past successes and feels IDOC has some very exciting things to look forward to in the future which may leave a strong legacy for generations to come. Manning stated that he is the eternal optimist and he is going to remain that way. Manning indicated a desire to briefly touch on several areas where he feels we have mutual interests. One of these areas is Conservation 2000, which Governor Edgar continues to support. The Director reported that IDOC is going to make another push for this important piece of legislation in the spring session. Governor Edgar highlighted the importance of the program in his State of the State address in January. Manning reported he is very hopeful our efforts will be successful in the general assembly since this is a bi-partisan issue. Manning feels the quality of life in the State of Illinois and the quality of our natural resources shouldn't be a republican or democrat issue. IDOC has already held strategy sessions with many key legislators and has gained support of many farming interests, about which Manning is particularly pleased, because this is where most of the resistance came from last year on Conservation 2000. Manning is also pleased that some of the freshman legislators are already on board with the initiative. He feels one of the most important legislators is newly elected Raymond Poe who has stated his support for and has a great interest in Conservation 2000. Recently, there was a substance only hearing in the House Appropriations Committee regarding Conservation 2000 and it went very well. The bill was introduced as House Bill 368 and is sponsored by Representative Tom Ryder of Jerseyville. It is Manning's understanding that there will be a Senate version introduced as well. Manning is looking forward to working with the Commission and the rest of IDOC's constituents on this very critical and important initiative.
Manning reported that Conservation 2000 compliments the conservation easement legislation that the Commission helped with and the Governor signed last year. That new law took effect January 1. It encourages landowners to maintain significant natural habitats on their land by reducing the property tax they pay on that land. The landowner must make a permanent commitment to maintain habitat on their land and to protect natural resources by signing a legally binding conservation easement or by registering their property under the Illinois Natural Areas Preservation Act. The IDOC certifies whether the land meets specific standards to qualify for the property tax reduction. He suggested the start up of the program will be relatively slow this year. Manning reported that IDOC wants to be sure that things are done right during the start up, because he wants this program to be a success.
Manning also reported he is awaiting a contract from the Governor's Office regarding the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Governor Edgar is meeting with Newt Gingrich very soon and he feels that it is extremely important that the CRP issue be on the table. Manning is very concerned about the continuation of the CRP at the federal level. It could be a target for federal budget cuts, and he feels we must mobilize all of our constituents along with those in the farm community to ensure that the program continues. Failure to continue the program will have a devastating effect on the State and its biodiversity. Next week it will be announced that about 75 groups across Illinois have allied to promote the continuation of the CRP Program. Manning asked the Commission to lend their support on this issue, because he strongly believes that CRP is a program with great potential. He agrees that the program could be administered to better enhance the biodiversity of our landscape and water quality, but he doesn't feel the program should be abandoned.
Manning reported that IDOC's efforts acquire the Joliet Arsenal for conservation purposes will be revived with the new Congress. It is important that the plan for this 23,500-acre site move forward. Manning feels Congressman Sangmeister did a fine job. He worked the issue very hard and deserves our thanks for all of his efforts. Now it is up to incoming Congressman Willard to build on the progress we have made so far and the Director is very pleased with his commitment. Congressman Willard has already taken the initiative with the new Congressional leadership, and will try to get the transfer of the property to the U.S. Forest Service approved this year. Manning expressed the importance for IDOC to stand behind him, encourage him, provide him the information that he needs, and give him all the technical advice and assistance we can so that we may see this project come to fruition.
Another federal program that is getting underway in Illinois and is going to affect the IDOC dramatically is the Forest Legacy Program. We anticipate receiving $6.1 million for this program which protects large tracts of privately owned forest in Illinois. It is a conservation easement program. More than 90% of the state's forests are privately owned and most of them are small (20 acres in size or less). This program is a way for landowners to protect some of the most critical of the remaining 4 million acres of forest in Illinois and prevent their diversion to non-forest uses. The IDOC is focusing basically on 3 areas: The Rock River in Northern Illinois, The Peoria Bluffs in Central Illinois, and the Great River Bluffs in Southwestern Illinois. The program was created by Congress in 1990 and Director Manning is very pleased with the results. Under the program landowners can elect to sell the federal government specific rights to their property, such as development rights, which will allow landowners to continue to own, live on, maintain traditional uses on, and control access to the land. The option to convey these rights is entirely voluntary.
Back in Illinois, Manning reported that the Illinois Conservation Foundation is being set up and he thanked everyone for their help in seeing this legislation passed. Since the Governor signed the bill last year creating the Foundation, he has named most of his appointees and names from legislative leadership are beginning to come in. The state has already received and accepted a $50,000 pledge from Illinois Power for tree planting. Manning looks forward to many more similar donations from corporations and hopes very soon to have an Executive Director for the Foundation.
The Department has been working on a Strategic Plan and Manning is pleased to say that the implementation of the plan is well under way. An implementation committee has been charged with ensuring the plan is carried out and the Director indicated he is also closely monitoring this progress.
