John Wesley Powell Audubon is a Chapter of National Audubon

John Wesley Powell Audubon, P.O. Box 142, Normal, Il 61761

Conservation

by Angelo Capparella, JWP Conservation Chair

OPPOSE BOBCAT HUNTING- ACTION ALERT

Oppose Proposed Bobcat Hunting

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has recently proposed changes to two sections of the Illinois Administrative Code that will allow for hunting and trapping of bobcats in southern and western Illinois. This rule is on first notice and you will have 45 days to comment.  Please add your name to the petition by March 11, 2016.  In addition, you are highly encouraged to submit your own comment by mail to:

Daniel Nelson

Legal Counsel Department of Natural Resources

One Natural Resources Way Springfield, IL 62702-1271

 

Petition Link:

http://action.ilenviro.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18247

 http://action.ilenviro.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18247

 

Bobcats were listed as a threatened species in Illinois from 1977 to 1999 and the current estimated population of bobcats is between 3,000 to 7,000 statewide. There is little scientific evidence to support the conclusion that this important predator has recovered significantly enough to allow harvest.

 

The IDNR’s proposed rules will allow a person to trap or hunt bobcats during the proposed hunting season. The season limits one bobcat per person, but the proposed rules allow the IDNR to use its discretion in determining the number of permits that will be issued. The IDNR does not have a management or sustainability plan for bobcats and is currently working off of a geographically limited and outdated study regarding bobcat populations, habitat, and overall viability of harvest. There is tremendous concern that this proposal does not take into account ecological science for best practices for bobcat protection throughout the state. The IDNR has done little to determine the current status of bobcats in the state and less to determine the true sustainability of allowing this important and recently threatened species to be hunted statewide. Though species can be delisted from the threatened and endangered species list upon reaching a certain level of recovery, instituting regulations allowing harvest before the species has reconstituted its available habitat range is premature and likely to reverse any progress bobcats have made.Click to add text, images, and other content

Conservation News

Bobcat Hunting Bill Passes

By Angelo Capparella, JWP Conservation Chair

Despite widespread opposition from Audubon and others, the bill to reinstate the hunting/trapping of Bobcats in Illinois passed the Illinois Legislature and was signed by the Governor. Many scientifically false claims were made about the perceived “need” to reinstate hunting/trapping of this species (e.g., they are eating all the game birds, they are dangerous to humans), which plays an important role in controlling rodent populations. The Bobcat was only recently delisted as endangered in Illinois because of recovery in the southernmost part of the state. The level of killing that will be allowed means it is unlikely that Bobcats, a formerly important part of our natural wildlife heritage, will be able to repopulate areas in central Illinois,. Despite Audubon urging them to oppose this legislation, area State Senators Barickman and Bill Brady and State Rep. Dan Brady voted in favor of hunting/trapping.

Christmas Bird Count 2014

 

TIED RECORD WITH

CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT!

The Bloomington-Normal Christmas Bird Count, under the auspices of the National Audubon Society, was held on December 14, 2014. We had 22 participants covering the 15-mile-in-diameter count circle that includes Lakes Bloomington and Evergreen, Normal, most of Bloomington, and some rural areas. The total number of species found was 76, which tied our previous record back in 2007. During count week (± 3 days around count day) we had 6 species not seen on count day, so breaking 80 is a goal in the future.

Notable species included Trumpeter Swan, Merlin, Vesper Sparrow, and Common Redpoll. Email me if you want the complete list (apcappar@ilstu.edu).

Dale Birkenholz, who has been count organizer and compiler since 1972, passed that torch on to me this year. We thank him for his unflagging service in this important citizen-science role for all those years, and are glad that he will continue to be an active participant.

This year’s count day will be Saturday, December 19, 2015.

Angelo Capparella, JWP Conservation Chair

ACTION NEEDED TO PROTECT WETLANDS IN ILLINOIS

ACTION NEEDED TO PROTECT WETLANDS IN ILLINOIS

 

1. Action to take:

Between September 8-19, 2014 contact your Congressional legislators (U.S. House, U.S. Senator) by phone. Also, fill out the petition at: http://action.prairierivers.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=11669

[To find out who your legislators are and their contact information, check the following:

U.S. House of Representatives: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

U.S. Senate: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm]

 

2. Message to send:

Please support the U.S. EPA/Army Corps of Engineers rule that will clarify and improve protections for small streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. [Note: it is called the Waters of the U.S. rule or WOTUS]

3. Brief Background:

Small tributaries and isolated wetlands are critical habitats for many organisms, but recent Court decisions have ruled confusingly on whether they are deserving of any type of protection or mitigation under the Clean Water Act. This has led to rampant destruction of these waters, and that has worsened flooding and drought episodes in many watersheds, reduced recharge of key aquifers, and led to loss of wildlife habitat. Illinois is one of the 10 states that has lost over 70% of its original wetlands and remaining wetlands cover only 2.6% of the state, yet we continue to lose more. After grassland birds (which has lost 99.99% of their habitat), wetland birds constitute the next biggest set of endangered species in Illinois. Various anti-environmental myths are being spread about this rule; you can read the facts at: http://www2.epa.gov/uswaters/ditch-myth

 

4. Detailed Background:

July 18, 2011

 

United States Environmental Protection Agency

United States Army Corps of Engineers

Via email to: ow-docket@epa.gov

 

Re: EPA-HW-OW-2011-0409

  Comments on Draft Guidance on Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act

 

These comments are submitted by a coalition of Illinois groups concerned with protecting clean water.  Together we applaud the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers for taking a strong stand in support of our nation’s waters by recognizing the essential role that tributaries and wetlands play in maintaining the nation’s network of rivers, lakes, streams and coastal waters. The Draft Guidance on Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act (Draft Guidance) is much needed and heartily welcomed. We urge the agencies to finalize the Draft Guidance and to undertake a formal rulemaking to further clarify Clean Water Act protections.

