Chicago Illinois Field Office
Watersheds and Partnerships
The successful conservation of fish, wildlife, habitats, and other natural resources usually involves working with partners at the watershed or landscape scale. We provide technical assistance to numerous citizens groups in northeastern Illinois and the adjacent region.
C2000 Ecosystem Partnerships
In 1995, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources created the Conservation 2000 program as a broad-based approach to managing privately-owned property in the state. This program enables citizen groups to form ecosystem partnerships, and compete for funds to restore fish and wildlife habitat. We participate in 6 of the 10 ecosystem partnerships in the Chicago region by providing technical assistance, assisting with workshops, and reviewing grant proposals.
While ecosystem partnerships are based on larger watershed basins (e.g., Fox River, Upper DesPlaines River), watershed planning can be accomplished at a tributary watershed scale (e.g., Poplar Creek, Blackberry Creek, Nippersink Creek). We are often invited to participate in watershed planning along with local stakeholders. This enables us to work at a grass-roots level with citizen stakeholders and local governments. We provide technical assistance to these groups while gaining local contacts to help us accomplish our mission.
Another way that the Chicago Field Office is able to serve the region is by participating in various working groups and technical advisory committees set up by local governments and organizations. For example, we hold an appointed seat on the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission's Technical Advisory Committee and through that provide input on the conservation of wetlands using local ordinances. We also hold an appointed seat on Fermilab's Ecological Land Management Committee and thereby have input into the management of over 6000 acres of habitat for the benefit of wildlife at Fermilab.
Assessing Urban Stream Restoration Practices
For several years many organizations have been stabilizing stream banks and restoring stream channels in the Chicago region by using "bio-engineering" techniques. These techniques use plants (and their roots) along with structural components (e.g., a-jacks, lunkers, coconut fiber rolls). As many of these projects have been exposed to the erosive forces of stream flows over time, their successes have been mixed, causing speculation on which practices were more appropriate for use in this area. To assess techniques that have worked versus those that have not, and to determine reasons why, the Chicago Field Office partnered with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the Geological Survey, Chicago Wilderness, the Illinois EPA, and others to study these stream projects. The first phase of the study gathered basic information on stream projects throughout the region using surveys sent to consultants, contractors, funding and permitting agencies, and project managers. A database was compiled, and during the Phase II study, many of these projects were field checked to confirm site conditions, location, and whether the project had been completed. The Phase III study involved a more in-depth analysis of 10 stream projects that deployed a variety of practices in a variety of watershed settings. The final product was published and resulted in workshops to present team recommendations and findings on when and where to use various techniques and practices.
ADID or "Advanced Identification" wetland studies have been completed for Lake and McHenry counties, and will be published in 2004 for Kane County, Illinois. ADID studies are authorized by the USEPA, and involve working with a local sponsor and sister resource agencies to identify in advance of a specific project, which wetlands are of the highest quality or value within a given area. The Chicago Field Office provided leadership and technical assistance for the assessment of biological functions (habitat and plants) for the wetlands in McHenry and Kane counties. That included field investigation of any wetlands that passed an initial aerial photograph review as being likely to contain high-quality habitat. The results of these studies enable landowners, developers, community planners, and others to use information identifying the most important wetlands in their respective counties when making land use decisions.
Invasive Species in Illinois
Invasive species are a pervasive threat to natural areas and wildlife habitat throughout the nation. To reflect this national priority, the Chicago Field Office is providing leadership and technical assistance to start a comprehensive Illinois Invasive Species Council that will help coordinate early detection (of new invaders), control and eradication techniques and efforts, and other critical information throughout the state. Invasive species degrade natural areas and wildlife habitat, besides their more well-known affects on agriculture.