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Sunday, January 12, 2020

The birth of Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves

This post announces the launch of a community … and an institution … that may be historic.

As of today, 596 precious and irreplaceable Illinois Nature Preserves are, in theory, “legally protected forever” by a powerful law. But neglect has caused widespread degradation. In the main office in Springfield, the three top positions are vacant. The "Director" position has been vacant for four years. See Endnote 1a (The Staff).

The system needs support, volunteers, funds, contractors, and more. Many agencies, starting with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, need to hire nature preserve and natural heritage staff and bump up their budgets. But it starts with support from “we the people.”

The Illinois Nature Preserves System is globally famous – the best, precious remnants of some of the temperate world’s most productive and diverse biodiversity. But the system is failing, or barely holding its own, in many cases.

In a world of biodiversity extinction and climate change, these preserves are lifelines to the future.

Courageous and hard-working staff and volunteers have been trying to hold the fort. But Blagojevich and Rauner, the bureaucracy, and, frankly, good people not rising to the occasion have taken a toll. Some preserves have lost a large part of what they were “preserved’ for. This blog has posted on PalatineLangham, and Weston Nature Preserves, but there are so many other desperately needy sites. Are there any near you?

Illinois Nature Preserves System

One of the first goals of Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves will be to compile a record of what’s most urgently needed for the survival and recovery of these preserves. One by one. Do you know any of them? Also, do you know people in any part of the state who might be able to help? Or learn to help? If so, please share this post with them.

Endnote 1b (The Preserves) contains a very preliminary list of preserves and needs. Can you add to it? 

A scant few of us (this mission needs thousands) have incorporated the Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves and are applying for tax-exempt status. Would you like to be a member – for free? See Endnote 2. In the meantime, Illinois Audubon has agreed to accept tax-exempt donations for support of the Friends work. Do you want to help launch this? Go to the Audubon donations page.  In “Check Out” – mark your donation “In support of Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves.”

How’d this finally come about? 

Young Matt Evans (in photo below, third from left, beaming with youth and optimism) travelled around the state interviewing staff and volunteers about nature preserves. He got an earful. Many people said a Friends group was desperately needed.

Old Steve Packard called old contacts, asked for leads, emailed others, and discovered that many great minds and spirits were willing to be Friends’ Advisors and Consultants. See list in Endnote 3.

Prime of life Fran Harty organized a meeting in Springfield that included all living former Nature Preserve directors and an impressive list of heavy hitters in the science and politics of Illinois conservation. See photo below and more detail in Endnote 4.
On October 24, 2019, these people met in Springfield. For who they were and what they said, check out Endnote 4. Great group! But don't expect us to do what's needed. We're mostly old. And spread too thin - like you. We'll all do what we can.
Matt and I drove down together to that Springfield meeting. On the way, we peeked in at the 1.3 acres of Short Pioneer Cemetery Prairie Nature Preserve in Grundy County, owned by the Oak Ridge Cemetery Association. To our eyes, this jewel desperately needed fire – and especially reduction of shade and brush around its east, south, and west edges. A volunteer “workday” (like many lesser sites have every week) could make a world of difference. We wondered how easy it would be to get approval for such. We suspected that a great many people would show up to help, and learn, and perhaps become stewards in time. 

We were inspired by a complex of oak woodland with prairie-like openings called Ridgetop Hill Prairie Nature Preserve owned by the highly respected ParkLands Foundation. Evidence of good stewardship was everywhere. We found a patch of bird’s-foot trefoil, starting to spread. This species is an appalling menace. We kept notes, reminding us to inform preserve owners and Nature Preserve staff. 
 
Last, on the way home, we visited an impressive savanna remnant called “Tomlinson Pioneer Cemetery Prairie Nature Preserve” – owned by Champaign County and managed by its Forest Preserve District. Amazing place. But, as we noticed at Short Cemetery, some of the leadplants looked like little trees, suggesting that they hadn’t been burned in many years. Prairies and savannas that go for more than a couple of years without burns gradually lose quality. Parts of Tomlinson were rich, botanically. Others had domes of hazel that seemed so shady as to have eliminated the richness beneath. Oh oh. 
Ornate box turtle and bird's-foot violet at (unnamed) nature preserve. Many details of many nature preserves need to be secret for their own protection. Just we site volunteers and a few others know.
Photo by Michael Jeffords and Susan Post
Our initial plan for Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves has three focuses. (Do you agree with them? Could you help improve the plan?)

