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Conservation Corner

WRE site visit.

Wed, March 14, 2018

It was a great day for a Wetland Reserve Easement site visit on Tuesday with the landowner and farmer in Southern Tazewell County. 


We have an application for enrollment of 74.8 +_ acres into WRE for a permanent easement.  The site is currently enrolled in CRP but is eligible for enrollment into Wetland Reserve Easement for a lump sum payment per acre.  NRCS will cost share on habitat improvements for wetland wildlife habitat.  100 % restoration cost for the site will be covered by NRCS.


Just started this application in January right before a looming federal shutdown.  The landowner has been great to work with on the required paperwork that we were able to complete all of it within a week to meet the application deadline.


I really enjoy working on wetland restoration projects.  Why not I am an avid hunter!  Unfortunately lately I am spending too much time working and not enough time hunting!


We discussed the landowner’s objectives for the property.  His desire to leave an area out of the easement for his farmer to use that field entrance to access what will remain as cropland to the west. 

NRCS Engineers Austin Ramirez and Civil Engineering Technician Jim Gieker had arrived earlier that morning to complete the GPS survey of the site to come up with a restoration plan.  They discussed their survey and how they would come up with a restoration plan based on that survey.  Discussion also focused on replacing perforated tile through the property with solid tile and whether or not we could install water control structures.

Martha Sheppard NRCS Area Resource Conservationist discussed the ranking for the site with the group. 

Ellen Starr NRCS Biologist discussed the vegetative restoration part of the plan.  I discussed the management requirements of the site.  In addition to sharing my findings of historical tile locations from the previous farmer.  I have been involved with this farm for the last 18 years. 

Marc Zucco NRCS Area Resource Soil Scientist did some soil probing with the group at various locations.  Discussing whether some of the soils were hydric or not hydric.

Those also in attendance include Joe Pyszka Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist, and Brian Hidden Private Lands Wildlife Biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

As we walked through the Indian grass, pheasants exploded from the grass.  They are enjoying the upland habitat planting of Indiangrass, Big Bluestem, Switchgrass and forbs.  The site has brush piles of volunteer trees that were removed from the site.  These will be maintained and used to create snake habitat in addition to habitat for the pheasants. 

I pointed out the plantings of American Plums on the west corner of the property.  These were 10 American Plums from a location in Missouri and ten American Plums from Ogle County IL.  NRCS Plant Materials Center in Elsberry Missouri had been looking for a wet site to do a trial planting of these various plantings.  They are doing well on the property. 


On the way out as we walked through the Shiloh pothole, we noticed all the feathers from snow geese.  In addition to some apparent tile blow outs.  Joe and I will be back next week to see if we can use those and identify old tile locations, diameter, depth and GPS those locations. 

I am really hopeful that this site is selected for funding under the WRE program.  There is a lot of competition for Wetland Reserve Easement dollars in Illinois.  Tazewell County is part of the Illinois Corn Growers Precision Conservation Management Priority Area.  PCM has $1.1 million of funds for WRE in those 12 counties. 

In addition in the past there has been rumors of a $5 million proposal from Partners for WRE funds in a target area including Tazewell County.  This would target habitat for the Blanding’s turtle.  So I have been doing some work identifying potential wetland restoration sites in Tazewell that may qualify for these programs. 

Martha, Ellen, Joe and I have meet several times and discussed some of these potential 7 sites I have identified.  We have made some field visits to look at them and discuss them.  Quite a few of them are Houghton and Palms muck.  Of which Marc Zucco stated there is no better soil for wetland restoration than Houghton muck.  I won’t argue with that Soil Scientist on that. 

I am hopeful that we will be able to get several of these sites enrolled into WRE in the near future and I am looking forward to possible restoration of these sites.

If you have a potential site for Wetland Reserve Easement application, contact your local NRCS Field office.





25 Years of Protecting Wetlands, Critical Agricultural Lands

Mon, February 05, 2018

An excellent article by Ciji Taylor Natural Resources Conservation Service in Conservation.


Forest Management for Wildlife

Mon, February 05, 2018

Just as croplands can produce crops yet yield habitat for wildlife, forestlands can be managed to produce wood products and at the same time benefit wildlife.

Managing a forest with wildlife in mind is like shooting at a moving target. As the trees and other plants in a forest grow and change, the structure, size and species of trees and other plants changes. That shift in habitat also means there will be a shift in wildlife species that live in the forest at the time. For example, the seeds and fruits of shrubs, grasses and forbs in the early successional stage, after a harvest or other major disturbance, are just what songbirds and small mammals want. On the other hand, woodpeckers, wood ducks, bats and other cavity-nesters want the dead snags and den trees of a mature forest.

For the greatest diversity in wildlife, you want diversity in the size, age and structure of the forest. That can be achieved with selective harvesting of single trees, to always leave a canopy, or by clear-cutting small areas of a forest (15 acres or less) at different times, resulting in several successional stages of even-aged stands of trees within the forest. The flush of plant growth in clear-cut areas last for several years.

Techniques to improve fish and wildlife habitat include:

1) Regenerate new growth in open spaces. This may be done by prescribed burning, timber stand improvement and using herbicides, or planting seedlings.

2) Thin stands; remove weak trees and remove invasive species of trees and shrubs.   

3) Plan carefully to carry out a prescribed burn; studies show most wildlife escape, and the new plant growth afterwards attracts wild turkeys, northern bobwhite quail, and more.

4) Maintain forested riparian zones along streams, to allow stream shading and for wood to fall into streams. The leaves, limbs, fruit and insects that fall from streamside forests into the stream build the food supply for fish.

5) Leave snags and den trees.

6) Follow a forest management plan.

A variety of federal, state, and private organizations give both technical and financial help in managing forests for profit and wildlife.  NRCS has financial assistance programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program CSP, and Environmental Quality Incentives Program EQIP that can assist with some of these practices.  Having a forest management plan developed by a private consulting forester can help you better qualify for financial assistance and be eligible for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Development Act FDA program. 

NRCS offers incentives for development of forest management plans for woodlands larger than 10 acres in size.  Those plans can be utilized to apply for cost share funding to implement forestry implementation practices written into a forest plan.  Some of the EQIP conservation practices for Forest Management Implementation include:  Brush Management (bush honeysuckle, autumn olive) Forest Stand Improvement, Prescribed burning, Riparian Forest Buffer, Tree/shrub establishment, tree/shrub site preparation.


If your forest Management plan is written to DNR Forest Development Act Requirements, you can apply for the tax reduction on forest acres to one sixth of the ag value of the land. 


To apply for a forest Management Plan contact your local USDA NRCS office.




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