Manning is also pleased how well everyone is continuing to work together through the Conservation Congress. The recommendations of the Governor's Water Resources and Land Use Priorities Task Force and the Strategic Plan for the Ecological Resources of Illinois are all conveying with those of the Conservation Congress in a way that emphasizes a broad base of common ground. He believes all of these efforts compliment each other and ultimately will enhance our efforts to improve Illinois' natural resources.
In the State of the State address, Governor Edgar announced he would create a new Department of Natural Resources by combining the IDOC, Department of Mines and Minerals, most of the Department of Energy and Natural Resources, and the Abandoned Mined Lands Reclamation Counsel. The executive order creating the new Department will be filed on or about April 1 and the reorganization should take place and be ready to go by the new fiscal year which begins July 1, 1995. Manning is very honored that the Governor has selected him to lead this Department. Various sub-committees are meeting regarding overlapping responsibilities such as personnel, budgeting, legal staff, etc. Manning is also very pleased that the Governor has assigned Al Grosboll, who has been a strong environmental advocate in the Governor's Office, to work with him in the reorganization.
Manning is currently meeting with each of the Directors of the involved agencies individually, and those meetings are going very well. Recently, Director Manning attended a two hour meeting with the Chiefs of the Scientific Surveys and he expressed to them his view that we must preserve the scientific objectivity and integrity of those entities. The Surveys are recognized nationwide, and even throughout the world for their work, and Manning feels we cannot afford for there to be any political influence on the work of the scientific surveys. Manning trusts that future DNR directors will hold the same view.
Manning reported that this new larger combined agency provides a wealth of opportunity; an opportunity to fulfill our desire to manage the natural resources of this state on a larger more dramatic scale, and in such a manner that we can streamline the decision making process. He is excited about the possibility and he hopes the Commission is as well. Manning indicated there may be opportunities to streamline some support functions. For example, all the involved agencies have a personnel function, a legislative and a legal function, and accounting and payroll structures. Manning believes we can find efficiencies in these areas through the reorganization. He emphasized that there was not an intent to eliminate programs. The most important efficiency that can be found in the reorganization is for all the Offices of the new DNR to work together as a group to make their decisions to permit or not to permit, to dredge or not to dredge, to preserve or not to preserve. With such decisions made under one roof, they should be made in a more timely manner. In closing, Manning thanked the Commission and their staff, especially Brian and Carolyn for their outstanding efforts in preserving Illinois' natural resources and for maintaining such a close working relationship with the Department. Manning indicated that Brian and Carolyn are called on for assistance in many tasks, beyond their roles with the Commission, and they are always very diligent in their response; they are a great value to both organizations.
Chairperson Farwell expressed his appreciation to Director Manning for attending the Commission meeting. Farwell is very pleased that Manning has been selected as Director of the DNR, and is excited about the new perspective that Manning has brought to Conservation in Illinois. Farwell expressed his own love of Illinois' lands, and re-stated the Commission's commitment to preserving it for the benefit of all Illinoisans.
Chairperson Farwell also feels the CRP is a wonderful initiative and asked the Commission to entertain a resolution in support of extending the CRP program. Farwell asked Commission members to write letters, and Commission staff to follow whatever direction Director Manning might give with respect to support for the CRP program.
The following resolution was moved by Donnelley, seconded by Schmitt, and approved:
The Commission supports the extension of the Conservation Reserve Program as a significant contribution to the preservation of Illinois' biodiversity and directs staff to provide whatever support may be requested by IDOC Director Manning in promoting the continuance of this valuable program.
Randy Heidorn, Stewardship Coordinator, reported that he has been busy developing an automated management schedule. The computer based management planning and tracking system has now been installed in five District Heritage Biologist's (DHB) offices, one Commission field office, and at the office of the Peoria Park District. Randy stated it has been an interesting experience because he is learning how to build a program that is usable by a wide range of individuals with different handworks. Todd Bittner, who is a resident with the Division of Natural Heritage (DNH), has been instrumental in helping Randy design parts of the program. Randy has also been working on nature preserve master plans and at this time there are currently 76 master plans in existence. Of that 76, 26 are current through the end of this year, and the DHB's and many landowners are working on developing new master plans under the new system.
Randy has been meeting with Access Illinois which is a computer network that has been set up as a partnership with the State of Illinois to provide modern access to government information by the public. The Commission has received a proposal from Access Illinois to place Commission minutes, Commission Guidelines, the Directory of Illinois Nature Preserves, and other Commission information on lines at a cost of $500 per year. This would also give INPC an opportunity to have E-Mail connections through the Internet and allow researchers and others to apply for the Special Use Permits through the Internet. Many of the researchers requesting permits are associated with universities which provide them with access to the Internet. Randy handed out an informational sheet on how to sign up for Access Illinois. It is free to users.
