Critical Migratory Bird Habitat Preserved In Jersey County

January 11, 2010

Jersey County, IL—Today, warblers, wood thrushes and whip-poor-wills migrating through Illinois gained more room to stretch their wings, thanks to the efforts of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the National Wild Turkey Federation and a partnership between the natural gas pipeline project Rockies Express Pipeline (REX), The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

DNR purchased 213 acres of oak and hickory woodlands adjacent to its Copperhead Hollow State Wildlife Area in western Jersey County, just three miles north of Pere Marquette State Park. The property had been a high priority for preservation and its purchase complements broader efforts to protect and restore forests along the bluffs of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers – a significant migration corridor for a variety of sensitive species.

“The acquisition of this parcel near Pere Marquette State Park and the Copperhead Hollow State Wildlife Area shows the value of conservation partners working together,” said DNR Director Marc Miller. “Utilizing funds invested by sportsmen and women through the Illinois Habitat Stamp Fund, along with the commitments of the National Wild Turkey Federation, The Conservation Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and REX, we’re providing some outstanding oak/hickory habitat for expanded public access and outdoor recreation opportunities.”

DNR and NWTF’s Illinois State Super Fund provided half the funding for the acquisition. The remaining funds came from REX, through its mitigation fund.

The REX project is a nearly 1,700-mile natural gas pipeline that stretches from Colorado to Ohio. Construction on the Eastern portion of the project was recently completed in late 2009. Despite careful planning to minimize impacts, these construction projects cannot avoid all adverse impacts on vulnerable migratory bird habitat. To compensate for the loss of forestland and accelerate approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, REX voluntarily agreed to establish mitigation funds to be used to compensate for any impacts. The Conservation Fund manages these accounts and, with the oversight of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, provides grants to conservation projects that preserve habitat for vulnerable bird species.

“Our relationship with the environment and the lands we have crossed has been an important part of this project,” said Allen Fore, REX Director of Community Relations. “Now that the REX project is complete in Illinois, we are pleased that these grants will be used to further contribute to environmental conservation efforts in the state.”

“This is the first use of these mitigation funds in Illinois and an excellent model for how we can advance conservation and meet the growing energy needs of our country,” said Peg Kohring, Midwest director of The Conservation Fund. “Private mitigation funds also help leverage public dollars, alleviating pressure on states facing tight budgets in these tough economic times.”

“Using these grants to help protect habitat shows it’s possible to develop energy infrastructure in an environmentally sound manner,” said Tom Melius, Midwest regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The choice isn’t, and rarely should be, between wildlife or development, but rather how we accommodate both needs in a holistic manner. We hope others will follow the example set here.”

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.