Eagle Habitat on Illinois River Protected (IL)

Chicago, IL, 3/24/04: Calling it an environmental treasure that must be protected, the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and the Trust for Public Land announced today the preservation of Plum Island through a grant to the Illinois Audubon Society who will permanently own the Island. Plum Island, a significant wildlife habitat, is located on the Illinois River adjacent to Starved Rock State Park. The Island’s new owner, the Illinois Audubon Society, was able to acquire Plum Island through technical assistance from the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and a $370,340 Illinois Clean Energy grant.

“When we were first approached by the Illinois Audubon Society and asked to fund the purchase of Plum Island, we quickly realized the importance of this acquisition,” stated James Mann, Executive Director of the Foundation. “We recognized the environmental significance of Plum Island and were eager to protect it for future generations to experience.”

Plum Island will be preserved thanks to the grant from Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation providing all the funds Illinois Audubon Society needed to acquire the Island. Plum Island will be protected as habitat for our national symbol, the bald eagle. Sightings of bald eagles have been increasing each year and Starved Rock State Park is experiencing a boon of visitors who come to view the eagles. Annually, the Illinois and local Starved Rock Audubon Societies host a Bald Eagle Watch Weekend.

“Saving Plum Island is about more than just eagles,” said Marilyn Campbell, Executive Director of the Society. “It’s also about preserving the scenic view of Plum Island and the Illinois River from Starved Rock and the protection of Native American archaeological sites which are located on the Island. We are very grateful for the help of our grantor, Illinois Clean Energy, and all of those who played a part in making the preservation of Plum Island a reality.”

The Society plans to include Plum Island in its sanctuary system where it will be preserved for the people of Illinois to enjoy and learn about nature. The Society owns several sanctuaries in the state, most of which are managed for state-threatened or endangered species. The Illinois Audubon Society has been concerned with the future of Plum Island and its wildlife habitat since 1998, when rumors that it was going to be developed for vacation homes surfaced.

The Society is purchasing Plum Island from the Trust for Public Land. TPL negotiated the acquisition of Plum Island from its previous owner. TPL is a national nonprofit organization that conserves land for public use as parks and other natural areas. The ultimate owner of Plum Island is the Illinois Audubon Society, which will assure future conservation and protection of the island. Through the TPL, Ms. Robin Labancz, from suburban Chicago, also made a substantial personal donation toward the protection of Plum Island, calling it “the right thing to do.”

“Plum Island is an incredible natural treasure for Illinois,” adds Chris Slattery, Director of the Chicago Office of the Trust for Public Land. “The view from Starved Rock would have been compromised had we not been able to protect the land.”

The $370,340 grant to the Illinois Audubon Society for the purchase of Plum Island is the latest in natural area acquisition grants awarded by the Foundation. The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation has previously awarded the Society two other grants to aid the purchase of 240 acres of grassland sanctuary in southeastern Illinois.

About the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation

The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. The Foundation exists to improve energy efficiency, advance the development of renewable energy resources and protect natural areas for people in communities all across Illinois. Since 2001, the Foundation has awarded more than 550 grants totaling more than $38 million to support projects in 83 counties throughout our state.

In addition to its support of natural area preservation, the Foundation allows students and teachers in 460 schools to benefit from brighter, more efficient lights in their classrooms and lower electric bills, through the Foundation’s lighting upgrade grant program. Public libraries and park buildings in more than 130 Illinois communities are also getting more efficient lighting – saving them money and better meeting the needs of the families that use those facilities.

Through Illinois Clean Energy’s green design grants, 32 Illinois communities will build state-of-the-art energy efficient buildings, including schools, museums and nature centers, affordable housing, community centers, a police station, and a courthouse.

Additional information about Illinois Clean Energy’s programs and grants can be found at www.illinoiscleanenergy.org.

About the Illinois Audubon Society

The Illinois Audubon Society is one of the oldest conservation organizations in the Midwest, having been formed in 1897. It pre-dates, and is independent of, the National Audubon Society. The Society preserves and restores habitat, especially for threatened and endangered species, and operates its own sanctuary program. It is also an active partner with Illinois Department of Natural Resources to expand habitat at Prairie Ridge State Natural Area and acquire wetlands at Black-crown Marsh. I.A.S. has always been involved in conservation education, and provides educational materials to classrooms throughout the state, as well as traveling exhibits for libraries and nature centers.

For membership and other information, contact the office at 217-446-5085, or visit its website at www.illinoisaudubon.org.

About the Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law, to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL depends upon the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations. In Chicago, TPL has protected ballparks in the West Lawn neighborhood, expanded Ping Tom Park and recycled a former brownfield as an addition to Senka Park. Nationwide, TPL has helped protect more than 1.6 million acres.