Develop and Implement the Millennium Reserve Natural Areas Conservation Compact

Photo: Greencorps Chicago

Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) in concert with the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, Chicago Park District, and The Nature Conservancy has developed a Conservation Compact to protect and manage 23 ecologically important sites. IDNR and its signing partners are now beginning to implement the compact at site locations that appear on the Illinois Natural Area Inventory (INAI), a list of the state’s most ecologically important areas. The partners have identified compatible, shared, and coordinated conservation outcomes for these sites, and will undertake protection and restoration activities necessary to provide effective long-term conservation.

The 23 INAI sites in Millennium Reserve total nearly 6,000 acres. Thirteen harbor natural plant and animal communities of global significance for conservation. Twenty are owned or managed by one of the partners. Because of their importance, some of these natural areas have been designated as Illinois Nature Preserves, the highest form of protection offered under Illinois state law. 

The sites vary considerably in natural quality, restoration challenges, and current land uses. The partners note that while each agency is dedicated to improving conditions at its own sites, current individual activities are insufficient to assure the long-term ecological health across the archipelago of related natural areas. Some lack management plans for the key species and natural communities that live in them. There is insufficient coordination in management, and some share problems that are better addressed at a larger scale. Hydrological issues, environmental contamination, and the identification and securing of monetary resources are examples of issues requiring broad-scale solutions.

One area of particular emphasis is the bird populations. The Compact calls specifically for the development and implementation of a regional habitat management plan for wetland wildlife habitats, with a focus on deep marshes and the restoration of hydrology and vegetation sufficient to support marsh-nesting birds. Overall, the Compact defines management objectives for each site, and helps ensure that actions taken will support biodiversity goals throughout the region.

Lead Organization: Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Partner Organizations: Forest Preserves of Cook County, Illinois Nature Preserve Commission, Chicago Park District, The Nature Conservancy

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