1. Policy and Advocacy: help educate the public and decision-makers about the importance and needs of nature preserves.         

2. Funding: It’s relatively easy to fund land acquisition. We need to focus on the harder (and these days more important?) job of funding good stewardship. Our nature preserves need many times more public and private funding – to support staff and volunteers – and contract funding for those sites where neither staff nor volunteers can do it all. 

3.  Volunteers: Stewardship is inspiring to many of us. But most of the 500 plus preserves don’t get it. Recruiting, training, certification, and facilitation could unleash vast productive energy. 

In the process, more leaders and contributors need to step forward, around the state, to expand our board, build our resources, and show what we the people can do. Might you be interested in helping with any part of this? If so, write us at FriendsILnature@gmail.com

Endnotes

Endnote 1a. The Staff

Many of us have long been Nature Preserves volunteers. But a system of 596 vulnerable preserves cannot be maintained without a strong staff. The current organizational chart shows three of the five main office positions as "Vacant." Much of the funding, creativity, and organization of the system depended on those demanding jobs. The nine field staff have responsibility for an average of 66 preserves apiece. That leaves not much time for fending off threats, collaborating with owners, finding and training volunteers, writing and improving management plans, and evaluating proposals at each preserve. The field staff is stretched recklessly thin, especially with diminished support from Springfield.  

Endnote 1b. The Preserves

Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves

Draft

Site Reports on Nature Preserve Conditions

These reports and comments came from a wide variety of staff and volunteer conservationists. They are unverified. They are assembled here as a first draft toward a list of needs.

OVERALL COMMENTS

Many of these sites have seen good efforts in recent years, but then most work was put on pause, due to funding or other constraints.”
Name withheld.

I'll forever be a fighter for nature preserves in our state.”
Jill Allread, former Commission chair

"All it takes is a few passionate people supporting each site … This is a time to be optimistic but also a time for action.”
Trevor Edmonson in the Kankakee Daily Journal (Jan. 16, 2020)

REPORTS BY COUNTY

Boon County: Flora Prairie Nature Preserve: “Gets care from Conservation District staff, but still suffers from a lot of sumac and other shrubs and invasives.”

Caroll County: Brookville Lutheran Cemetery Prairie Nature Preserve. “Overrun with sumac.” “Majorly impacted by spray drift from adjacent agriculture.” “There are some quality spring flowers (Oxalis violacea comes to mind) but by late summer it is almost completely covered by sumac. If you go in the spring you might see that there is some hope, but by summer it looks like a complete loss.”

Champaign County: Tomlinson Pioneer Cemetery Prairie Nature Preserve: Seems not to have been burned sufficiently often. Domes of dense hazel have shaded out the previously diverse vegetation over substantial areas.

Cook County: Morton Grove Prairie Nature Preserve: Two large cottonwoods that shaded the prairie were cut back by the Park District in 1983. Since then, more cottonwoods have grown to shade the prairie and should be cut.

Cook County: Wolf Road Prairie Nature Preserve: “Lost a lot of ground with the FPD moratorium and the difficulties of burning, etc, etc. Dr. Darrel Murray has documented the loss of Grade A prairie down to a small area. Not sure if it can be brought back but we should try.”

DuPage County: Belmont Prairie Nature Preserve: Invasive Convallaria is blotting out some areas. Needs to be herbicided.

Fayette County: Ramsey Railroad Prairie Nature Preserve: Conservative plants seem to be declining. “Needs stewardship.”

Ford County: Sibley Grove Nature Preserve: Degraded mesic savanna “in desperate need of management.” A very rare community type.

Grundy County: Goose Lake Prairie Nature Preserve: Rare breeding grassland birds along with endangered and threatened orchids, turtles, invertebrates and more - all threatened by prairie-shading brush. "Could use a small army of stewards."

Grundy County: Short Pioneer Cemetery Prairie Nature Preserve: It appears not to have been burned recently. Also needs cutting to remove shade from invading woody plants that are degrading some areas.

Henry County: Mineral Marsh Nature Preserve, while burning into the encroaching thickets is helpful (and ongoing), the brush comes back. This site would really benefit from herbicide and seeding.