Randy has also been involved with changes in the herbicide licensing program for volunteer stewards. The new approach emphasizes the roles of volunteer coordinators in the land managing agencies that own nature preserves. That system seems to be working very well. The only problem right now is that the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) has not been able to set up any testing times on weekends, which is a problem for volunteers. Randy is working with the IDOA to address that shortcoming.
In December, 1994, Randy, Bill McClain and The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) Peoria office put together a workshop for volunteer stewards on the use of power tools and herbicides that was very well received.
Randy, Carolyn Grosboll, and Steve Byers have been working with Northern Illinois Gas to prepare mitigation for a pipeline project that will be adjacent to a number of natural areas and nature preserves.
Brian asked Randy to briefly discuss how the Commission is proposing to handle deer reduction through the management schedule.
Randy reported that in the past, deer control had to be a part of a research project and approved through a Special Use Permit. Under the new Rules for Management approved last year, this approach is no longer mandated. The Commission can incorporate management of any kind into a management schedule, including a proposal for deer herd reduction, and no additional permission is necessary beyond landowner and Commission approval. The advantage of this is that it is a routine approach to addressing management questions. Deer herd management must still be consistent with the Management Guidelines and any goals and objectives that may have been approved with the four-year management schedule.
Brian stated that the rationale for adopting this approach is that the deer were being singled out in a way that probably was not justifiable since there are many native invasive species that pose serious threats to nature preserves. All of the approvals to manage populations of these species are being given through the management schedule. In some ways INPC was falling into a trap by treating deer differently than other species. This way INPC essentially is declaring that the management of deer is a common ongoing practice and it ought to be treated in the same way that management of any other species is. The standard that INPC has used for all other management is that if a landowner proposes a management routine, as long as it will do no harm and has some arguable potential for addressing the management concern, INPC staff has approved it. Brian feels there is no reason to treat deer management under a separate protocol. If a landowner proposes to use sport hunting or sharp shooting, or any other humane method, it is staff's intent to approve the request, monitor the effectiveness for two or three years, and if for some reason the approach should not prove effective, then INPC staff would go to the landowner and discuss other options. If the Commission agrees with this approach, this is the way it will be handled at staff level.
Randy stated that he will be the contact person for management schedule submittal and approval.
Chairperson Farwell pointed out that this approach allows management to be customized to each specific site and the circumstances specific to each.
Carolyn Grosboll reported that the staff was very happy to have Brian back from Washington, D.C.
Carolyn reported that Steve Byers attended a Federal Aviation Administration scoping meeting in mid-January on the planned third airport near Peotone. These meetings are the first step in preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement. The early plans show that the proposed site is adjacent to Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve. In written comments, staff expressed concern over the location of the site and asked that additional buffer be put around the Preserve to buffer it. The proposed plan currently provides for restoring a woodland area to the north and east of the preserve, which is in the direction of the airport site, and it was also suggested that buffer be added to the South and West of the nature preserve as well. The plan also provides that several roads in the vicinity of the nature preserve will be eliminated. Staff also expressed concern regarding Plum Grove and Goodenow Grove, which are Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (INAI) sites. These sites are located to the west of the proposed airport and are owned by the Forest Preserve District of Will County. Carolyn reported that she will provide updates on the status of this project as it progresses.
Carolyn reported that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (ISTHA) have begun scoping meetings on the proposed Tollroad which extends I-355 north along the current Route 53. An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is also being prepared for this tollroad. This will be the second EIS prepared for a tollroad construction. The Draft EIS for the I-355 extension south to I-80 was released last fall, and staff submitted comments in early December. INPC is still awaiting the Final EIS on that project.
Carolyn reported on the recently adopted conservation easement legislation which provides for a reduction in property taxes on property if it is encumbered in perpetuity by a conservation easement or is registered under the Register of Land and Water Reserves. This legislation went into effect January 1, 1995. The Department of Conservation and the Department of Revenue have prepared a joint application to be used when applying for the reduction. Carolyn has copies of the joint form if anyone would like one.
Chairperson Farwell asked Carolyn to briefly outline tax abatement, cost-share, or other incentive programs, perhaps in brochure form, that might be beneficial to individuals or companies that are interested in preserving their property.
Carolyn gave a report on activities of the Commission's Ad Hoc Committee on Stream Protection. Since the last Commission meeting, Carolyn has attended three meetings of the State Protected Streams Work Group (Group). This Group is a subcommittee of the State Water Plan Task Force which for years has been studying various issues dealing with the State's waterways, including proposals to rewrite the State's water laws. The State Protected Streams Work Group is charged with looking at what already exists or what needs to be done to better preserve the State's highest quality streams and rivers. Members of the Group represent several agencies, including the Department of Agriculture; IDOC's Divisions of Impact Analysis and Fisheries; Department of Mines and Minerals; IDOT, Division of Water Resources; IEPA; Illinois Natural History Survey; INPC; Illinois State Water Survey; and the Illinois Pollution Control Board. The Group started off by looking at all existing inventories of high quality streams and came up with five: 1) the Wild and Scenic Rivers [Middle Fork of the Vermilion River]; 2) the Nationwide Rivers Inventory, which is currently being updated to include more Illinois streams; 3) Illinois Natural Areas Inventory, which has 73 steam segments on it; 4) the "biologically significant" streams, which includes 132 steam segments; and 5) biological stream characterization (BSC) streams.
