State Wildlife Grant awarded to Natural Land Institute

People and wildlife will benefit

The Natural Land Institute (NLI) has been awarded a $58,000 State Wildlife Grant by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Jerry Paulson, Natural Land Institute executive director, said the funds will be used to help return healthy populations of fish and mussels to the wetlands along the Pecatonica River and to Raccoon Creek in the Nygren Wetland Preserve west of Rockton.

“Clean water and a healthy population of fish in the Pecatonica and Rock rivers are vital to the Rockton community and to everyone in northern Illinois,” Paulson said. “Wetlands along these waterways protect water quality by filtering pollutants, and they provide homes for fish to spawn and feed.”

Paulson said fish such as Northern pike, muskie, walleye and smallmouth bass, as well as turtles such as softshells and snappers, will benefit. These are species that were cut off from critical spawning and nursery areas in the 1970s, when the wetlands were drained and culverts and farm crossings installed. The State Wildlife Grant will reconnect Raccoon Creek to the Pecatonica and Rock rivers in the Nygren Wetland Preserve.

“The grant will allow us to remove the old culverts and allow fish access to the restored wetlands along the creek. It will also help fund the installation of a fish passage structure to let fish get into and out of the oxbow lake,” Paulson said.

The Rock and Pecatonica rivers are popular with sport fishermen. The Rock River at the east edge of the Nygren Wetland Preserve is considered the best walleye fishery in the state, and muskies are also taken from this part of the river. Fishing access is provided at the Rockton dam and at nearby forest preserves. The Nygren Wetland Preserve is a fish and wildlife refuge, and no fishing is allowed.

Established in 1958, the Natural Land Institute is a private, member-supported, not-for-profit conservation organization that protects land, water and wildlife in northern Illinois. The group purchased the 700-acre Nygren Wetland Preserve in 2000.

from the April 25-May 1, 2007, issue

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