Kane County: Ferson Creek Fen Nature Preserve is being worked on by the St. Charles Park District staff and volunteers. It needs a lot of work, but they are working on it.

Kankakee County: Grant Creek Nature Preserve: It has had some management in the last year or so, but it is still teetering. The main problems here are birdsfoot trefoil and autumn olive. They are coming in from the interstate (I-55) and from the Midewin side. Contract help is under way, but more is needed. Without it, one of our best nature preserves will quickly deteriorate.

Kankakee County: Iroquois Woods Nature Preserve: It hasn't been burned in maybe 5 years. It is a beautiful sandy floodplain forest full of small mouth salamanders and buckeye trees. Because of the lack of burning and other management, honeysuckle is creeping in and the canopy is closing. Probably the best spring wildflower spot in the Kankakee area.

Kankakee County: Langham Island Nature Preserve: This site deteriorated badly from eight or ten years without of burning and other management. A volunteer crew is hard at work to restore it. Langham Island is one of three parts of Kankakee River State Park Nature Preserve.

Kankakee County: Kankakee River State Park: Langham Island is one of 3 parts of this park that have been dedicated as a Nature Preserve. The other 2 parts are not being receiving much management but deserve it. The southern portion has been burned a couple times in recent years and has a rich spring flora and steep slope down to the river. The northern portion is a black/white oak sand savanna with dunes not much different than Braidwood just to the west. A number of rare plants have been seen here in the past and may still be here. There is a small cluster of lupines and small openings where prickly pear is hanging on. All the ingredients exist here for something really special. The actual nature preserve portion of the woods has not been burned in recent years. Honeysuckle and general canopy closure are major problems.

Lake County: Illinois Beach Nature Preserve: parts of the Nature Preserve and nearby undedicated natural areas are being lost to erosion, caused by blocking littoral sand flow. State and federal action is needed. Very high quality being lost. “Like seeing a dear friend in the last stage of hospice” says one steward.

Lake County: Middlefork Savanna Nature Preserve: Invasives including reed canary grass, teasel, and white sweet clover are on the increase within and near the highest quality area. North of that remnant, restored grassland and wetland are massively infested by saltmarsh goldenrod. Is salt draining into the preserve from somewhere?

Lee County: Bartlet Woods Nature Preserve had problems with dumping by large equipment (in 2018?).

Logan County Sandra Bellrose Nature Preserve: heavy invasions of bush honeysuckle in oak woodland; very infrequent fire regime; heavy deer population.

Mercer County: Brownlee Pioneer Cemetery Nature Preserve: This place needs fire. The sumac component is quickly expanding.

Mason County: Revis Spring Hill Prairie Nature Preserve: large loss of prairie area; woody encroachment by native and exotic species; fire regime too infrequent; heavy deer population.

Mason County: Barton Sommers Woodland Nature Preserve: mortality in bur oaks; lack of oak regeneration; encroachment of hackberry and other flood plain trees; no fire; very heavy deer population.

Mason County: Tomlin Timber Nature Preserve: general decline; invasive species; no fire.

Rock Island County: Josua Lindahl Hill Prairie saw brush clearing and fire for a few to several years. The work stopped all together before the conservative plants could successfully re-establish and as a result oriental bittersweet has taken hold with a major population on the hill prairie and spreading into the adjacent woodland. Privately owned.

Rock Island County: At Black Hawk Forest Nature Preserve, winds damaged and knocked down large oaks. It is unclear if sufficient recovery efforts are under way to prevent the expansion of the already dense clusters of winged-stem burning bush.

Stephenson County: Freeport Prairie Nature Preserve: Half (of the best part) seems to get burned each year. The dry hillside prairie is in fine shape. There are some invasive shrubs, mostly in disturbed areas, and the buffer is very weedy.”

Whiteside County: Lyndon Prairie Nature Preserve needs help with woody invasives toward the middle. Was very well managed by Tim Keller for many years.

Will County: Pilcher Park Nature Preserve is one of the best quality forests in NE IL, just recently dedicated, owned by Joliet Park District. IL Audubon (and ICECF) helped in its protection. It’s in a heavily populated area. Lots of hand-cutting and pulling to do. The park district has all the equipment needed to support a volunteer group, but help would be great in finding leadership stewards. NAAF has just funded $20k for contractor work, and NP staff plans to start burning where needed, but they can’t do it all. This site needs local stewards and volunteer organizer.