The Group also looked at what legal protection was provided for each of the inventories. Ultimately, it was determined that the strongest protection lies with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Group then began to focus on how to get the Corps to recognize these lists and give higher scrutiny to projects that might have potential impacts to the listed streams. The Wild and Scenic Rivers and the Nationwide Rivers Inventory, as well as any stream that is habitat for a federally listed species, are already given increased scrutiny by the Corps. However, most of the streams the Group is concerned with are not on those lists; they are on the Illinois lists.
At their last meeting, the Group met with representatives of the Corps' Rock Island District to discuss how Illinois' protected streams could be incorporated into their permit decision making process. Basically, it was decided that without some statutory change giving more significance to the Illinois inventories, the Corps could not deny a permit based solely on a potential impact to a State inventory stream. The Corps representatives from Rock Island agreed to work further with the Group on this issue, and also agreed to be the lead District in Illinois. The Group is scheduled to meet later this month to review all of the existing related State permit programs and to determine how they might be changed to protect Illinois' inventory streams. The most beneficial change would be to create a program that would require the Corps to defer to that program before issuing a particular permit. For example, the Corps currently defers to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) on projects that may impact water quality. Carolyn will continue to give updates on the Group's efforts as she continues to attend these meeting.
Commissioner Spale reported on a newly formed group called the Lower Fox Coalition, who is attempting to identify and protect resources along the Lower Fox River. This group is concerned about conservation and protection of the Lower Fox, which is a very scenic river, possesses an important archaeological site, and retains the scenic wooded bluffs. Apparently there are several natural areas and threatened and endangered species known to occur on that stretch of the Lower Fox.
Judy Faulkner, Southern Illinois Field Representative, reported that the equestrian issue has been quiet during the colder winter months. This has given Judy a welcome break to allow work on other preservation issues.
Among the other projects Judy has been working on is negotiation of additions to Bohm Woods in Madison County. Three different owners of parcels adjacent to the nature preserve are considering preservation of their tract as nature preserves or registry sites.
Judy has been working with the owner of Lost Creek Marsh Illinois Natural Heritage Landmark in Clinton County to develop a wetland restoration plan. The plan would enhance the growth of the very large stand of cordgrass in this rare, wet prairie community. The Natural Resource Conservation Service (former Soil Conservation Service) has assisted in developing the plan and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will pursue obtaining funding for the project. Following completion of this restoration work, the District Heritage Biologist will begin to manage the encroaching woody vegetation.
The Commission has been asked to present a paper on the dedication of Armin Krueger Speleological Nature Preserve in Monroe County, at the Midwest Cave Management Symposium in Indiana in October, 1994. Apparently this is the only cave area that has the subterranean portions of the cave dedicated providing protection for the cave, but allowing other compatible uses to occur on the surface. This dedication is being held up as a model for cutting edge cave protection.
John Alesandrini, Northern Illinois Field Representative, reported on a rapid and radical change in the make-up of the Board and staff at Byron Forest Preserve District. He has been working closely with the District to reaffirm their commitment to responsibilities and their understanding of the associated advantages with the dedication of Jarrett Prairie Nature Preserve.
John also reported having a successful fall, 1994 burning season. He reported a growing number of private landowners who have taken it upon themselves to burn their prairies. He especially thanked Mike Jones of the Natural Land Institute in Rockford for his efforts in conducting prescribed burns on Natural Heritage Landmarks.
John also assisted IDOC's Division of Natural Heritage in January at the Quad Cities Bald Eagle Days.
John also completed the three year testing and certification for the pesticide applicators license, which is needed in assisting volunteers on management projects.
Steven Byers, Northeastern Illinois Field Representative, reported representing the Commission at the Northern Illinois Gas Pipeline FAP 340, and Peotone Airport scoping meeting. He has also represented the Commission at the Chicago Regional Biodiversity Initiative, serving on the land management and science teams. Steve also attended TNC's regional stewardship meeting and also represented the Commission on the St. Mary's Preserve Planning Committee initiated by W. W. Granger, Inc. He is pleased to report that the Planning Committee did adopt a recommendation calling for dedication of 120 acres at the St. Mary's Preserve upon conveyance of the property to the Lake County Forest Preserve District. The committee understood that the property needs to be formally considered by INPC.