 

Small tributaries and adjacent wetlands exert critical influences on downstream waters. These headwater systems provide a myriad of functions including mitigation of flooding, recycling of nutrients and other pollutants, maintenance and regulation of flow, and the creation of habitat. [1] Even seemingly isolated waters such as prairie potholes have been shown to have an important connection with downstream waters.[2] Alterations that degrade headwater systems impair these natural functions such that downstream waters can experience less consistent flow, nuisance algal growth, more frequent flooding, poorer water quality and less diverse flora and fauna. [3]  As we have seen in this year’s devastating floods in the Mississippi River Basin and in what is expected to be the largest-ever Gulf of Mexico dead zone, we can’t afford more unchecked and unmitigated degradation.

 

I.                    

Small Tributaries and Adjacent Wetlands of Illinois and the Mississippi River Basin Play Key Role in Capturing Nutrient Pollution

 

Protection of tributaries and adjacent wetlands is of particular importance in the Mississippi River Basin (the Basin), where headwater streams and wetlands serve a vital role in removing excess nutrients. As you know, the effects of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the Mississippi River Basin and in the Gulf of Mexico are dire. Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from Illinois has:

 

·         Contributed to the creation of a huge “dead zone” every year in the Gulf of Mexico and other waters, killing aquatic life and endangering the livelihoods of fishermen and others who depend on healthy coastal waters; and

  • Harmed fish and wildlife in numerous rivers, lakes and streams.

 

Headwater streams and wetlands can help counter these effects. Headwater streams retain nutrients before the pollutants reach larger rivers where nutrient removal is not occurring.[4] The long shallow beds of headwaters and other tributaries are more effective at capturing dissolved nitrogen before it reaches deeper open waters. [5]

Wetlands in the Mississippi River Basin have been recognized as nutrient sinks[6]  retaining significant percentages of nitrates, ammonia, phosphorus and sediment. [7]   In fact, wetlands associated with the smallest streams have been shown to be most effective at removing nutrients. [8] Prairie potholes, slope wetlands, and flats also retain nutrients. [9]  According to Ducks Unlimited, the Prairie Pothole Region is critical to Illinois waterfowl hunters. The vast majority of Illinois ducks migrates to the state from the Prairie Pothole Region. 

Clearly, we cannot exacerbate the extent of nutrient pollution by failing to protect these important natural sinks and filters. Guidance and new regulations are needed to ensure adequate protection.  We commend EPA and the Corps for having the vision and courage to propose a guidance document that vastly improves the scope of Clean Water Act protections for America’s waters.

 

II.

Extent & Importance of Tributaries and Wetlands of Illinois

Is Considerable

 

According to data provided by EPA, the extent of start reaches and intermittent and ephemeral streams in Illinois is significant Fifty-six percent (56%) of all streams in Illinois are start reaches, while 55% of streams are considered intermittent or ephemeral.[10]  As such, many miles of streams are in danger of losing Clean Water Act protections.  More than 1.6 million people in Illinois depend to some degree on nonnavigable streams for their drinking water. [11]

 

So-called isolated wetlands are also prevalent in Illinois. According to the Illinois Natural History Survey, more than 150,000 acres of wetlands in the state could be considered  “isolated.”   [12]

 

The state of Illinois has recognized the importance of headwater tributaries and wetlands, and has expressed concern over the potential loss of Clean Water Act protections.  In 2006, the state joined 33 other states in an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to uphold broad legal protections for small tributaries and their adjacent wetlands. The Draft Guidance is a necessary first step in recognizing the vital role these resources play in restoring and maintaining the integrity of our nation’s waters.

 

The Guidance should be strengthened by further clarifying the important connection between inland ponds and downstream waters. A recent study by researchers at Texas A & M University confirmed the connection between prairie potholes and navigable waters.[13] According to the report to be published in the journal Wetlands, at least 17% of the water that fell on the inland ponds reached Galveston Bay, making these “isolated” wetlands a critical component of the watershed. ble6con

 

III.

Jurisdictional Uncertainty under Current Guidance and Supreme Court Decisions Threatens Waters and Wastes Scare Resources

 

Substantial time and resource burdens have been imposed upon EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the United States Department of Justice, and others by the uncertainty created by Supreme Court decisions and subsequent agency guidance.  The uncertainty has also placed waters in danger of un-permitted fills and discharges. 

 

For example, in a special report by the US EPA Office of Inspector General, EPA Region 5 staff reported increased threats to aquatic resources and significant resource burdens. According to EPA Region 5, more work and resources are now required at all stages of processing of enforcement cases.[14]  According to staff, both regional counsel and the Department of Justice are requiring significant nexus determinations regardless of need, compelling intensive and unnecessary data collection.[15] These demands lengthen case preparation time and threaten timely prosecutions.[16] EPA Region 5 also noted disagreements with the Army Corps over jurisdictional determinations and that many waters considered aquatic resources of national interest by EPA were viewed as non-jurisdictional by the Corps.[17]

There is widespread fallout from Rapanos and its aftermath. Efforts to be extra careful in establishing jurisdiction are hampering CWA permitting and enforcement of those permits, and are unnecessarily draining limited government resources.  Narrow views of significant nexus have also wrongly excluded important waters from CWA coverage. For these reasons and those set forth above, we support the draft guidance and new regulations that re-clarify the historical scope of the CWA. 

 

IV.

