Kevin Cummings of the Illinois Natural History Survey will speak about freshwater mussels of the Pecatonica and Rock rivers Jan. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the U.S. Bank meeting room, 430 Main St. in Pecatonica. The program is free and open to the public.
Cummings co-authored the first-of-its kind field guide to freshwater mussels of the Midwest, a 208-page book with photos, descriptions and range maps showing geographic distribution of about 75 native species. He will describe the biology, life history, economic importance and conservation of mussels, also referred to as clams, naiades or unionids.
Freshwater mussels are one of the most endangered groups of animals in North America. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, enormous numbers were harvested to make buttons for clothing, and button-making was a multimillion-dollar industry. The industry collapsed with the invention and widespread use of plastics in the 1940s and 1950s, and some freshwater mussel populations subsequently recovered. Populations of many species continue to decline due to stream pollution and siltation.
The presentation by Cummings is sponsored by the Natural Land Institute, a private not-for-profit land conservation group based in Rockford, and the Sugar-Pecatonica Rivers Ecosystem Partnership, a coalition of private landowners, business people, scientists and recreation enthusiasts.
A business meeting of the Sugar-Pecatonica Rivers Ecosystem Partnership will follow the program. Individuals and organizations in Stephenson and Winnebago counties interested in submitting proposals to receive grant funds from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Conservation 2000 Program, are encouraged to attend. The newly-published Landowners-Guide to Conservation in the Sugar and Pecatonica River Valleys will be distributed at the meeting. For information, please call the Natural Land Institute at 815-964-6666.