Steve also continues to be involved with Gensburg-Markham Nature Preserve and the Indian Boundary Prairies. Steve represented INPC and served as co-host at a prescribed burn clinic at the St. Charles Park District. With the help of Don McFall and Randy Heidorn, the Crystal Lake Park District secured a contract for a consultant to assist with management of a dedicated nature preserve. This is the first time that funds from the Natural Areas Acquisition Fund have been made available for a nature preserve that is not owned by the IDOC. Steve is pleased to report that this is something new and he is excited to be able to offer this to other agencies.
Mary Kay Solecki, Central Illinois Field Representative, reported on the Embarrass River, a high-quality stream in central and south-central Illinois. The Embarrass Rivers Management Association was formed a year ago which is a landowner based association looking at the management of the watershed resources of the entire watershed throughout eight counties. The Association has received a $300,000 grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to plan resource utilization and flood control at the watershed. The Association has formed three technical advisory committees and Mary Kay was happy to say that they have done a good job of recruiting the conservation community into it. Mary Kay is on the technical advisory committee for flooding, and the Division of Natural Heritage staff along with other IDOC staff are on the committee which deals with natural areas and wetlands. She thinks that they are going to have a far reaching impact within that region.
Mary Kay reported that she has been adapting and editing the Nature Preserves Commission's Vegetation Management Guidelines for exotic and aggressive plants into a book chapter for a publication in a book entitled "Prairie Restoration: Renewing the Midwest Tall Grasslands and Savannas." The exotic species guidelines are forming the basis for the book chapter on weed control.
Mary Kay attended and spoke at the Illinois Specialty Growers Association Conference. The Association wanted someone to talk about conserving native plants through ethical harvesting. Among the attendees were nursery men, ginseng growers, and people interested in herbals. Over 500 people attended the Conference and over 100 people attended Mary Kay's presentation. The audience was keenly interested in the topic.
Finally, Mary Kay was able to accomplish some burning this past fall. The most interesting one was the restoration of fire to Funks Grove Nature Preserve at the high quality woodlands which has never been burned before.
Brian Anderson thanked the Commission staff, especially Carolyn Grosboll for covering for him while he was gone. He reported that staff did a typical outstanding job. Hopefully Brian will be able to apply some of the things in Illinois that he learned in Washington D.C.
Carl Becker reported that four residents were hired with the Division of Natural Heritage (DNH) in January. Todd Strole introduced John Wilker who is finishing his masters degree and writing his thesis at Southern Illinois University. John is working 2 days a week in the Springfield office, primarily with Deanna Glosser in the Endangered Species Program. Other residents present at the meeting were: Todd Bittner, who has been working in Lee County since August, and Jack Rozdilsky who is working with the Endangered Species Program in Springfield.
This is a program that DNH is supporting for people who are in a graduate program. At this point, resident programs exist with IDOC and Southern Illinois University, University of Illinois, and Sangamon State University. DNH is working on agreements with Eastern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, and Illinois State University. People that are in a graduate program will have opportunities to serve a one-year residency with the Division's field personnel. There are currently nine residents in the program.
Carl reported on one land acquisition that was interesting. In the past, Carl had understood that IDOC could never go to a land auction. Carl had been informed that a 60-acre parcel at the Grassland Sanctuary in Jasper County was being offered for auction. Time was short so Carl called Tom Flattery with the Division of Land Acquisition to discuss the matter. Tom Flattery ultimately went to the auction and purchased this property for IDOC. Carl reported that Tom Flattery has done a remarkable job at administering the Department's land acquisition program (particularly with Natural Areas Acquisition Funds), he is very aggressive, very creative, and he gets the job done.
Carl reported on an initiative that is being proposed by the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, a consortium of State and provincial Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The Wildlife Diversity funding initiative is an effort to secure funding equal to that of Pitman Robertson and Johnson funds to support wildlife that aren't hunted or sport fished. This fund would provide approximately $350 million on an annual basis. The fund would be supported through a user fee on recreation equipment such as: tents, camp stoves, and hiking boots. The structuring of these fees hasn't been finalized, but the greater the number of items covered, the lower the excise tax on each item. The fee would not exceed 5% of the total wholesale price and would be paid by the user.
Carl passed out a table indicating the portion coming to Illinois annually would be almost $3.4 million. The monies could be spent in three programmatic areas: Conservation of wildlife and their habitats, recreational activities involving wildlife, and wildlife education. The formula for allocation of funds to the states is based on land mass (1/3) and population (2/3). The target date for pursuing this campaign will be this summer or fall. They are working with constituent groups, and Carl has met with the Audubon Council, Sierra Club, and The Wildlife Society.