EPA Should Amend Waters of U.S. Definition to Remove Waste Treatment System Exemption

As noted by the agencies in the Draft Guidance, the proposed guidance is not a rule, and hence is not binding and lacks the force of law. As such, revisions to existing regulations will be necessary. We urge the EPA to take this opportunity to not only formalize the principles set forth in the Draft Guidance, but to also amend 40 CFR 122.2 by removing the current exemption for “waste treatment systems.” In the alternative, the agency could limit the current exemption (as it once was) to manmade bodies of water not originally created in Waters of the U.S. and not resulting from the impoundment of Waters of the U.S.

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on this important issue.   We look forward to finalization of the guidance and to the formalization of these principles in new regulations.

 

Sincerely,

Glynnis Collins

Executive Director

Prairie Rivers Network

 

Tim Reid

Chicago Chapter # 1 Izaak Walton League of America

 

Erik Sprenne

Advocacy Chairman

Chicago Whitewater Association

 

Kathy Edmiston

Citizens Against Longwall Mining

 

Max Muller

Program Director

Environment Illinois

 

Nancy Schietzelt

President

Environmental Defenders of McHenry County

 

Jessica Dexter

Staff Attorney

Environmental Law & Policy Center

 

Reverend Clare Butterfield

Director

Faith in Place

 

 

Jan Holder

President

Friends of Kickapoo Creek

 

Angelo Capparella

Conservation Chair

John Wesley Powell Audubon

 

Margaret Frisbie

Executive Director

Friends of the Chicago River

 

Geoff Petzel

Executive Director

Friends of the Fox River

 

Tom Clay

Executive Director

Illinois Audubon Society

 

Danielle Diamond

Attorney

Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water

 

Edward L. Michael

Chairman

Illinois Council of Trout Unlimited

 

Jennifer Walling

Executive Director

Illinois Environmental Council

 

Thomas Lindblade

President

Illinois Paddling Council

 

Mike Clifford

Conservation Director

Illinois Smallmouth Alliance

 

Lenore Beyer-Clow

Policy Director

Openlands

 

Cindy Skrukrud

Clean Water Advocate

Illinois Chapter of Sierra Club

 

Grant Brown

President

The Elliott Donnelley Chapter of Trout Unlimited

 

Curtis Watts

President

The Lee Wulff Chapter of Trout Unlimited

 

Gregory Prosen

President

The Oak Rook Chapter of Trout Unlimited 

 

Scott Hays

Secretary

Upper Sangamon River Conservancy

 

 

Chicago Chapter # 1  Izaak Walton League of America  ▪ Chicago Whitewater Association ▪ Citizens Against Longwall Mining▪ The Elliott Donnelley Chapter of Trout Unlimited ▪ Environment Illinois ▪ Environmental Defenders of McHenry County ▪ Environmental Law & Policy Center ▪ Faith in Place Friends of Kickapoo Creek ▪ Friends of the Chicago River ▪ Friends of the Fox River ▪ Illinois Audubon Society  ▪ Illinois Chapter of Sierra Club ▪ Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water ▪ Illinois Council of Trout Unlimited ▪ Illinois Environmental Council ▪ Illinois Paddling Council ▪ Illinois Smallmouth Alliance ▪  The Lee Wulff Chapter of Trout Unlimited ▪ The Oak rook Chapter of Trout Unlimited ▪ Openlands ▪ Prairie Rivers Network ▪ Upper Sangamon River Conservancy



[1] Meyer, Judy L. et al., Where Rivers Are Born: The Scientific Imperative for Defending Small Streams and Wetlands, at 3 (Feb. 2007), available at http://www. americanrivers.org/site/DocServer/WhereRiversAreBorn1. pdf?docID=182.

[2] Texas A & M Agrilife Communications (2011, March 7). “Relationship of Texas coastal prairie-pothole wetlands to Galveston Bay.”

[3] Meyer, Where Rivers are Born at 5.

[4] Alexander, Richard B. et al., Differences in Phosphorus and Nitrogen Delivery to the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River Basin, 42 Environ. Sci. Technol. No. 3, pp. 822–830 (2008).

[5] Triska, Frank J.  et al., DIN Retention-Transport Through Four Hydrologically Connected Zones in a Headwater Catchment of the Upper Mississippi River, 43 Journal of the American Water Resources Association, pp. 60-71 (Feb. 2007).

[6] National Research Council, Mississippi River Water Quality and the Clean Water Act: Progress, Challenges, and Opportunities, at 31 (2008).

[7] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, May is American Wetlands Month, available at http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/awm/#why; see also National Wildlife Federation

And Natural Resources Defense Council, Wetlands at Risk—Imperiled Treasures, at 3 (July 2002).

[8] Meyer, Where Rivers Are Born at 8.

[9] Whigham, Dennis F. and Jordan, Thomas E., Isolated Wetlands & Water Quality, 23 Wetlands 541 (Sept. 2003).

[10] U.S. EPA, Table 1: State-by-State NHD Analyses of Stream Categories and Drinking Water Data on file with Natural Resource Defense Council.

[11] http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/upload/2009_12_28_wetlands_science_surface_drinking_water_surface_drinking_water_results_state.pdf

[12] Levin, G.A., L. Suloway, A.E. Plocher, F.R. Hutto, J.J. Miner, C.A. Phillips, J. Agarwal, and Y. Lin. 2002. Status and function of isolated wetlands in Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey Special Publication 23.

 

[13] Texas A & M Agrilife Communications (2011, March 7). “Relationship of Texas coastal prairie-pothole wetlands to Galveston Bay.”

