Natural Resource Restoration
When settlers established farms and villages, they snuffed out
the natural process of fire. Since 1978, the Macon County Conservation
District has used prescribed burns to restore conservation areas.
Fire consumes dead and decaying vegetation and controls invasive
species of trees,
shrubs and other plants. This reduces competition, allowing native
plants proper access to water, nutrients and sunlight. Fire helps
release nutrients in dead vegetation, returning it to the soil,
and the blackened soil stimulates seed germination and plant growth
in early spring.
Healthy natural areas help keep our environment stable. They preserve air and water quality, reduce soil runoff, and provide habitat for wildlife. Yet, today’s natural areas are subject to relentless pressures from development and competition from non-native species.
To restore the processes to which central Illinois habitats have adapted and to ensure these places are left for future generations, staff at
the Macon County Conservation District use restoration and management practices such as prescribed burning, planting native species, removing non-native invaders, and wetland re-creation.
Prairie burns may be conducted in the spring to set back encroachment of woody plants and to invigorate native grasses adapted to periodic fire. Prairie burns are carried out in the fall to curb thick stands of grass and stimulate the germination of wildflowers—which typically begin to grow much earlier than prairie grasses.
Periodic woodland burns stimulate wildflowers by reducing the amount of organic debris on the ground, allowing more sunlight to reach young seedlings. These burns also thwart tree species like sugar maple, which can prevent oak seedlings from flourishing.
Invasion by non-native species is one of the biggest challenges that natural areas managers face. Invasive species often originate from other continents. Some were introduced for erosion control or wildlife cover due to their quick development and vigor.
Because of these qualities, some non-native species become invasive, growing well outside the areas where they were intended and outcompeting native species for space, sunlight, and nutrients.
Habitat managers combat invasive species with prescribed burning, mowing or cutting, herbicide application, and planting native plants. Homeowners can help by landscaping with native species instead of exotic plants.
Our restoration staff welcomes volunteers who would like to help with restoration efforts. Volunteering to help restore a natural area is a great activity for families, groups, or individuals who wish to benefit their community. Prescribed burns are held November through April at Sand Creek,
Rock Springs, Fort Daniel and Friends Creek Conservation Areas.
District staff plan these burns with
great care. Safety is our highest priority. We choose locations,
dates and times based on weather conditions. A key goal is keeping
smoke from blowing towards homes
and roadways. If you have questions or concerns, please contact
Upland Game Management
The Macon County Conservation District is accepting applications for upland game hunting at Friends Creek Conservation Area's Upland Game Management Area. Hunters must apply by September 24, 2012 for the one-day hunts.
The area is open for hunting on Nov. 3, 4, 7, 10, 14, 21, 24, 28 and Dec. 6, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23, 27, and 30. To apply, send an envelope containing a large (no. 10 business) self-addressed stamped envelope to:
Upland Game Hunt
Macon County Conservation District
3939 Nearing Lane
Decatur, IL 6252
The applicant must submit a letter which includes their name, photocopy of a valid 2012 Illinois hunting license and habitat stamp (if under 16, a hunter safety certificate number), and the date you wish to hunt. Applicants may submit only one application and only one date may be listed.
A drawing will be held to fill all available hunting dates, and participants will be notified if they were selected or not. Each hunter selected may bring up to three hunting partners to the hunting area. For more information call Rich Crowe at (217) 423-6796.
Deer Herd Management
White tailed deer are an important part of Macon County’s natural areas. Like many native species they are beautiful and have a place in the ecosystem. But in many of our high quality conservation areas their numbers are so high that habitats are becoming unbalanced. Deer are large plant eaters and consume a great number of plants. As a result, their high numbers are reducing the native plant and animal populations including endangered species. Additionally, natural predators of deer such as mountain lions and wolf were eliminated from our county in the early days of settlement with no hope of returning. In their absence deer populations are able to grow unchecked.
To maintain a balance between the deer population and other species the Conservation District has initiated a limited archery hunting program. Monitoring takes place of deer habitat and their numbers so over harvest will be avoided.
Can we let nature take its course? The unfortunate reality is we may never be able to “let nature take its course”. The high reproductive capability of deer (each doe can have two fawns); lack of natural predators and limited suitable habitat mean deer numbers can become unmanageable to a point of jeopardizing themselves and communities they inhabit.
The Conservation District’s archery deer hunting program generally starts the first part of November and runs through the end of December. For more information about the Deer Herd Archery Program please contact us at 423-7708. The schedule will be posted here each year.
2012 Deer Herd Archery Program
Closed for 2012 - Deadline was Aug 31, 2012
Please check back in Summer 2013
Exotic Species Removal
You may see changes take place at Macon County Conservation District areas. As part of an effort to improve or restore natural habitat we may be removing exotic and invasive species of plants. Exotic species are those plants and animals that are from somewhere other than Macon County. Many of the problem exotic plants that we see in the conservation area are from Europe and Asia. Some of these exotics are very invasive and take over choking out native plants and displacing the animals that depend on those native plants for their survival. Removing exotic species is done by cutting, herbiciding or prescribed burning.