Shooting star and white oak (and too much shade?) in Middle Fork Woods Nature Preserve. 
Photo by Michael Jeffords and Susan Post.
Endnote 2

Would you like to be part of this? We don't want to make it too difficult. No dues, at least at this point. Just tell us we can list you as a member, and you're in. Volunteer at any site, and you're on the team. Help us spread the word to potentially interested people, and you belong. Want to know of progress or possible meetings or volunteer opportunities in your part of the state, send us your email address and county. To contribute, see Endnote 5. Able to help with the website? legal? funding? assess and plan for site management? contribute photos of individual nature preserves? improve the web site? pull weeds? We need it all. By "we" - we mean you and me and many of us. We: Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves

Endnote 3
Advisors and Consultants
Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves
December 2019 

Organization names listed are for identification only 
and do not imply organizational endorsement. 

Jerry Adelmann – president, Openlands
Jill Allread – former chair, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission 
Brian Anderson – former Illinois Nature Preserves staff director
Chris Benda – consultant on botany 
Bernie Buchholz – Middle Rock Conservation Partners
Colleen Callahan – Director, Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Floyd Catchpool – Forest Preserve District of Will County
George Covington – Chair, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission 
Benjamin Cox – president, Friends of the Forest Preserves
Donnie Dann – former Chair, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission
Pen DauBach – Commissioner, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission
Abigail Derby Lewis – Commissioner, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission
Harry Drucker – former Commissioner, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission 
Trevor Edmonson – Friends of Langham Island
Henry Eilers – steward, Scholl Creek Barrens
Ben Haberthur, Director of Natural Resources, Forest Preserve District of Kane County
Ted Hafner – conservationist
Fran Harty – The Nature Conservancy 
Randy Heidorn – former Illinois Nature Preserves staff director
Jim Herkert – director, Illinois Audubon Society
Michael Jeffords – Illinois Natural History Survey
Bill Kleiman – Nachusa Grasslands – The Nature Conservancy 
John McCabe – Cook County Forest Preserves
Bill McClain – former staff biologist and current Commissioner
Stephen Packard – former staff, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission
Wendy Paulson – conservationist
Arthur Melville PearsonGeorge Fell biographer
Susan Post – Illinois Natural History Survey
Lauren Rosenthal – former Chair, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission
John Schwegman – consultant on botany for southern Illinois
Greg Spyreas – Illinois Natural History Survey
John Taft – Illinois Natural History Survey 
Karen Witter – former Illinois Nature Preserves staff director

Endnote 4
Here's the promised info about the people in this photo and what they said:




From left to right: Jim Herkert (director, Illinois Audubon), Fran Harty (conservation director, Illinois Nature Conservancy, Matt Evans (Chicago Botanic Garden and volunteer steward), Steve Packard (volunteer steward) Karen Witter (former director, Illinois Nature Preserves), Virginia Scott (former IEC director), Randy Heidorn (former director, Illinois Nature Preserves), Brian Anderson (former director, Illinois Nature Preserves), Pen DauBach (Nature Preserves commissioner), Bill McClain (Nature Preserves commissioner).

Summary of meeting to discuss a proposed Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves 
October 24, 2019 

Illinois Audubon Office, Springfield 


Steve, Matt, and Fran summarized the potential and the need:

“We have been reaching out to a sampling of INPC staff, DNR staff, Commissioners, and other volunteer and staff participants in the Illinois Nature Preserve System (INPS or ‘the System’). There emerged a strong consensus that a Friends group could provide valuable support to the System in both the short and long term.”

The INPS has been a world model, with many strengths. But it’s in trouble, at many levels. Many of us know that it has had no director for four years; its crucial independence has been diminished; and staff has been cut severely. But there needs to be more awareness that many preserves have deteriorated seriously and even irreversibly. Some prioritized sites are doing better than others, but many sites get little help. Why? Partly because staff is overextended. Also, there is little capacity for supplementary fundraising, recruiting and training volunteers, maintaining needed constituency, and working the system to solve problems and reverse losses.