[14] United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General (April 2009). Congressionally Requested Report on Comments Related to Effects of Jurisdictional Uncertainty on Clean Water Act Implementation. Report no. 09-N-0149, p. 5.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

Mahomet Aquifer - May 2014

The Mahomet Aquifer is critical to our current (Town of Normal) and future (City of Bloomington) water supply. It is also very important to many of the streams and rivers in our region, and the organisms that rely on those. There are numerous threats to the water quality of the aquifer (e.g., PCBs proposed for the Clinton Landfill), so a move is underway to have it designated by US EPA as a Sole Source Aquifer (SSA) that will confer the rigorous protection that it currently lacks.

YOUR ROLE:  Please write before June 12 to the US EPA saying you support the designation of the Mahomet Aquifer as a SSA (address plus suggested text is below). If you want to know more, we have a fact sheet below for your reference. You can also contact Conservation Chairperson Angelo Capparella, apcappar@ilstu.edu.

Mr. Bill Spaulding
USEPA Sole Source Aquifer Coordinator
US EPA Region 5, Groundwater / Drinking Water Branch
77 W Jackson Blvd
(WG-15J)
Chicago, IL 60604

RE: Petition to Designate the Mahomet Aquifer as a Sole Source Aquifer

Dear Mr. Spaulding:

I encourage you to grant the designation of the Mahomet Aquifer as a Sole Source Aquifer for central Illinois. This Aquifer is a vital source of water for hundreds of thousands of residents in central Illinois, providing drinking water and supporting thousands of commercial, industrial, and agricultural water users. It is also important to the health of our streams and rivers where it is interconnected. If we don't act to protect the Aquifer now, future generations may be unable to rely on it as a source of clean water.

I believe this designation is significant to protecting our water supply and water ecosystems. A benefit of the designation would be the more rigorous level of review the US EPA places on federally funded projects that may affect the Aquifer. A Sole Source Aquifer designation by the US EPA would also provide an invaluable educational tool, informing residents, businesses and institutions who rely on the Mahomet Aquifer for their water just how vital this unique groundwater resource is to Central Illinois.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important issue.

Sincerely,  

(your name)

Mahomet Aquifer Talking Points

What is the Mahomet Aquifer and Why is it Important?

·         The Mahomet Aquifer covers approximately 4100 mi2 beneath portions of 14 counties in east-central Illinois (including Cass, Champaign, DeWitt, Ford, Iroquois, Logan, Macon, Mason, McLean, Menard, Piatt, Tazewell, Vermilion, and Woodford).

·         Over 100 communities and thousands of rural domestic and farm wells depend upon the Mahomet Aquifer as their principal source of water (the top 20 community supplies are presented in Table 1).

·         It is estimated that 57 million gallons of water are withdrawn every day for potable uses serving some 500,000 people. [Five to six times that amount is used for crop irrigation purposes during normal-weather summer months, and even more during dryer-than-normal summers.]

·         Recent study suggests that the Mahomet Aquifer is, indeed, the primary and essentially only source of water for our area.

·         Many of the major water users surrounding Champaign do not have alternative water sources to provide sufficient water to meet demand. In addition, for nearly all communities that rely on the Mahomet Aquifer, an alternate source is not economically feasible.

What is the Quality of Water from the Mahomet Aquifer & What About Other Sources of Water?

·         The water produced by the Mahomet Aquifer is generally considered to be of excellent quality, often requiring only minimal treatment to remove hardness and, in some cases, naturally-occurring arsenic.

·         However, the aquifer is vulnerable. Beneath the western boundary counties, the aquifer is unconfined and highly susceptible to potential contamination. Beneath the eastern counties, although the aquifer is confined by as much as 100 to 150 feet of clayey materials, numerous pathways have been found that connect the aquifer to the surface – many more such pathways are suspected to occur but have not been found.

·         For all intents and purposes, with these factors in mind, the Mahomet Aquifer is the only source of water for these communities and, therefore, deserves protection from potential contamination.

What is the Purpose of Petitioning for Sole Source Aquifer (SSA) Designation?

·         One of the principal causes for seeking SSA designation was the siting of a chemical waste landfill over the aquifer near Clinton. The facility will house Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) contaminated waste, which have been shown to cause a variety of adverse health effects. When this facility was proposed, a number of community leaders became concerned about the potential long-term threats the facility would pose.

·         As a result, an aquifer protection coalition of 13 local governments, the Illinois American Water Company and the University of Illinois was formed with the purpose of achieving sole source designation for the aquifer. The coalition firmly believes that public education and awareness is the primary weapon against contamination – an informed and educated public will be very cautious about approving potentially contaminating activities in the future.

·         The  SSA coalition also recognizes that SSA designation is only the first of many steps to be taken in protecting the aquifer.

 Where Can I Get More Details About the Sole Source Aquifer Petition?

·         For a quick review of the Sole Source Aquifer petition and review by USEPA, a relatively short document prepared by USEPA provides an excellent summary: http://www.epa.gov/Region5/water/gwdw/mahomet/pdfs/mahomet-pps-ssa-doc.pdf

·         You can click this link for the main USEPA page containing all related petition documents: http://www.epa.gov/Region5/water/gwdw/mahomet/index.htm

 

EAST SIDE HIGHWAY CORRIDOR STUDY: MAY 2014 UPDATE

Although not yet reported on the East Side Highway website (www.eastsidehighway.com), we have learned that a public hearing will be held 30 days after the final Environmental Assessment is released to the public. The current timeline is for that release to be in late September, so the final public hearing accepting comments on the project will be in late October. If you are new to this issue concerning a proposed major highway that would impact three watersheds (Kickapoo Creek, Money Creek, Six Mile Creek) just east of Bloomington-Normal, check out our article under “Conservation” on our website (www.jwp-audubon.org).

