State funds for conservation groups

    Published Online Sep 27, 2001
    News-Gazette Capitol Bureau Chief

    SPRINGFIELD - Area conservation groups received nearly $500,000 in state grants this week to restore wildlife habitats and develop educational programs in Champaign, Vermilion and Ford counties.

    "With the grants, we are able to complete our diversity of outdoor classroom sites for the long-term accomplishment of our goals for conservation education and increasing native habitat for species of insects, wildlife and plants," said Leon Wendte, district conservationist for the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District.

    The district received a $262,310 grant to restore 45 acres of wetland on a 61-acre parcel near St. Joseph and $82,800 to expand the Barnhart Grove Prairie just south of Urbana by adding 16.2 acres to the 80-acre site.

    The conservation district is already in the process or restoring the Barnhart site, but the wetland area is a totally new project, Wendte said.

    The goal for both sites is to re-create a habitat for native plants and animals and provide an area for research, recreation and educational opportunities.

    To provide for better use of the Barnhart Grove Prairie outdoor classroom, the district received a $12,305 grant to run a four-day workshop for area teachers. The Habitat and Your Watershed workshop will offer hands-on training for teachers who want to incorporate the prairie site into their lesson plans, Wendte said.

    Working with the Champaign County Forest Preserve and another $12,040 state grant, the conservation district will run a separate four-day teacher workshop focusing on how to locate, identify, collect, store and grow local native plants, he said.

    The Upper Kaskaskia River Partnership also got a $15,321 grant for a four-day teacher workshop. The program is designed to educate teachers on using field sites in the area for ecosystem studies. Unlike the other two workshop grants, this one would benefit teachers outside of Champaign County, spreading into Douglas and Moultrie counties.

    The Vermilion County Soil and Water Conservation District also received several state grants.

    The largest was $38,484 to fund a two-year project to contact and educate the major landowners along the North Fork of the Vermilion River between Rossville and the Route 1 bridge and along the Middle Branch and East Branch tributaries.

    The district also got a $32,000 grant to install native plants on 400 acres of land in Vermilion County. The grant would allow the Vermilion County Soil and Water Conservation District to meet its goal of establishing 1,000 acres of native plant habitat.

    The district received $12,000 to build an observation deck at the wetland boardwalk at the north end of Lake Vermilion, $8,300 for a Vermilion River Rediscovery floor display and $5,600 for a one-day teachers workshop at Forest Glen Forest Preserve near Westville.

    The money for the projects is part of $7 million in conservation grants Gov. George Ryan announced this week.

    "With this funding, more than 18,660 acres of habitat will be improved and more than 1,300 acres will be protected either through conservation easements or acquisition," Ryan said.

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