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HeartLands Conservancy moves to protect natural area near Shawnee National Forest

MCCLURE, Ill. – HeartLands Conservancy, an environmental nonprofit and land trust serving Southwestern Illinois, has acquired a key natural area next to the Shawnee National Forest near McClure.

The 149-acre property is a high-priority for the Shawnee National Forest because of its location within the Mississippi River floodplain and key natural features. One such feature is the mature, Bald Cypress swamp, on the southern end of the property. Cypress swamps are among the world’s most diverse habitats and act as natural sponges that help water soak into the soil and reduce damage from flooding. Cypress trees can live for thousands of years, but have declined in numbers over the last 100 years due to logging and loss of wetlands.

“I am pleased and excited that we were able to protect this rare ecosystem that serves as a corridor for many species, including bald eagles, night herons, and snowy egrets,” said Robert J. Hilgenbrink, board chairman for HeartLands Conservancy. “Because this area is a part of the Mississippi River floodplain, the property regularly floods. By permanently protecting and restoring its natural ecosystems, we are contributing to the improved health of the Mississippi River and protecting one of Illinois’ greatest assets — the Shawnee National Forest.”

HeartLands received funding assistance from two foundations — Grand Victoria Foundation and Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation — to complete the purchase.

“Without the assistance and dedication of these foundations, the acquisition of this property would not have been possible. We are grateful for their support,” Hilgenbrink said.

The protection of this property is the first step in a plan between the Shawnee National Forest, Ducks Unlimited, and HeartLands Conservancy to buy and protect available properties in flood-prone areas of the Mississippi River floodplain in Illinois. Over the next few months, HeartLands will be starting on reforestation and wetland restoration on the farm fields located on the property.

— From the Illinois Business Journal

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