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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Conservation Planning Assistance Program Assists Railroad in Mitigating Noise Impacts to Migratory Birds

Region 3, October 22, 2012
The Cuba Marsh forest preserve district site with railroad tracts is adjacent to wetlands and forested habitats.  Mitigation at this site will include adding a new water control structure for the open-water wetland to return the previous hemi-marsh conditions to benefit wetland birds. Invasive shrubs would also be removed throughout the area and replaced with native shrubs to benefit shrubland birds.
The Cuba Marsh forest preserve district site with railroad tracts is adjacent to wetlands and forested habitats. Mitigation at this site will include adding a new water control structure for the open-water wetland to return the previous hemi-marsh conditions to benefit wetland birds. Invasive shrubs would also be removed throughout the area and replaced with native shrubs to benefit shrubland birds. - Photo Credit: n/a
Mitigation at the Sugar Creek forest preserve district site site will include converting existing agricultural fields into prairie to benefit grassland birds. Trees and shrubs would also be removed along the riparian corridors throughout the site to reduce habitat fragmentation and to promote prairie continuity.
Mitigation at the Sugar Creek forest preserve district site site will include converting existing agricultural fields into prairie to benefit grassland birds. Trees and shrubs would also be removed along the riparian corridors throughout the site to reduce habitat fragmentation and to promote prairie continuity. - Photo Credit: n/a

The Service’s Chicago Field Office worked with the Canadian National Railway Company to develop migratory bird mitigation for their acquisition of the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway Company railroad. In 2008 the Chicago Field Office provided comments on the EJ&E acquisition as it related to impacts to Service trust resources. These impacts included impacts to migratory birds that would be affected by noise generated by the increased train activity on the railroad. The Service used the best available science that showed that noise from vehicles adversely affected migratory birds to seek noise mitigation. We collaborated with other stakeholders, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and local forest preserve districts to develop measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate for the increased rail activities.

In December 2008, the Surface Transportation Board  approved the acquisition and control of the EJ&E railroad, subject to numerous environmental mitigation measures. Based on the scientific information provided by the Chicago Field Office, STB required that several Supplemental Voluntary Measures  be provided to protect federally listed species and migratory birds. Of particular note was Voluntary Measure 104 that required: "Where warranted, Applicants shall work with relevant natural resource stakeholder groups, Forest Preserve Districts, the Indiana office of The Nature Conservancy, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and the Service  to support the creation or enhancement of migratory bird habitat away from those segments of the EJ&E rail line on which Applicants project Transaction-related increases in rail traffic, and where there is proposed Transaction-related construction of double-track and new or improved connections."

Since the Record of Decision, CN has worked with the Illinois Natural Resource Stakeholders group  to mitigate for environmental impacts. This mitigation will consist of enhancing, restoring and acquiring forest preserve and Illinois DNR land away from the existing railroad. Based on a noise impact area identified by the USFWS and supported by the stakeholders, approximately 1,643 acres of land (at four forest preserve district sites) was identified to be enhanced, restored, or acquired to satisfy Voluntary Measure 104.

Contact Info: Shawn Cirton, 847-381-2253xt.236, shawn_cirton@fws.gov