Many preserves have deteriorated beyond full recovery. In many cases, the deterioration has been going on for ten or twenty years or more. Revis and Fults Hill Prairie monitoring by Bill McClain shows continuing losses for sites that deserve major restoration (Revis: more than 60% gone since the 1930s). The Old Plank Road Prairies, once called by some the “best in State” have lost all their Grade A areas to invasives. Another major preserve, Langham Island, is now a dramatic story of abandonment, then rescue – see https://woodsandprairie.blogspot.com/2019/10/degradation-and-redemption-at-langham.html .

The Illinois Nature Preserves System was designed to thrive as a partnership among INPC and DNR staff, other preserve owner agency staffs, and volunteerism of many types (commissioners, scientists, advocates, outside funders, volunteer stewards, citizen scientists, and more). To restore this collaborative System, there needs to be a reinvigoration of many components including advocacy (to promote funding and staff), outside funding, and volunteer stewards and monitors.

Fran cited the recent “big mess” where some within IDNR tried to further reduce the Commission’s independence by incorporating INPC staff into INDR – without even consulting the Commission. Thanks to advocacy from Commissioners and others, this move was halted. From time to time the System has benefitted from helpful “defensive players” that have stepped in to support the Ccommission, but we need a team on the offense – that would be supporting the Commission and the preserves.

Karen Witter pointed out that IL legislator Tim Butler has been assembling a legislative conservation working group that could help. Karen will find out more about this effort.

Jim Herkert reminded us that the staff-reduction issue goes way back in time. Regions are too large for one person to handle.

Steve warned against arguments about whether the System needs more staff or more volunteers. Many agencies have demonstrated that more volunteers and more constituency promote more staff and more funding. Friends can help organize this. Every part of the state has potential volunteerism. The Chicago area forest preserves added staff largely in proportion to how many volunteer stewards and advocates there were. Nachusa and Langham have vigorous volunteer communities despite being in agricultural areas well distant from cities. Both rural and urban people volunteer.

Fran: In every town in Illinois with 5,000 people there is a millionaire. They may dislike government, but they love where they live. Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves will need to adapt to regional differences, but it can be effective everywhere.

Karen discussed the value of having a good connection between Friends and IDNR, reaching out right away to the new administration. One important job for us is to clearly demonstrate to the current leadership that the independence/collaborative model of the INPS is helpful for them.

Most participants today advocated that the INPC director needs to report to the new Director of IDNR (Colleen Callahan). Some advocated for a report to John Rogner (assistant director, IDNR), for now.

People change, but organizations need to have continuity and consistency. The Commission having a strong relationship with IDNR leadership is a paramount concern.

There are sometimes needed actions that IDNR, as a government agency, cannot take; so it is good to have the Commission at arms-length to be able to do that thing. Yes, sometimes there will be conflicts, but the partnership has to be strong enough to work through it.

Someone needs to push hard on IDNR right now about director position, everyone agrees. Make our opinion known. There are important conversations going on at IDRN right now. It will not work for the Director to be a union position. It’s not at that level.

Brian: Private NP owners want to work with a Director who does not come across as a State bureaucrat. There are all kinds of ways to make this work, but the director needs to be an at-will employee of the commission.

The complexity of INPS will never be able to be represented on a simplified organization chart.

There is something that is different about this organization. If we have a good network, we will have people on the ground all around the state who are dedicated to the Illinois Nature Preserves System. And all those people have state reps. It used to be that the Commission had people who could talk to the Governor. We need that again. One job of the Friends would be to find and empower them.

Karen reminded us that former Governor Thomson supported the INPS impressively because there was a strong constituency that supported it.

Bill McClain said that this is an opportune time. People are interested charismatic issues such as pollinators, and we could work with these charismatic environmental issues.

Bill compared the nature preserves with Nachusa. There are three people on the payroll at Nachusa for 4,000 acres. The rest are seasonal interns and volunteers, and the place is beautiful. Volunteers manage land, donate money, and are bring the conservation message to their friends and neighbors. We could have examples like that all over the state

Virginia Scott: Is there any reason to believe that the Governor knows there is a nature preserve commission? How can we get on his radar?

We discussed a variety of people who seem to have the Governor’s ear: We should give them a clear package to present: “We just need to make the governor aware of A, B, and C. Here is the vision; this is why it would work.” We need the governor to hear it.

Fran: This group meeting today is important because among us we have the history. This group includes important influencers and advocates.

