Keeping the Crossroads in Good Hands

To better enhance and conserve wildlife habitat and forested areas in its America’s Crossroads Focal Region, the NWTF employs three foresters that deliver technical assistance and facilitate cost-sharing opportunities to private landowners, in addition to furthering partnerships and stewardship agreements with partners.

NWTF Illinois foresters work statewide, but they focus their efforts on areas most in need of habitat improvement. NWTF Forester Chase Seals works primarily within the Shawnee Hills region, NWTF Forester Stacy Lindemann with the Illinois Kaskaskia region and NWTF Forester Cody Widner with the Driftless region. Putting NWTF dollars to work equitably on private land has historically been a challenge. The services that these foresters provide combined with the cost share they make available ensures NWTF’s conservation delivery and habitat enhancement is relevant in states that are comprised of less than 10% public land.  

“As with most private-land-dominated states, Illinois faces some limiting factors,” NWTF District Biologist John Burk said. “In the past, there has been a lack of technical assistance available. Also, even when technical assistance is available, much of the work recommended to private landowners is costly. And without some sort of cost-share option, most of the management recommendations will not transpire. Chase, Stacy and Cody all help private landowners overcome these limiting factors.”

To secure federal funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, states create wildlife action plans that highlight population levels, factors that suppress wildlife populations and what the state’s plan is to keep inhabitant species thriving.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ wildlife action plan is broken into multiple campaigns, and, for the Forests and Woodlands Campaign, the NWTF is the primary delivery partner.

“The majority of the conservation work we do in Illinois is forest management related,” Burk said. “Forest management is critical from both an economic standpoint as well as a wildlife standpoint, and, in the Midwest, the forests that support industries and create and sustain the land of the giants are oak dominated. In order for our forests to remain oak dominated, they have to be managed.

“The foresters in these positions have solidified a strong partner relationship with both the USDA Forest Service and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, so we expect the support of these positions to continue and expand. Creating and matching cost-share pots through various granting entities and major donors is something that should be easy to rally behind. The need is there, and we have the team in place to deliver it.”  

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