HELP PRAIRIE CHICKENS IN ILLINOIS

The Greater Prairie-Chicken was once abundant in our state (estimated 10 million individuals) and was an iconic species of the tall-grass prairie that once covered central Illinois, including 90% of McLean County. Sadly, the loss of 99.99% of the prairie led to the species declining to the point that there are now only about 100 birds in only one place in the entire state: Prairie Ridge State Natural Area straddling Jasper-Marion counties (http://dnr.state.il.us/ORC/PRAIRIERIDGE). Even this population is highly endangered due to inbreeding depression and other threats. However, the Illinois Audubon Society (IAS) has been offered a matching federal grant to relocate 300 prairie-chickens from central Kansas over the next two years. Not only will this expand Illinois’ last population and increase its genetic health, but it will give us hope that someday we can re-introduce the species into other areas of Illinois where large-scale prairie restorations are occurring.

The IAS needs your help to reach its match of $30,000 to cover translocation costs. JWP Audubon encourages you to donate to the cause: Illinois Audubon Society, P.O. Box 2547, Springfield, IL 62708. Mark your donation for the Greater Prairie-Chicken.

 

SEARCHING FOR HERPS IN MCLEAN & WOODFORD COUNTIES     March 2014

 

By Angelo Capparella, JWP Conservation Chair

We often think of herps (snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, toads, salamanders) as a group encountered in southern Illinois and points south. And while herp diversity is greatest in the southeastern U.S., we once had significant herp biodiversity in central Illinois. As Curator of Vertebrates at Illinois State University, I am doing an inventory of the herps in McLean and southeastern Woodford counties. With permits from IDNR and permission from landowners like ParkLands Foundation, I am searching to see what species still live here. Recent discoveries suggest that remnant populations of herps thought to be long gone still exist in our area, and ones formerly unknown in past surveys occur here.

My initial focus was the state-threatened Mudpuppy, a permanently aquatic salamander. Thanks to fieldwork help from ISU students, we have now documented it in the Mackinaw River at five ParkLands Foundation nature preserves in both counties.

Another objective has been to determine if Small-mouthed Salamanders still exist in our area. While pursuing a 1970s sighting in a nature preserve near Lake Bloomington, we found last year a healthy number remaining and discovered a new breeding colony at another ParkLands nature preserve. Other potential wetlands are targeted for search this Spring. 

The Smooth Greensnake is an Illinois species of conservation concern; the Lincoln Park Zoo is breeding them for reintroduction into Lake County. Two years ago we discovered the snake on the ParkLands nature preserve near Lexington. We’ve heard of older sightings from other sites, so those are targeted search areas for this year.

Two years ago, veterinarian Matt Fraker found the first Woodford County record of Red-bellied Snake on his farm which he is restoring back into native vegetation. Subsequently, we have found this species at two other sites. This snake superficially resembles the common Dekay’s Brownsnake, but is more habitat-restricted.

There are more species that might still exist in our area, so how can you help? If you see any interesting herps please take a photo, ideally of their upperparts and undersides, and release them unharmed at the exact place of capture. If you find a road kill (no matter how flat) place it in a plastic bag and then place in a freezer recording date and location. Send the photo to me or email me for road kill pickup at:  apcappar@ilstu.edu 

 

A good website to learn more about our Illinois herps, including which ones would be rediscoveries or new county records, is:

 

http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/animals_plants/herps/ilspecies.html

 

EAST SIDE HIGHWAY CORRIDOR STUDY:   January 2014 Update

By Angelo Capparella, JWP Conservation Chair

The East Side Highway Corridor study results were announced on September 30 at a rare joint public meeting of the McLean County Board, Bloomington City Council, and Normal Town Council. The final choice was between alternatives 126 and 127 (for maps see: www.eastsidehighway.com); the consulting engineering firm recommended alternative 127. JWP Audubon Society had earlier submitted formal comments in conjunction with the local Friends of Kickapoo Creek (McLean County) stating that their preference among the two alternative corridors was 126 (and their overall preference was the “no-build” alternative). JWP Audubon and FOKC, who have had representatives on the Citizens/Focus Working Groups, identified four key problems with 127 vs. 126 in that 127 would cause: 1) more overall wetland/stream impacts, 2) more area of new pavement to be required, 3) more highly erodible soils impacts, and 4) more prime and important farmland acreage loss. For a copy of our complete comments, email me (apcappar@ilstu.edu). So we were very disappointed in the decision.

At the end of 2013, the study received the approval of Federal and State resource agencies. The final opportunity for public comments will occur at a Public Hearing to be held in the second quarter of this year. In the interim, we encourage everyone to contact their local elected representatives (County and City/Town) to express their opinions on this proposed corridor as their input will be critical.

 

Purple Martin Colony Project

Fall 2013 Update

By Matthew Winks, JWP Conservation

The Purple Martin Colony at White Oak Park did remarkably well this summer. A total of seven nests produced 
at least 30 fledglings and possibly a couple more. This is the most successful they have been since I started 
monitoring the colony. I stopped checking when they were getting close to fledging so as not to cause any 
youngsters to leave their nests prematurely. The first five fledged from the most advanced nest around 20 July 
which was a little later than usual. Another nest fledged six birds which is a new high count. I had previously 
never seen more than five come out of a single nest. 
There was another interesting occurrence at the colony this summer. In one compartment I found nine eggs. Typically they have four or five eggs and occasionally six, so nine eggs were very unusual. I noticed four eggs were darker and more heavily marked than typical martin eggs which are pure white. However, based on the size and shape they appeared to be martin eggs and not from another species.  The other five eggs in the nest were pure white.   Two different females could have been laying eggs in the compartment or all nine eggs could have been from the same female and maybe she somehow knew the darker marked eggs were sterile. The five pure white eggs hatched young, but the eggs with markings never did hatch and I eventually removed them from the compartment.
 
