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Improved Forest Conditions in Illinois will Benefit Imperiled Plant

August 2007

After consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under provisions of the Endangered Species Act, the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois completed prescribed burns last fall in four natural areas to benefit the federally threatened Mead’s milkweed. Before the burns the forest’s milkweed population was in poor condition, consisting of only a few plants. 

The Mead’s milkweed population responded well to the fires with a record number of 24 plants located at the Dennison Hollow Natural Area. Given the success of this burn, the Forest Service is proposing a larger-scale burn in fall 2007.

In addition to fires that are designed to improve habitat for the milkweed, the Forest Service is planning several large-scale burns and timber stand improvement projects.  The burns will promote oak and hickory regeneration and reduce non-native pine. This type of habitat alteration will benefit migratory birds, including birds whose numbers are dwindling, such as the red-headed woodpecker. The prescribed burns also will benefit endangered Indiana bat populations by improving foraging and roosting conditions.

The proposed projects are located in the Shawnee National Forest and Trail of Tears Conservation Opportunity Areas, which were identified in the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan. The plan maps ways to improve wildlife habitat as well as the ecological integrity and economic value of the state’s forests and savannas through appropriate, sustainable forestry practices.

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