Kinnikinnick Creek Conservation Area
In the heart of Kinnikinnick Creek Conservation Area exists a Nature Preserve that has received recognition and protection by the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission (INPC). Within this preserve are:
• A high quality, spring fed stream
• Limestone bluffs containing rare flora and fauna
• Oak-hardwood forests indicative of what historically existed in northern Boone County.
While management of these remnant habitats is of utmost importance, the BCCD also wishes to surround the perimeter of the nature preserve with high quality wildlife habitat. Therefore, restoration work has begun on the ‘buffer’ zone south of the preserve.
Funds have been obtained by the INPC to return this area to a state of natural integrity.
During the summer of 2009, invasive brush removal had been completed. Follow-up herbicide applications will continue to ensure that these invasives will no longer dominate the site. Ongoing management will allow the existing red oaks, burr oaks and hickories to reproduce.
The next step of restoring the site will be the reintroduction of fire. Prescribed burning will stimulate the growth of the existing native species. These plants will provide an example of what vegetation will grow best here upon reintroduction.
After a prescribed burn of the area in the spring of 2010, the BCCD will introduce native wildflower and grass seeds. This will be done with seed provided by the INPC and seed collected on BCCD land. Thereafter, the site will be intensely monitored for weeds and managed according to processes mentioned earlier.
Management within the nature preserve and buffer will be ongoing. Therefore, volunteers would be appreciated in the maintenance of this increasingly pristine area. Those interested in volunteering can call the BCCD office at (815) 547-7935. Volunteer stewards would find privilege in working among the ancient white oaks and rare wildflowers, some of which can only be found here.
Piscasaw Fen Conservation Area
Two recently purchased forty-acre parcels in rural Capron are now an eighty-acre haven for our local wildlife. The Piscasaw Fen Conservation Area has astounding habitat diversity, which hosts an abundance of native flora and draws a diverse array of fauna. In this site, a bubbling spring and the nearby Piscasaw Creek combine to create a rare habitat type: the fen. Fens have a unique organic soil composition that is host to rare plant species that are present only in this type of habitat. Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia glauca) and Fen Thistle (Cirsium muticum) are two exceptional examples.
Surrounding the fen is sedge meadow that transitions upland into white oak woodland. Ground-nesting birds, such as Bobolinks and Grasshopper Sparrows, utilize the sedges and grasses in the meadow, while Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Scarlet Tanagers can be spotted in the canopy of the oak trees.
The presence of high quality and rare flora and fauna in the Piscasaw Fen Conservation Area warrants attention in the area of habitat improvement. Though the habitat types here have remained fairly intact, they are overgrown with invasive plant species that will stifle biodiversity and fragment the entire area if left unchecked. Therefore, the BCCD has sought out and acquired grant funding to return these ecosystems to a more fluid, natural state.
The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has responded to our call to restore the habitat complex at this Site. Through their Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), the BCCD has received funding to engage in invasive brush removal and purchase native seed. Invasive woody vegetation will be removed from the oak woodland, sedge meadow and fen. The bulk of the brush removal will occur in the winter of 2012 when the ground is frozen. This will allow tracked machines to perform the work with minimal ground disturbance.
District staff continues herbicide application on invasive plant resprouts. In untreated areas, the BCCD will implement the use of its goat herd to browse on woody resprouts until staff can follow through with herbicide application. This unique management method is outlined in its own portion of the website.
Prescribed burning and seed introduction will follow thereafter, as will Reed Canary Grass (RCG) management. Reed Canary Grass is an exotic, highly invasive grass that colonizes wet areas. RCG was first introduced as an erosion control method along waterways, but its seeds quickly spread through these channels. Now RCG is prevalent in nearly every wet natural area in the county, the Piscasaw Fen Conservation Area being no exception. However, it exists here in moderation, and District staff is optimistic in achieving its eradication.
The Piscasaw Fen Conservation Area promises to be a crown jewel of the BCCD in terms of its potential in habitat restoration.