Virginia: Most people in the room at this meeting are veterans. We need to reach out to the missing generations.

Many people described “next generation” leaders “cued up for leadership” in the land trusts and among many volunteer groups. Many leaders are dedicated to sites but know little or nothing about the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission or the Illinois Nature Preserves System.

Fran on next steps: We would like to show we can raise some funds, then move to incorporate so we can have a well-funded organization, right off the bat. Pledges, people who put money into this idea. Then the day we incorporate, we hire someone to do the first steps, that makes it effective, and newsworthy. And, like Jim said, keep IDNR in the loop, tell them the plan of what we are going to do, that we have support, that we are going forward, that we want to have them as a partner, but we are going to be asking for things that we are working for.

Karen: We may need an “Ambassadors” group committed to this Friends vision, to act on questions that need immediate attention.

Bill: There is a sense of urgency with this for me. Many natural communities are on the brink of loss.

Karen: The draft Friends Proposal should convey that better. We’re talking about the survival of the state’s biodiversity. It should be more visionary.

Steve: We drafted it more that way originally, but many people worried that it would be perceived as negative and as criticizing the staff. But Karen’s right. We need to clearly convey the stakes and the urgency.

We may want a fiscal agent. Friends of the Forest Preserves in Chicago has offered to help with that. Jim will explore the possibility that Illinois Audubon could be a fiscal agent statewide.

Karen: It’s not our local fault that threats are growing in the age of climate change. We need to make the point that we need the people and the resources to deal with the future.

Fran: At this point we can count on a a sympathetic administration. We have a four-year window to become strong enough to deal with possible future Blagojeviches and Rauners. Do we here all agree that we need to get to work on this? All agreed.

Pen DauBach summarized administrative steps:

§ Finalize a name

§ Write a more complete mission statement and proposal

§ File for incorporation

§ Make memorandum agreement for umbrella C-3 status pending full independent C-3 status.

§ Bylaws

§ Set and start to meet goals.

Organizationally and politically, many of us can get to work spreading the word, reaching out to decision-makers and other organizations, and drafting more detailed goals and plans.

This edit completed on January 15, 2020

Endnote 5
For more info ...
Or to contact us ...
Please go to the Friends website.

To donate to the Friends now ...
before we have our tax status ...
please donate through Illinois Audubon Society
(who have generously agreed to be our fiscal agent) ...

By mail? Or on-line?

For convenience, you may donate at the Audubon website. At "Check Out" please write "In support of Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves." It will help this work get started. Thank you. 

Or ... to help us avoid the 3% on-line processing fee - AND ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING A LARGE DONATION - please send a check to 
Illinois Audubon Society 
PO Box 2547 
Springfield, Illinois 62708. 
Also note: "In support of Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves."

8 comments:

  1. Now that is after 5:30 (3:30 blog time), I'll say I'm happy to see the comments on the degradation of sites. Too many are unwilling to state the obvious for fear of upsetting someone; we've already lost so much now that some in conservation don't even have the experiences that allow them to understand what it is we're losing. Some organizations/people respond better than others to fair criticism, but nothing will fix problems we don't call out. I understand the hesitance of some all too well though, as someone that's had complaints lodged over their head twice now...the most recent being describing the ecological collapse of a SE WI savanna ecosystem on my personal blog (I took it down to defuse the situation, but doing that has left me with an awful, cowardly feeling). Buckthorn is bad. Dying ancient oaks are bad. Money and volunteer work thrown at invasive species with no follow up is bad (and toxic to community help). I suppose the controversy comes in when organizations receiving criticism worry about how they are seen by sources of funding. I'm encouraged by what I see here. These are things often said in one-on-one conversation, but seldom for the written record. It serves the public. I'm a public sector, at-will employee. We'll see how many lives I have.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. This is a profound and important comment. I recognize the "awful, cowardly feeling" that comes from feeling the need to be quiet when a loud voice is needed. Often I've shared drafts with people from agencies that might take offense, and they've often been very helpful with edits for avoiding raw nerves and counterproductive backlash. One of the best elements in the "Two-year Reports" issued by the Illinois Nature Preserves System in the early years and as late as 1986 is that they frankly summarized the main damage and threats, preserve by preserve. We have to get better at being frank about needs - and better at accepting help when it's offered.