All the nestlings fledged by early August but continued to visit the boxes for a while. I found the entire colony flocked up on the highest power line along Cottage Avenue on the morning of 9 August.  They stopped visiting the boxes altogether by 12 August at which point it seemed like more than half of the colony had left for their journey to South America. The remaining birds started gathering on the tall aerial in the industrial facility east of Cottage Avenue and could be found there in the mornings.  I didn't see them foraging around the lake during the day and wonder where they were feeding.  But for the next ten days, 15 to 20 martins could be found on the antenna.  Remarkably, on the morning of 22 August I found no less than 55 martins perched atop the antenna.  I suspect some of them were migrants from other colonies, but it was an awesome sight to see.  That was a one time event and the numbers quickly dwindled thereafter. I saw the last three martins on the antenna on the morning of 30 August.  It was by far the latest I've seen Purple Martins hanging around the Bloomington-Normal area.  I wish them luck on migration and already look forward to seeing them next spring.  I have 7 April tentatively marked for their arrival.
 
The chapter has approved funding to begin establishment of a healthy perennial Purple Martin Colony at the BNWRD CSO (Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District Combined Sewer Overflow). Will you participate with us and help keep Purple Martins flying around the Bloomington-Normal area every summer?  Your gift today will help improve and expand our Purple Martin colonies.  Please consider supporting this effort by making a donation to the John Wesley Powell Chapter Purple Martin Project. To help support the Purple Martin Project please send donations to:  JWP Audubon Chapter, P.O. Box 142, Normal, IL  61761 and indicate "Purple Martin Project."

 

Spring 2013

By Matthew Winks, JWP Conservation Staff

The chapter approved funding to begin establishment of a healthy perennial purple martin colony at the BNWRD CSO (Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District Combined Sewer Overflow). I have enjoyed managing the colony at White Oak Park the last few years.   Unfortunately, last Memorial Day during the middle of their nesting season, the White Oak martin houses were vandalized and dozens of eggs were destroyed as a result. I witnessed the frantic birds and was helpless.  After repairing the damage as best I could the martins quickly tried to re-nest, but without much success. As a result JWP is reluctant to invest more time, energy, and money into the White Oak Park colony at this time.

The BNWRD CSO is located between the 1900 and 2000 block of West Washington Street in Bloomington. The JWP board believes this is an ideal site to establish a colony. The habitat is open and the vegetation around the basin is allowed to grow. There is diversity of plants and insects and the property is gated and locked with no public access, thus protecting against vandalism. Once a colony becomes established the chapter plans to offer field trips for observation.

Research shows that martins are more successful utilizing larger compartments. We have been using the older Trio style housing with (6"x6") compartments, but the birds rarely occupy more than 60% of compartments this size. I have been in contact with a martin enthusiast residing in Florida named Fred Vollmer. Fred is retired, but had a colony at Lake Bloomington and has been a martin landlord for over 30 years. He has generously offered to contribute start up funds for this project and would also like to help by sharing his knowledge. JWP has determined that the Trendsetter 12 System, which has 6"x11" compartments, would be excellent for this site.The following information is from Purple Martin Conservation Association:

"A 15 year study conducted by James R. Hill, III, of the Purple Martin Conservation Association has shown that Purple Martins not only prefer bigger compartments, but they also lay larger clutches in them, fledge more young, and are much safer from predators like owls, raccoons, hawks, and crows. Martins will always build their nest as far back from the entrance hole as possible, because they instinctively know that their eggs and nestlings are then as far as possible from the reach of predators, especially owls. Large owls with a reach of 10 or 12 inches can easily extract young and adults from shallow 6 inch cavities, as can hawks, crows, gulls, and raccoons. These predators are very common, even in suburban settings. Finally, nestlings in deep compartments are less exposed to driving rains and winds, further enhancing their chances of surviving to fledge."

The initial expenditure for the housing, pole, and predator guards are approximately $1000. However, upkeep and maintenance will require additional funds yearly.  Please consider supporting this effort by making a donation to the John Wesley Powell Chapter BNWRD CSO Martin Project.   

 

You can see and read about the Trendsetter 12 System at the following link:

http://shop.purplemartin.org/Trendsetter_Housing-list.aspx

A map of the location for those unfamiliar with the site can be viewed at:

http://goo.gl/CErMl

 To help support the Purple Martin Project

please send donations to:

JWP Audubon Chapter

P.O Box 142

Normal, IL  61761

 

Indicate “Purple Martin Colony”

 

MORAINE VIEW STATE PARK ISSUE UPDATEAPRIL 2013

As reported in March in "The Pantagraph" and to those on our Action Alert email list, there was a bill introduced in the Illinois legislature to sell part of Moraine View to expand a cemetery.  JWP Audubon was very much against the loss of rare habitat in our area, as well as the lack of informing the public about this plan (we were informed by the Illinois Environmental Council).  Fortunately, because citizens acted on the Action Alert and called their state legislators, the bill is dead.  However, there is now a plan by the same legislators to do a land swap to expand the cemetery.  JWP Audubon is not necessarily opposed to a land swap to enhance the ecological protection of habitat islands, but we have asked to be included as a stakeholder to evaluate this plan in terms of its impacts on the birds and other organisms that live in Moraine View.