Bill McClain shared some information on stewardship projects which are being funded with Natural Areas Acquisition Funds. Bill reported that this is the fourth year that DNH has had this money to do hands on management on natural areas and nature preserves throughout the state. This year the amount of money that was available was $150,000. Of this total, $20,000 is going towards three privately owned nature preserves and $130,000 is going to IDOC owned sites. This year there is a total of 22 projects. Six projects are being directed towards the removal of some sort of an exotic plant that would pose a serious threat to the integrity of nature preserves within a region or statewide. The exotic plants targeted are: bush honeysuckle, black locust in the sand prairies, and buckthorn in the northern part of the state. Also through one of these projects, staff are trying to find some sort of a biological control for the pernicious garlic mustard. There are two projects that involve exact boundary determinations for preserves. There are an additional six projects that involve removing trees or brush that present a threat to preserves. There are two projects that are being directed towards revegetating or reconstructing communities. A few projects involve prairie chickens, one to continue to improve the genetic diversity of the prairie chickens in Illinois and others directed towards removing brushy fence rows. Two are fencing projects to prevent trespassing or off-road vehicles or other vehicles that might damage the nature preserves. Another project continues the funding to revegetate the Middle Fork Corridor. There is also an old building on one of the recent additions to Harlem Hills Nature Preserve that IDOC had to remove before prairie reconstruction can begin.
Valerie Spale gave a report of progress on Save the Prairie Society's Natural Areas Rescue Fund. They are negotiating to acquire a site called Macoupin Woods. It is 40 acres of woodland that is the highest quality of its type in that particular area of the state and at this point they are awaiting the signature of the contract to acquire from the owner. This is an inventory site and would qualify for dedication. The owner is very willing and eager to protect his land, and in fact is making a substantial donation of the timber value to save the site so that it can be acquired.
John Schwegman handed out a detailed report to the Commissioners on last year's efforts in biological control of purple loosestrife through the release of obligate herbivorous insects. John reported that he and Randy Heidorn directed the Illinois program. Similar programs have been conducted in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Iowa. Almost all of the Midwest states except Missouri participated in this effort to release leaf beetles, the biocontrol agent, into the wild. Minnesota also has released two species of weevils which have not been discussed yet in Illinois. One attacks the roots and another attacks the flower of purple loosestrife. More detail on these species will be presented at a future meeting. In Illinois, seven releases were made last summer; four by the IDOC and three by county agencies in Kane, Lake and McHenry counties. Three of the releases were in nature preserves: McHenry County's Weingart Road Sedge Meadow, Lake County's Wauconda Bog, and the Department's Pistakee Bog. John showed slides of the releases accomplished last summer.
John reported that in May they will be checking to see if the beetles have survived hibernation. Approximately 10-20% of these beetles normally survive the winter. The populations will be low, but the experts predict that survival will be high enough to establish the populations. If few insects are observed coming out of hibernation, Cornell University will provide free replacement insects to augment the initial releases.
John said the goal is to control the purple loosestrife, to reduce the loosestrife population to what it looks like in Europe, a minor component of wetland vegetation. Total eradication of the purple loosestrife population is not possible using biocontrol.
Cornell University, the source of our released beetles, will no longer be raising leaf beetles for biocontrol after this year. It will be each state's responsibility to raise any beetles they are going to release. John feels that if IDOC is going to achieve control in a reasonable period of time, IDOC needs to raise some of it's insects. The Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) is committed to raising insects for DNH this summer. There will probably be more leaf beetle releases this summer in Illinois. INHS is hoping to fund this effort using U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funds. If that opportunity fails to materialize, IDOC has formed a coalition with five county agencies plus the Chicago Wetlands Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that will jointly provide funds to rear the insects. John stated he thought that biocontrol may be the answer to many of the real serious problems relating to exotic plant species and he is excited to think that INHS may be establishing a biocontrol program.
Judy Faulkner presented slides on Deer Pond, one of only seven grade A cypress swamps in Illinois, which is being proposed for preliminary approval of dedication as an Illinois nature preserve. The proposed preserve is part of a 161-acre natural area located north of Old Route 146 approximately two miles west of Vienna, Illinois in the Bottomlands Section of the Coastal Plain Natural Division. The Department of Conservation owns and manages 60 acres of the wetland which contains most of the grade A swamp. One state-endangered plant, the cypress knee sedge, is known at the site while one state-endangered bird, the Cooper's Hawk, and one state-threatened bird, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron have bred there. Featherfoil, a rare plant, also occurs at the site. Dedication of the site is important because it is one of only seven grade A swamps in Illinois.
Commissioner Schmitt questioned whether there would be any foreseeable problems with the watershed and whether it would be impacted by adjoining landowners. Judy responded that even though that is a potential problem, the tract has been owned by IDOC since 1981 and there haven't been any problems with the landowners.
Commissioner Schmitt asked if there are any protections against the adjoining landowners draining the pond. Brian reported that the entire forested area is larger than the acreage of the natural area. Brian stated that the Pond is in the natural area and even if the forest were cleared on the adjoining lands, there would still be a sustainable system. The impacts from adjoining landowners would be indirect.
It was moved by Pierce, seconded by Spale, and carried that the following resolution be adopted:
The Commission grants preliminary approval for dedication of Deer Pond in Johnson County as a nature preserve as described in the proposal presented under Item 10 of the Agenda for the 146th meeting.
