June 29, 2015
MACOMB, Ill.—Community members, nature-lovers and conservation partners celebrated the creation of the Prairie Hills Wetland Reserve at a dedication ceremony on Sunday, June 28, in Banner, Illinois. Attendees toured the unique 535-acre Illinois River flood plain property that was purchased by the Prairie Land Conservancy, a division of Prairie Hills Resource Conservation and Development, Inc., in December 2014.


The Prairie Hills Wetland Reserve was named for the diverse habitats found on the property—bottomland wetlands, hills on the bluffs and soon to be wetland prairie. The upland and bottomland forests provide important habitat for migratory birds and potential habitat for the federally endangered Indiana bat. Also the Boltonia decurrens or False Decurrent Aster, another federally endangered species, makes its home along the Illinois River floodplains and occurs in several fields on the property. The Prairie Land Conservancy will restore 220 acres of farm land to shallow wetlands, wet prairies and bottom land hardwood trees over several years.

“We are honored to be able to protect these valuable lands for wildlife habitat preservation and conservation,” said David King, Executive Director Prairie Hills Resource Conservation and Development. “This property is the lynchpin between two state owned resource rich properties. We are grateful that this opportunistic land acquisition came about, and we are also thankful for the trust that The Conservation Fund and the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation have in us to fulfill our mission to protect Illinois’ natural resources.”

Located between the Banner Marsh State Fish and Wildlife Area and the Rice Lake Fish and Wildlife Area—two highly significant migratory bird areas along the Illinois River flyway—this exclusive property will connect more than 10,000 acres of public land.

“The Prairie Hills Wetland Reserve established today will restore and protect hundreds of acres of some of Illinois’ most remarkable lands. This is an excellent opportunity to introduce more people to the region’s natural resources while creating economic opportunity,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said. “Our diverse natural habitats are a gift to all Illinoisans, and I look forward to continuing to work with Prairie Land Conservancy and The Conservation Fund to ensure they remain protected.”

"The creation of the Prairie Hills Wetland Reserve demonstrates our region's commitment to the preservation of the rich natural resources along the Illinois River," said U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL 17). "The restoration of the Reserve's wetlands will improve habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife essential to Illinois' outdoor recreation economy, which generates $22 billion annually in consumer spending, according to the Outdoor Industry Association."

This conservation effort culminated nearly 12 months of grant applications and negotiations to acquire the site formally owned by the Central Utility Coal Company. Funding was provided through The Conservation Fund and the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.

The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation funds were awarded under one of the foundation’s active grant programs.  The Foundation was founded in December of 1999 with a one-time contribution from Commonwealth Edison and makes grants under three programs—energy efficiency, renewable energy and natural areas.  It has awarded grants in all 102 counties of Illinois and, under the Natural Areas program specifically, has helped to protect over 23,000 acres of wildlife habitat throughout the state.

“The Foundation is pleased to have helped purchase this site, which is exceptional for its size, restoration potential and location,” said Jolie Krasinski, Natural Areas Program Officer for the Foundation.  “Besides connecting two significantly sized state-owned sites, the property joins a host of others that have been protected with the help of conservation partners along the Illinois River.”

This land is being conserved, in part, by $1.14 million made available by Enbridge as mitigation for impacts to federally endangered species and migratory birds caused by the construction and operation of the Flanagan South Pipeline. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked with Enbridge to avoid and minimize impacts to these federal trust resources, and Enbridge also provided $22 million in compensation for all lost habitat. The Conservation Fund is working in partnership with the Service to manage the pipeline mitigation funds as part of its Midwest Habitat Fund. With government agencies, community leaders and conservation land trust partners, The Conservation Fund has protected more than 7.5 million acres for wildlife, recreation, or historical significance.

“We cannot choose between our environment and our economy. As a result, we need to strike a balance by working in a collaborative way to ensure that mitigation for unavoidable impacts is meaningful and achieves the highest quality conservation of significant natural lands,” said Clint Miller, Midwest Project Director for The Conservation Fund. “The Prairie Land Conservancy’s goal to preserve land along the Illinois River aligns with this strategy, and the creation of the Prairie Hills Wetland Reserve has resulted in a big win for wildlife conservation and critical habitat protection in the region.”

“Natural resources and green spaces are dear to every community, and we recognize the impacts our construction projects can have. At Enbridge, we take our responsibility to the environment seriously, and this partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Conservation Fund and our local conservation organizations is a great opportunity to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Jerrid Anderson, Enbridge Project Director Flanagan South.

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's goal is to work with energy companies to compensate the American public for negative impacts to fish and wildlife resources from construction and operation of oil and gas pipelines,” said Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius. “The partnership among Enbridge, the Service and The Conservation Fund will benefit us through enhanced resource conservation while allowing efficient energy delivery.”

In attendance at the celebration were representatives from the Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy and the Heart of Illinois Sierra Club.

The Prairie Land Conservancy was established in 2008 covering ten counties in west-central Illinois.  The conservancy holds four conservation easements and owns three fee simple properties totaling nearly 1300 protected acres.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states to protect more than 8 million acres of land since 1985.

Release Contacts
David King | Prairie Hills Resource Conservation and Development, Inc. | 309-833-4747
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org