The Illinois Wildlife Action Plan is not just an inventory of species, but a plan to address the particular needs of wildlife that are declining. About 60 percent of Illinois, approximately 22 million acres, once was prairie. Now about 2,500 acres remain. Most of the land once occupied by prairie is now farmland. Not surprisingly, grassland species have experienced steep declines. The Farmland and Prairie Campaign is working to expand and improve grassland, shrub, and wetland habitats in agricultural landscapes. Partners in this campaign include a broad spectrum of public and private conservation groups. Biologists from the Illinois Audubon Society, Illinois DNR, Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service, Chicago Audubon, Pheasants Forever/ Quail Forever, The Nature Conservancy, and University of Illinois comprise the campaign’s implementation team.
Goals and Actions
Since it is simply not possible to restore all 22 million acres back to prairie, a focused approach concentrating on providing the most wildlife benefits is needed. The Farmland and Prairie implementation team is focused on 2 main goals:
Significantly increase the abundance of grassland wildlife including endangered, economically significant and declining species within highly focused project areas. To reach this broad goal, the campaign team has focused on the following initiatives:
Establish five additional “ecological pattern” grassland Bird Conservation Areas (BCAs; see
Fitzgerald et al. 2000).
Establish an additional 1 million acres of grassland, emphasizing upland. Establish and maintain
treeless grasslands larger than 0.5 miles wide and ecological connectivity among grasslands and
other habitat patches.
- Restore and manage high-quality examples of all prairie communities within all natural divisions within
which they occur.
Priority Places for Work
The Farmland and Prairie Campaign partners have worked with USDA to focus some of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) on grassland wildlife. We have worked in designating focus areas and promoting the State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) and recommending practices that are more favorable to grassland wildlife. Campaign partners have also worked to purchase large tracts and restore them to grassland habitat (Saybrook, Finfrock, Coffeen Upland Unit, Forever Fields, Loy Tract, Nachusa additions). Campaign partners have also worked on monitoring bird and small mammal response to the new grassland habitat created by SAFE. Not surprisingly, monitoring has shown increases in bird and mammal numbers on SAFE fields.
Lead: Michael Wefer
Ag and Grassland Wildlife Program Manager/Field Operations Section Head
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
One Natural Resources Way
Springfield, IL 62702-1271