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Story behind Riverlands nature area topic of presentation Oct. 7 in Alton


ALTON — On Friday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m., Patrick McGinnis, certified wildlife biologist and systems ecologist, senior advisor for Water Resources Policy and Practice, The Horinko Group, and a retiree of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, will present the little-known story and visionary process of reclaiming Riverlands, 3,700 acres of public lands now a globally significant Important Bird Area.

The Riverlands Story opens a joint Nature + Art exhibit “Running Water: Riverwork Project and Watershed Cairns,” on view at National Great Rivers Museum, Audubon Center at Riverlands, and at Jacoby Arts Center where the free talk will be presented.

Within The Riverlands Story, McGinnis will reveal what he sees as major challenges and opportunities going forward to ensure future water security and opportunities he sees for the Riverbend region to optimize its position as a national water resource research and technology hub and recreational gateway to the Mississippi River.

Thirty years ago in the mid-1980s, McGinnis began a strategic effort with the Corps of Engineers to establish a natural resource presence on the Mississippi River, in part to position the Corps’ St. Louis District to better serve its operational interests on 110,000 acres of operational lands and waters along 300 miles of the Mississippi River and the lower 80 miles of the Illinois River. This became an opportunity to smartly leverage federal resources to drive positive and lasting impacts at the community and system level.

Under McGinnis’ leadership The Riverlands Area Office, established in 1989, became widely recognized as a water resource stewardship leader and innovator. Early accomplishments included the design and completion of the Riverlands Environmental Demonstration Area later renamed the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, the formulation and successful implementation of Riverlands 2000, restoration of native plant communities to a portion of the American Bottoms, and making the case for authorization and completion of the National Great Rivers Museum.

Today, Riverlands is home to an emerging interdisciplinary water resource campus and living laboratory that includes the Rivers Project Office, the Riverland Migratory Bird Sanctuary, the Audubon Center at Riverlands, the Mel Price Locks and Dam, the National Great Rivers Museum, and the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center. The Campus and NGRREC will soon welcome its newest addition, the Swarovski Water School.

The Riverlands Story presents McGinnis’ experience making the case for the Riverlands Project, how he and his team built consensus and were effective in pursuing big ideas, and how the water based attractions they developed are helping reshape attitudes about rivers in our region and the opportunity to reconnect communities to rivers and their natural capital in sustainable ways.

The Audubon Center at Riverlands embodies a unique partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Rivers Project Office. The Center is a flagship project of National Audubon Society and Audubon Missouri, collaborating with the Corps on river policy issues, both locally and throughout the Mississippi River watershed. October marks the five-year anniversary of Audubon Center at Riverlands and the launch of a new strategic plan.

NGRREC, established in 2001, and more recently co-located with the Corps’s Mel Price Locks and Dam and National Great Rivers Museum in 2010 is building a reputation for thoughtful forward thinking river and watershed science and assisting Federal program managers make better informed decisions regarding our nation’s water resources while raising student awareness and challenging the next generation of scientists to make important contributions to the resiliency of our natural systems and communities.

Doors open at 5 p.m. to view the exhibit Running Water: Riverwork Project and Watershed Cairns. To pre-register visit
627 East Broadway, Alton, IL 62002 /618.462.5222/


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