Judy Faulkner presented slides on a portion of Renault Herpetological Area, an Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (INAI) site, which is proposed for preliminary approval of dedication as an Illinois nature preserve. Renault Herpetological Area is located on the Mississippi River bluffs above the American Bottom in Monroe County and is also located within the Northern Section of the Ozark Natural Division. This proposed nature preserve encompasses 1-1/4 miles of southwest-facing bluff which provides habitat for 7 rare or state threatened reptiles and amphibians. Renault Herpetological Area contains grade A limestone cliff communities, as well as loess hill prairies and upland forests. The southeast 1/5 of the area, owned by J.W. Gonterman, is being proposed for dedication as the Brickey Memorial Nature Preserve.
It was moved by Pierce, seconded by Schmitt, and carried that the following resolution be adopted:
The Commission grants preliminary approval for dedication of Brickey Memorial in Monroe County as a nature preserve as described in the proposal presented under Item 11 of the Agenda for the 146th meeting.
Todd Bittner presented slides for a 38-acre parcel of the 385-acre White Pines Forest State Park which is proposed for preliminary approval for dedication as an Illinois nature preserve. The proposed preserve is the only state owned high quality dry-mesic upland forest community in the Freeport Section Rock River Hill County Natural Division that has native white pine as a forest component. Of the 38 acres proposed, one acre of moderate quality wet-mesic floodplain forest is also included. The forested slopes and dolomite cliffs provide habitat for two state threatened species, the black-seeded rice grass and Sullivantia. White Pines Forest is located in southwestern Ogle County, approximately 6.5 miles west of Oregon. Dedication of this property will preserve the largest remaining relict stand of naturally occurring white pine left in the state.
Brian reported that the dedication authorizes cross-country skiing which is not generally allowed in a nature preserve. It is important that there be specific approval in the public record. After some discussions with Randy Nyboer, it was voted that trails in the park are very heavily used. However, unlike some of the problems faced in Northeastern Illinois in the morainal section, people tend not to leave the trail because the understory is quite heavy. They really have never had a problem with braiding of trails due to cross-country skiing like we've seen in some parts of northeastern Illinois where the understory is much more open.
Commissioner Spale asked if there were signs posted on the trail that would caution trail users to remain on the trail.
Todd Bittner reported that presently there are not any signs posted that specifically request that trail users remain only on the trail. He added that this trail in the proposed nature preserve is not as heavily used as the other ski trails in the park because you cannot get back to where you began and you either have to walk or turn around and ski back to where you started.
It was moved by Donnelley, seconded by Schmitt, and carried that the following resolution be adopted:
The Commission grants preliminary approval for dedication of White Pines Forest in Ogle County as a nature preserve as described in the proposal presented under Item 12 of the Agenda for the 146th meeting.
Steve Byers presented a slide on Bliss Woods which is proposed for final approval for dedication as an Illinois nature preserve. Owned by the Kane County Forest Preserve District, the proposed nature preserve is an approximately 70-acre tract containing the terminus of the 6-mile long Kaneville Esker. A section of this esker was identified by the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (INAI). Bliss Woods received preliminary approval for dedication at the Commission's 137th Meeting (Resolution 1150).
It was moved by Pierce, seconded by Schmitt, and carried that the following resolution be adopted:
The Commission grants final approval for dedication of Bliss Woods Nature Preserve in Kane County as described in the proposal presented under Item 13 of the Agenda for the 146th meeting.
Steve presented one parcel of land, totalling approximately 2.0 acres, which is proposed for final dedication as buffer to the Skokie River Nature Preserve located in Lake County, Illinois. The 2.0 acres consist of degraded mesic prairie located immediately adjacent to McLaughlin Prairie, one of two Illinois Natural Areas Inventory sites encompassed by the Skokie River Nature Preserve. The proposal to dedicate Skokie River Nature Preserve, approved by the Commission at its 134th Meeting (Resolution 1106), called for the linkages between major high quality sections of the preserve to "...be expanded through dedication of adjacent lands as buffer and improved by natural community restoration." This proposal is consistent with those recommendations and will further buffer the existing nature preserve from nearby, incompatible land uses. Private dedications have increased Skokie River Nature Preserve from 100 acres to approximately 113.5 acres. This addition to Skokie River Nature Preserve received preliminary approval for dedication at the Commission's 145th Meeting (Resolution 1250).
It was moved by Donnelley, seconded by Schmitt, and carried that the following resolution be adopted:
The Commission grants final approval for dedication of an addition to Skokie River Nature Preserve in Lake County as described in the proposal presented under Item 14 of the Agenda for the 146th meeting.