      Delete
    2. Thanks...I am learning, or at least I hope. It's very difficult to disentangle the emotional side of it. At the about the same time I raised issues about a small RR mesic prairie remnant in Kenosha County with director of the caretaker organization organization. There was movement within days. Now, a bunch of local community members have been there, including consulstant volunteers that can deliver brush work and burning. There appears to be a way forward. A coordinating meeting is being scheduled where hopefully we can come up with a viable model to maintain the site. I was astonished to learn that essentially nobody in the SE WI conservation community even knew it existed.

      Good like this is worth the bad, but I need to do better to avoid the bad, so I keep my job and at least try to do some good.

      Delete
  2. From Kirk Garanflo

    What each of the 596 sites needs is:
    An individual competent to id a wide variety of existing native and non-native species
    A herbicide applicator
    A burn boss
    One individual for each half acre (about the size of two suburban lots)
    Restoration work twice a week: April - October
    Biweekly restoration work: November - March
    A very large group of people needs to be recruited. Not many individuals can consistently devote to this much time to restoration work, even if it is only for an hour or two per day. One group that can, however, is that of the retired, and I believe that the Friends organization should pursue finding and engaging as many of the retired as possible.

    ReplyDelete
  3. A World Without Insects . . . ?
    Dr. Michael R. Jeffords, INHS

    New research shows that large-scale declines in insects are a reality and that insects may be more vulnerable than we thought. A study published recently in the journal Biological Conservation, and studies from Europe, made headlines for suggesting that 40 percent of all insect species are in decline and could die out in the coming decades. Hard data, however, have been difficult to obtain. As an entomologist and lifelong advocate and researcher on butterflies and other insects, I think it is imperative that Illinois’ nature preserve system be a repository and showcase for native insect populations. I speak about all insects, not just what we consider rare or endangered. It is my experience that over the years the term “common” when applied to insects and arthropods is becoming an “uncommon” phenomenon. Thus, it seems an appropriate time when the Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves is forming that insects/arthropods play an important role in all management schemes. To implement these, we need an army of volunteers interested in determining what insects are present in our nature preserves, and monitoring these species/populations before and after management takes place. That is the only way we can be assured that we are managing for complete and intact ecosystems in our nature preserves. Over the last couple of years, Sue Post and I (with help from colleagues at the Illinois Natural History Survey) have developed the beginnings of a citizen scientist project to identify and monitor insect species/ populations. As members of the advisory board, we will be happy to help train and implement this portion of the Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves organization.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad to hear something like that is happening. It's ambitious. I've learned butterflies fairly well in the last couple years as a monitor. Even the thought of broadening to the larger moths seems daunting. Butterflies are a limited set, and the color distinctions are easily memorable.

      Would you train monitors as specialists? A bee monitor, a grasshopper girl and a beetle boy, or something? Maybe that should be my ambition for my family! Get each of the girls focused on a subset. :-) Although I've already taken the easy set.

      It would be interesting to recruit and maintain a full complement of insect monitors at a single preserve, or create a fairly comprehesive census of insects for a preserve and continue it from year to year. A detailed time series showing which species' declines and increases tracked with which others, which followed inverse paths, would seem very valuable.

      But maybe that's even more ambitious than trying to get a variety of insect monitors in different places.

      Anyway, I just made my donation at Audubon! I hope others do.

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  4. Tomlinson Cemetery Prairie is currently actively managed by Champaign County Forest Preserve District. Coordination should be done with their Natural Resources Department about their active burn plan at the site and what else could be done to reduce woody encroachment at the site.

    Additionally, St. Clair/Monroe/Randolph counties contain a few sink hole Nature Preserves desperately in need of woody vegetation control. The very active Clifftop Alliance works to help manage some of these, but many are completely devoid of understory diversity from dense honeysuckle and autumn olive invasion. A lot of effort needs to be put into woody removal before burning can even begin take place.

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    1. Katie,
      Thanks.
      The list by county is a Very Early Draft. We're in the early stages of organization, with little follow-up potential at this point.
      In the longer run, the listings will help us connect with interested people and fund-raise for sites that need it.
      Could you give the names of the needy sink hole Nature Preserves, what county they're in, and any more detail you can provide on needs?
      We also want to learn more about and celebrate what Clifftop Alliance and other fine groups accomplish - and encourage more people to pitch in.

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