IDNR REJECTS PERMIT FOR BANNER MINE;  CANTON DAILY LEDGER; JUL 31, 2012

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) on July 19 rejected a surface mining permit for the proposed Banner coal mine, which was slated for land located next to the village of Banner, between Rice Lake and Banner Marsh. The permit would have allowed strip mining on a triangle-shaped site adjoining Rice Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area along U.S. Route 24, which is part of the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway, and Copperas Creek and the Banner Marsh State Fish and Wildlife Area.

The proposed mining on more than 600 acres of predominantly Illinois River floodplain would have threatened residents' drinking water supplies and the structural integrity of the village of Banner's sewage treatment plant, located at the apex of the triangle, a press release from the Illinois Chapter Sierra Club said.

Both Banner Marsh and Rice Lake are internationally recognized as Globally Important Bird Areas. Drinking water supplies, nesting osprey, a historic bald eagle roost, the federally-threatened Decurrent False Aster and habitat for the state-endangered short-eared owl were all at risk, the press release said.

In 2007, local citizens, including members of Citizens for the Preservation of Banner Township and Save Rice Lake Area Association, and the Sierra Club filed for a review of the mining permit. The Illinois Attorney General joined these groups in challenging the proposed mine.

"I have to thank IDNR for denying this coal mine," said Ken Fuller, village president of Banner. "The real person to thank, though, is the Illinois Attorney General who filed in this case on behalf of the environment and the people of Illinois. Banner could have lost its wells and water if the coal mine had happened. I was really scared. My town could have died."

Impacts on the hydrology of the area, including the bordering Rice Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area, were key issues in citizen concerns and in documents filed by the Illinois Attorney General. Citizens commissioned Geo-Hydro Inc. to prepare a hydrogeology study of the mine's impacts because attention to the hydrological impacts in the mine permit application appeared lacking, the press release said.

"It should not have had to take so many years to decide this permit appeal," commented John Grigsby, a local resident and key petitioner in the appeal. "Thank heavens for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Her office comprehended what was at stake with this strip mine permit and took action on behalf of the future of our river floodplain and for the good of the regular citizens like me."

"IDNR's final denial of this permit hopefully heralds a new chapter in how our state sites new mines," said Cindy Skrukrud, clean water advocate, Illinois Chapter, Sierra Club. "It is my hope that in future mining issues the IDNR will heed concerns raised by ordinary citizens earlier in the review process. Our common goal, as illustrated by this permit denial, is to ensure our precious water resources and communities are protected."

EAST SIDE HIGHWAY CORRIDOR STUDY: AUGUST 2011 UPDATE

Angelo Capparella - August 2011

JWP Audubon continues to participate in the Community Working Group (CWG) as the Environmental Assessment (EA) part of the East Side Highway Corridor study unfolds. This proposed highway would impact a large area of the watershed housing the species-rich Kickapoo Creek, along with smaller areas of Money Creek and Six Mile Creek.

If you were unable to attend the public meeting on August 18, the East Side Highway Corridor website (www.eastsidehighway.com) contains all of the information presented, including a map of the remaining corridor alternatives under study after a number were eliminated from future consideration.

To date, we have found the CWG process to be a good one allowing for extensive public input and guidance during the EA. JWP Audubon will continue to represent the interests of our local species, ecosystems and streams as this process unfolds.

East Side Highway Corridor study:  January 2012

By Angelo Capparella, JWP Conservation Chair

EAST SIDE HIGHWAY CORRIDOR STUDY:

YOUR ACTION NEEDED

We now need your help on or after January 11 to ensure that the East Side Highway Corridor study unfolds in a manner that reduces any impact on Kickapoo Creek and the surrounding environment. I have served as your volunteer representative on the Community Working Group (CWG) for over a year, but now more voices need to be heard as to the community values guiding the selection of a corridor.

On Wednesday, January 11, 2012

there will be a public meeting from

6:00-8:00 pm

Normal Community High School

3900 E. Raab Road, Normal

An identical 30-minute presentation will be given at 6:10 and 7:10 pm; exhibits providing further information, along with project team members to answer questions, will be there the entire time. Previous information on the study can be found at the East Side Highway Corridor website (www.eastsidehighway.com).

At the last CWG meeting, there was disagreement over the extent to which the selected corridor should be the one that minimizes 1) the loss of Kickapoo Creek wetlands, 2) the loss of farmland, and 3) sprawl development. This is the issue for which we need your help.

REQUESTED ACTION: If you believe that the corridor alternative selected should be the one that minimizes the loss of Kickapoo Creek wetlands, the loss of farmland, and sprawl development, then you need to express those values to the East Side Highway study team. This can be done either in writing at the January 11 public meeting, or in the on-line Comment Form (click on “Contact Us” on the aforementioned website) within the next few days AFTER January 11.

AUDUBON ASSISTING IN PARKS MAPPING

Angelo Capparella - August 2011

The McLean County GIS department provides an excellent public database of maps and aerial photos through their www.mcgis.org website (click on "Online Mapping"; we use "Option A"). Recently, they added a Recreation layer that includes Parks. This layer is supposed to include publicly accessible nature preserves and parks, including parks with some native ecosystems remaining or being added through ecological restoration.

JWP Audubon maintains the most comprehensive inventory of local nature preserves and parks that still have some native ecosystems left as part of our mission to defend these areas against threats. Upon review of the debuted GIS Parks layer, we found significant errors that cause us to recommend against using this layer at this time. However, we have volunteered to help the GIS department improve their database to more accurately reflect the publicly accessible nature areas within McLean County and we will inform you once that is completed. We anticipate that this will increase the capacity of the public to both appreciate those areas and, we hope, choose to take an active role in protecting and enhancing those sites.

WILL BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL BE NONCOMPLIANT?

