Resource ChallengeHistorical human controls of the Mississippi River to assure safe shipping navigation and flood control for agriculture and river towns and cities has greatly altered and diminished natural riverine habitats used by fish and wildlife including migratory birds. In the aftermath of the Great Flood of 1993 national, regional and state public agencies and non-profit conservation groups cooperated in drawing up a strategy to restore healthy side channels, tributaries and wetlands on suitable 'batture lands' between the levees and the river. ALC's primary focus is to find and work with willing sellers of floodprone agricultural lands that are suitable for wetland restoration and to work with public agency funders, private foundations and land management agencies to transform some of this area back to natural riverine flooplain.
Examples of Key PartnersLandowners with suitable floodprone agricultural lands who are willing sellers of fee title or conservation easements participate with American Land Conservancy (ALC) and state and federal agencies in restoring bottomland hardwood habitat, functioning river sidechannels and wetland habitat. ALC assists landowners with public agency purchases or easements. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Department of Conservation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Southwest Illinois RC&D, and Winrock International.
Results and AccomplishmentsSince 1994, ALC has restored 24,000 acres of floodprone agricultural land into bottomland hardwood and wetland areas. The dollar value of these multiple landowner transactions is $25,000,000. Endangered Species Act listed fish and wildlife that are benefitting from the project include Pallid Sturgeon, bald eagle, least tern and neo-tropical birds. Public benefits include the expansion of state recreational lands, the Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge and the Shawnee National Forest. All these lands along the river are now open to public hunting, fishing, birding and family recreation. The federal treasury benefits from lowered flood disaster payments once the floodprone farms are retired. Public access boat ramps every five miles along the river and the Southern Illinois University Wetland Research Field Station are additional benefits to this cooperative conservation program.