Todd Strole presented Barton-Sommer's Woodland for final approval for dedication as a nature preserve. The 52.5 acre tract is located approximately 15 miles west of Lincoln along Salt Creek in Mason and Menard Counties. This area was identified by the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory as a grade B wet-mesic floodplain forest. The Public Lands Survey noted the presence of black walnut, elm, and maple within the proposed preserve. However, a recent study indicates that the site is a mesic savanna that has experienced fire suppression and woody invasion during the last sixty years. Management will be directed toward the restoration of the savanna community. Barton-Sommer's Woodland is located within the Illinois River Section of the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois River Bottomlands Natural Division. When dedicated, this will be the first woodland protected as a nature preserve in this natural division. Barton-Sommer's Woodland received preliminary approval for dedication at the Commission's 143rd Meeting (Resolution 1232).
Carolyn Grosboll described her investigations relating to Illinois Water Law and after coordination with other divisions of the IDOC, is recommending that the dedication go to the middle of the river.
It was moved by Spasovich, seconded by Spale, and carried that the following resolution be adopted:
The Commission grants final approval for dedication of Barton Sommer's Woodland Nature Preserve in Mason and Menard Counties as described in the proposal presented under Item 15 of the Agenda for the 146th meeting.
Steve Byers presented an addition to Sterne's Fen Nature Preserve for final approval for dedication. Sterne's Fen Nature Preserve was recognized by the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (INAI #62) for the extant high-quality graminoid fen, low shrub fen, and calcareous seep communities. These wetlands support unique plant communities that are dependent upon a continuous discharge of cold, calcareous groundwater. At least ten state-listed endangered or threatened plant species are known to occur in these unique wetlands. The Crystal Lake Park District dedicated 46.5 acres, encompassing the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory site as nature preserve and 134.0 acres of uplands as nature preserve buffer. The proposed nature preserve buffer provides important groundwater recharge and discharge sites that support the high-quality wetland communities. This proposal also acknowledges the presence of pre-existing trails and their use within the proposed nature preserve buffer and allows for the routing and construction of the Prairie Trail, a regional greenways trail, through nature preserve buffer. Sterne's Fen received preliminary approval for dedication at the Commission's 142nd Meeting (Resolution 1221) and final approval for dedication as a nature preserve at the Commission's 143rd Meeting (Resolution 1236). This parcel was included in the preliminary approval, but was not granted final approval since it was not owned by the Crystal Lake Park District. However, the parcel has since been purchased by the Crystal Lake Park District and is being presented for final approval for dedication as an addition of buffer to Sterne's Fen Nature Preserve.
It was moved by Pierce, seconded by Donnelley, and carried that the following resolution be adopted:
The Commission grants final approval for dedication of an addition to Sterne's Fen Nature Preserve in McHenry County as described in the proposal presented under Item 16 of the Agenda for the 146th meeting.
On behalf of the Department of Conservation, Todd Strole presented a 6.2 acre addition to Meredosia Hill Prairie Nature Preserve for final approval for dedication. The 30.02-acre Meredosia Hill Prairie Nature Preserve was dedicated on September 25, 1986. In 1977, 11 acres of this 30-acre nature preserve were identified by the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory as grade B loess hill prairie. The proposed addition is primarily composed of loess hill prairie, however, a small area of old pasture and a portion of an abandoned sand mine are present. The hill prairie is dominated by sideoats grama and little bluestem. Common forbs include pale purple coneflower and silky aster. The state endangered pink milkwort also occurs on this tract. Meredosia Hill Prairie Nature Preserve is located in northwest Morgan County approximately six miles northeast of the town of Meredosia. With this dedication, all of the remaining inventoried natural area will be brought under protection. This addition will bring the total acreage of this nature preserve to 36.25 acres. The addition to Meredosia Hill Prairie Nature Preserve received preliminary approval at the Commission's 145th Meeting (Resolution 1251).
It was moved by Spale, seconded by Pierce, and carried that the following resolution be adopted:
The Commission grants final approval for an addition to Meredosia Hill Prairie Nature Preserve in Morgan County as described in the proposal presented under Item 17 of the Agenda for the 146th meeting.
Steve Byers provided a handout to the Commissioners which described the resources present at the Indian Boundary Prairies and the ownership associated with each. Steve is working with the Village of Markham, CorLands, The Nature Conservancy, Natural Land Institute, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and most recently the Forest Preserve District of Cook County to bring protection to high quality prairies located within the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district as well as the other high quality prairies in the area.
On behalf of Edith Normann, site steward, and Cary Elementary School Board, Steve Byers requested a name change of a nature preserve from Cary Prairie Nature Preserve to Cary Junior High Prairie Nature Preserve. The reasons were to eliminate confusion regarding the prairies in Cary, Illinois and secondly to acknowledge the interest and support of the Cary Junior High School.
It was moved by Donnelley, seconded by Pierce, and carried that the following resolution be adopted:
The Commission grants approval for the name change from Cary Prairie Nature Preserve to Cary Junior High Prairie Nature Preserve in McHenry County as described in the proposal presented under Item 19 of the Agenda for the 146th meeting.
It was moved by Donnelley, seconded by Adelmann, and unanimously approved to adjourn. The meeting was adjourned at 12:40 p.m.