CHICAGO, ILLINOIS | October 18, 2010
The Nature Conservancy in Illinois and the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission (INPC) recently awarded funds and supplies to volunteer stewardship groups statewide through the Volunteer Stewardship Network (VSN) Fund.
The VSN Fund was established in Illinois during the late 1990s to build the capacity of volunteer stewardship groups working at the local level. This annual grant program enables the Conservancy in Illinois to leverage its support on a statewide scale at sites of ecological significance. Most of the grants were awarded to non-profit grassroots groups that help restore public and some private land.
"These groups and the volunteers that belong to them are doing stewardship on some of the highest quality natural areas remaining in Illinois," said Karen Tharp, VSN Coordinator for the Conservancy in Illinois. "These areas contain the most diverse plant and animal life in the state. Protecting the species that depend on them is central to the Conservancy's mission."
Many of the grant recipients work with agencies that protect Illinois state nature preserves, land and water reserves and natural heritage landmarks. These agencies are not only responsible for protecting these lands, but also for making sure these lands are managed and maintained at a high quality. The VSN grants are a way to support these volunteer groups who ensure these lands are managed but may not otherwise have the means to access management tools.
"Restoration management conducted by the VSN significantly increases the ability to maintain high quality plant communities within the Nature Preserve system and at other natural areas throughout the state," said Kelly Neal, the INPC stewardship project manager. "Providing tools to volunteers allows for work to be conducted at sites that might otherwise see a decline in the characteristics that make them worthy of preservation for future generations. We have great appreciation for the efforts of the volunteers."
The 27 volunteer groups chosen to receive funding this year collectively work at 182 natural areas in northern, central and southern Illinois, covering 20 counties and engaging nearly 6,000 volunteers. In 2009, these volunteers contributed a total of 66,115 volunteer hours.
Among the grant recipients was Citizens for Conservation, who was awarded a new brush cutter through the VSN Fund. "Citizens for Conservation manages 378 acres in 12 locations, plus provides stewardship that contributes to the management of two large forest preserves in Cook County," said Peggy Simonsen, a grant writer for Citizens for Conservation. "Not having to purchase a brush cutter means we can save money to contribute to future land purchases or additional restoration."
List of volunteer groups, total funds received from both the Conservancy in Illinois and INPC and what the funds are going toward:
- Bartel Grassland Volunteers, $1,251, help fund newsletter (Cook County)
- Champaign County Forest Preserve District, $1,671, awarded folding saw, pruners, mesh vests, ringer tree girdler, tree girdler replacement blades, herbicide backpack sprayer and supplies (Champaign County)
- CLIFFTOP, $2,000, contribution toward BioBlitz Festival of the Bluffs (Monroe and Randolph Counties)
- Friends of the Bluff Spring Fen, $1,500, help fund brochure, newsletter, annual postcards (Cook County)
- Friends of Indian Boundary Prairies, $210, help fund newsletter, supplies for workdays (Cook County)
- Forest Preserve District of Kane County, $773, awarded loppers, saw blades, bow saw, folding saw, pruners (Kane County)
- Forest Preserve District of Will County, Rock Run, $39.65, awarded gloves, pesticide caution tape, vinyl flagging tape, wash bottle (Will County)
- Grand Prairie Friends, $1,849.75, help fund newsletter, stewards luncheon, and awarded wildland firefighting gloves, hand sprayers, herbicide
- Hawthorne Hill Nature Center, $556, awarded honeysuckle poppers, bow saw, wheelbarrows, loppers (Cook County)
- McHenry County Natural Area Volunteers, $1,950, help fund newsletter (McHenry County)
- North Branch Restoration Project, $1,000, help fund web site updates, brochure and newsletter production (Cook County)
- Peoria Wilds Volunteers, $635, help fund newsletter, and awarded shovels and honeysuckle popper (Peoria County)
- Plants of Concern, $475, help fund volunteer appreciation awards, training workshops, travel and meeting refreshments (McHenry, Lake, Cook, DuPage, Kane, and Will Counties)
- Poplar Creek Prairie Stewards, $1,115, help fund newsletter, special events, and seed processing (Cook County)
- Quad City Natural Area Guardians, $2,107, contribution for prescribed fire pump unit, brush cutter, helmet safety system and protective chaps (Rock Island County)
- Salt Lick Point Committee, $760, awarded chainsaw, helmet safety system, cell tray to grow native plants and replacement pad for herbicide sideswipe (Monroe County)
- Santa Fe Prairie Volunteers, $592, awarded chainsaw, helmet safety system and gloves (Cook County)
- Friends of the Parks, $998, awarded loppers and bow saws (Cook County)
- Green Earth, $534.40, awarded cutter mattock, fire rakes, shovels and Pick Hoe (Jackson County)
- Forest Preserve District of Will County, PPV, $110, awarded Loppers (Will County)
- Prairie Land Conservancy, $509, awarded cut and hold pruners, solo backpack/hand sprayers, prescribed fire drip torch, and herbicide safety tools. (Champaign, Ford, Vermilion, Douglas, Edgar, and Piatt Counties)
- Land Conservancy of McHenry County, $734, awarded chainsaw, helmet safety system and pruners (McHenry County)
- Coon Hill Prairie, $875, awarded chainsaw, helmet safety system, honeysuckle popper and backpack sprayer (Woodford County)
- Citizens for Conservation, $1,000, awarded brush cutter and helmet safety system (Cook County)
- Indian Creek Watershed Project, Ltd., $970, funds for seed for wetland, stormwater and wooded wetland areas (Lake County)
- Deer Grove Natural Areas Volunteers, $259, funds for newsletter, two-way radio and holsters (Cook County)
- Des Plaines, $120, funds for newsletter (Cook County)
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.