Volunteers would be of great help in:
• Cutting of invasive brush
• Hand-pulling of weeds
• Bird monitoring and identification
• Wildflower inventories
• Caretaking of goats
• Site stewardship
• Turtle monitoring and much more!
Distillery Road Conservation Area
Distillery Road ends and an expanse of wildlife habitat begins. Prairie, oak savanna, wetland, and woodland restorations are present in various stages of implementation. A multitude of plant and animal species are benefiting from this work.
In the prairie and savanna, birds such as dicksissels, bluebirds, red-tailed hawks, and state threatened Henslow’s sparrows flourish in open habitat. Also, look from late May through June for clusters of bluish-violet spiked flowers called Wild Lupine. In addition to a multitude of other blooms, Wild Lupine is a butterfly favorite. Also, one can spot sandhill cranes, green and great blue herons, snapping turtles and muskrats in the wetlands. In the woodlands, one can catch a glimpse of great horned owls, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, tiger salamanders, and green tree frogs, to name a few. Also, the Kishwaukee River flows through the conservation area, thriving with life within the water and at its edge. The BCCD strives to add high quality habitat to these existing conditions.
Ten acres of land at the entrance of Distillery Road Conservation Area has recently been planted with native seeds. This prairie restoration now adjoin others of its kind, culminating into over one hundred acres of continuous wildlife habitat. Grant funds have been obtained from the Habitat Restoration Program (HRP) to remove invasive woody vegetation and introduce native plant seed. HRP grants are open to conservation districts whose lands lie within the Fox and Kishwaukee Rivers’ floodplains. The project at Distillery certainly fits this criterion, as it lies just off the banks of the Kish.
In addition, a grant secured from the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Stream Stabilization and Restoration Practice (SSRP) has been implemented to stabilize the streambank of the Kishwaukee River through the site.
The stream stabilization project of the Kishwaukee River along the banks of Distillery involved the strategic placement of barbs to cushion the force of the water’s flow upon the streambank. This will slow the force of erosion which is compromising the integrity of restored sites and roadways. The barbs will also manipulate the water’s flow, creating eddies and other conditions that will provide fish habitat. In addition to the placement of barbs, native trees will be planted on the streambank to further naturalize the management effort.
Habitat restorations abound at Distillery Road Conservation area, as does the wildlife that depends on them. Those interested in volunteering have a unique opportunity to be apart of it all. Volunteers are needed to:
• Conduct bird surveys
• Perform plant inventories
• Help restoration staff collect and plant native seeds
• Steward the site on a long-term basis
• Hand-plant native wildflowers, and more!
LIB Conservation Area
From the banks of Distillery Road Conservation Area, one can see across the Kishwaukee River into a future habitat restoration project within LIB Conservation Area. Located on the Kishwaukee Bottoms, LIB is rich in floodplain woodlands. These woodlands contain ancient swamp white oak and sycamore trees that are centuries old. The branches of these mighty trees sprawl outward, indicating that they grew up in a more open habitat type. But among them is invasive woody vegetation that is stifling the ability of these trees to perpetuate their legacy. Once again, BCCD staff has attained grant funding to perform brush clearing that will allow these giants to reproduce.
Funds have been acquired from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Wildlife Program to perform the brush clearing in the winter of 2011-2012, when the ground has frozen. These conditions will minimize the ecological footprint made by the machines performing the work. Following the brush removal, herbicide applications will begin. Stumps and woody resprouts will be sprayed to ensure that the project area receives the ample sunlight needed for the restoration to succeed. BCCD staff will then broadcast a native seed mix suitable for the variations of soil moisture and sun exposure in the area. The BCCD looks forward to reestablishing wondrous biodiversity in this site!
Volunteer help would be greatly appreciated in the management of this project area. Volunteers would be valued in:
• Hand-pulling of weeds
• Planting of native seeds
• Wildlife surveys
• Wildflower inventories
• Overall site stewardship