 Angelo Capparella - August 2011

Very soon the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will decide the new standard for ground-level ozone which is the major contributor to smog. Depending on the final determination, it is likely that the Bloomington-Normal area will become a nonattainment area that is required to develop a plan to reduce its emission of the pollutants that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone. Smog causes lung damage, aggravates asthma, increases respiratory illnesses, and contributes to an increase in worker absenteeism. Children and seniors are especially sensitive. Smog also damages sensitive vegetation and ecosystems, including forests, parks, and nature preserves. More on the effects can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/air/ozonepollution/actions.html#jan10s

East Side Highway Corridor Study

EAST SIDE HIGHWAY CORRIDOR STUDY:

JANUARY 2011 UPDATE
by Angelo Capparella, JWP Conservation Chair

The next stage of the East Side Highway Corridor study for the east side of Bloomington-Normal, which encompasses a large area of the Kickapoo Creek watershed along with smaller areas of Money Creek and Six Mile Creek, began in Fall 2010. The engineering firm Clark Dietz (Champaign office) has a new contract to do the Environmental Assessment (EA) study over the next two years. They have established a Community Working Group (CWG) focused around numerous aspects, including environmental issues of concern to JWP Audubon.

The East Side Highway Corridor website (www.eastsidehighway.com) has information about the on-going EA study along with past project documents, maps, and the full report of the initial study.  Under "Downloads: Project Documents", select "2009 Corridor Report", then "Appendix A", then scroll down to page 32 (Figure 31) for the map of the recommended corridor (N1-M2-S2M) resulting from the initial study. The EA will assess this and other alternative corridors.

For the next two years of the study, I will be serving on the environment interest group of the CWG. Part of my role is to interface between the environmental constituency and Clark Dietz. Feel free to contact me (apcappar@ilstu.edu; 309-438-5124) if you have specific environmental concerns or need information on environmental aspects of the EA.

Conservation Report

by Angelo Capparella, Conservation Chair
 
1.  Attended the 13 October 2010 public hearing by Clark Dietz Inc. on the East Side Highway study status. The next step will be an Environmental Impact Study, and I'll serve on the Citizen's Advisory Group-Environment Section to continue representing our interests.
 
2.  Will be attending the 19 October 2010 public hearing by the McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals regarding the expansion of the Horizon Wind Farm. Earlier, Horizon gave me a copy of their technical habitat and wildlife site assessment. Under my name only, I did write a letter supporting their expansion.
 
3.  Will be attending the 22 October 2010 Lake Bloomington/Evergreen Lake Watershed Oversight Committee meeting.
 
4.  Will be attending the 6 November 2010 "Growing the Greenways Plan and Trail" which dovetails with many of our interests.
 
5.  Received an invitation from Mayor Koos to join the Water Quality working group of the Town of Normal's Sustainability Task Force.  I've accepted and it will be interesting to see what this entails.
 
6.  We have been working for over five years with two local groups (Friends of Kickapoo Creek and SEWERS) and one state-wide group (Prairie Rivers Network = PRN) to deal with the lack of proper sewage treatment by rural subdivisions throughout McLean County. Our county is well known for not requiring developers to establish sewage treatment systems that meet state standards; those developers then leave a mess for the local homeowners association which becomes the liable party. Because the IEPA has been underfunded, enforcement of the rules weren't happening. Once we starting insisting on enforcement (which was helped by involvement in the Lake Bloomington watershed plan), a number of noncompliance issues finally
received attention and there was a major IEPA public hearing here last year on 5 rural subdivisions that have been violating water quality rules for up to a decade.  Because of our continual pressure, IEPA finally insisted that these subdivisions meet state standards, and this month those requirements are finally being enacted. Only one rural subdivision is refusing to
comply, and IEPA is backing off further enforcement, so PRN is preparing a lawsuit against them. Progress is slow, but with persistence and cooperation it can happen.

East Side Highway Corridor Study Update

by Angelo Capparella, Conservation Chair

A public meeting occurred October 13 regarding the second stage of
the East Side Highway Corridor study, which encompasses a large area
of the Kickapoo Creek watershed along with smaller areas of Money 
Creek and Six Mile Creek. At the conclusion of the first stage study 
last March, a 500'-wide corridor was recommended in which an 
alignment could occur, called the N1-M2-S2M. The central part of the
corridor (M2) is a half mile east of Towanda-Barnes Road, but crosses
it to the west at the north (N1) and south (S2M) ends (see link to 
map below). The step two study requires: 1) an environmental impact 
study (EIS) of all potential corridors, including comparison to the 
selected corridor; and 2) reduction of the selected corridor width to
200-250'.
 
The corridor study is an outgrowth of decisions made by the McLean 
County Regional Planning Commission (MCRPC) incooperation with 
Bloomington, Normal, Towanda and Downs in terms of desired growth 
areas (east side) and preferred dominant mode of transportation (passenger 
vehicles using roads). Therefore, if people disagree with those two drivers 
of the corridor study,the place to be involved is at the MCRPC and 
municipality level with their zoning and planning processes.The corridor 
study operated within those constraints.

JWP Audubon and Friends of Kickapoo Creek are involved with the
process through representation on the Citizens Advisory Group. 
We want to ensure that the step two study EIS includes: 1) all 
environmental impacts; 2) mitigation of environmental impacts; and 3)
 choice of a corridor that minimizes damage to Kickapoo Creek, a 
biologically significant stream. A public meeting to launch the step 
two study will occur in about six months.

The East Side Highway Corridor website (www.eastsidehighway.com)
has maps and the full report of the step one study. The map of the 
recommended corridor (N1-M2-S2M) is Figure 31 of Appendix A; scroll 
down on this page to load that map
www.eastsidehighway.com/index_files/Page848.htm