Inside Region 3
Midwest Region
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Trumpeter Swans. Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS.

Trumpeter Swans. Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS.

Heritage Enhancement in Illinois

Hearing a symphony of trumpets and seeing a flash of white tails was precisely the hopes of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources when they used federal assistance to purchase one of the largest remaining contiguous tracts of land in Illinois. The 4,500 acre property, known as Burning Star Mine #5, is located approximately 16 miles north of Carbondale, Illinois.

Using Pittman‐Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act funds through a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources purchased Burning Star Mine #5 from Consolidation Coal Company for $11.5 million in 2014. In Southern Illinois, this acquisition is one of the single largest land purchases made by Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Burning Star operated as a surface coal mine from 1976 to 1989. The mine officially closed in 1992. Consolidation worked with Illinois Department of Natural Resources for over 25 years transforming the site using creative reclamation practices, maximizing wildlife habitat with a long-term goal of establishing a new state fish and wildlife area. A collaboration of this magnitude is quite remarkable. Consolidation met all state and federal standards for mine reclamation and was released from final reclamation obligations in 2004. The purchase of this property is the final phase in the reclamation plan.

The rolling topography of this site provides restoration of floodplain forests along the Little Muddy River, deep water lakes, shallow water wetlands and farmland. These habitats began attracting wildlife immediately after mine reclamation activities ended. Over 300 wintering trumpeter swans, nesting pairs of bald eagles, a great blue heron rookery and abundant populations of white-tailed deer and turkey have been observed at Burning Star. In addition, Consolidation stocked several of the deep water lakes with bass, crappie and catfish.

“Large blocks of wildlife habitat are rare in Illinois. This property will significantly improve public access to hunting, fishing and wildlife observation,” said Paul Glander, Fish and Wildlife Biologist with the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.

Loss of suitable hunting lands was identified as the number one reason for changes in hunter participation for the state of Illinois (Lisckka et al. 2006). Consistent with the Wildlife Restoration grant agreement, Burning Star was acquired to conserve its natural and cultural resources and to provide multiple‐use outdoor recreation opportunities, primarily hunting and fishing.

In 2015, a site management plan was created by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to direct habitat restoration, habitat management and recreational use of the property. The plan recommends management, use and development of Burning Star. Providing primarily upland habitat, deep water and shallow water wetlands, riparian corridors, permanent grasslands and managed cropland for the benefit of migratory and resident game and nongame species are recommendations in the plan.

Future restoration projects include establishing large landscape plantings of native grasslands and forested tracts to decrease the existing wildlife habitat fragmentation and restore connectivity. Public access to the resource will be enhanced and created allowing hunting, trapping and fishing. Additionally, all agricultural lands, approximately 1,200 acres will be evaluated for conversion to suitable wildlife habitats where topographic contours and large scale landscaping habitat management permit.

The overall benefit resulting from this land purchase is conservation, protection of valued habitats and the enhancement of our nation’s heritage.

The Pittman‐Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, passed in 1937, authorized a grant program to provide federal funding to states and territories for wildlife conservation. Source of the Wildlife Restoration federal funds is excise taxes and import duties on equipment and gear manufactured for purchase by hunters, archers and recreational shooters.

Bibliography
Lischka, S.A., W.L. Anderson and L.K. Campbell. Results of the 2005–2006 Illinois Hunter Harvest Survey. INHS Technical Report, 2006.

By Mara Koenig
Midwest Region - External Affairs

Last updated: February 4, 2016