Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois



"The Inventory of Resource Rich Areas in Illinois" 
and the Critical Trends Assessment Project

Map of Resource Rich Areas

The following "Inventory of Resource Rich Areas in Illinois" is a product of the Critical Trends Assessment Project and the Ecosystems Program of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Both are funded largely through Conservation 2000, a six-year State of Illinois program to en hance nature protection, sport, and outdoor recreation by reversing the decline of the state's ecosystems.

Conservation 2000 is the culmination of three recent natural resource initiatives in Illinois. First, investigators for the Critical Trends As sessment Project inventoried and analyzed existing environmental, ecological, and economic data as part of an effort to establish baseline condi tions from which future changes in ecological conditions might be mea sured. Phase I of CTAP, completed in the fall of 1994, concluded that:


  • the emission and discharge of regulated pollutants over the past 20 years has declined in Illinois, in some cases dramatically;
  • existing data suggest that the condition of natural systems in Il linois is rapidly declining as a result of fragmentation and continued stress;
  • data designed to monitor compliance with environmental regulations or the status of individual species are not sufficient to assess ecological health statewide.
  • The Illinois Conservation Congress and Governor Edgar's Water Resources and Land Use Priorities Task Force underlined the urgency of these find ings. The Conservation Congress concluded that better stewardship of the state's land and water resources could be achieved by managing them on an ecosystem basis. Traditional management and assessment practices focus primarily on the protection of relatively small tracts of land (usually under public ownership) and the cultivation of sin gle species (usually game animals or rare and endangered plants and animals). However, ecosystems extend beyond the boundaries of the largest parks, nature pre serves, and fish and wildlife areas. Unless landscapes are managed on this larger scale, it will prove impossible to preserve, protect, and per petuate Illinois' richly diverse natural resource base.

    It plainly being impossible for Illinois governments to acquire resources on the ecosystem scale when more than 90% of the state's land area is pri vately owned, the Task Force and the Congress called for public agencies and private landowners to cooperate in a new approach to natural resources programs. If landowners can protect, enhance, or restore precious natural resources through enlightened private management, the need for public ac quisition can reduced.

    The Congress and the Task Force agreed that such programs ought to be:


  • organized on a regional scale;
  • voluntary and incentive-based;
  • guided by comprehensive and comprehensible ecosystem-based scientific information;
  • initiated at the grassroots rather than in Springfield.
  • Finally, the Congress and the Task Force agreed that natural resource pro tection need not hamper local economic development but may enhance it through tourism and outdoor recreation.

    CTAP described the reality of ecosystem decline in Illinois, and the Con gress and the Task Force laid out principles for new approaches to revers ing it. Conservation 2000 is designed to achieve that reversal. This six -year initiative will implement a number of the recommendations of the Con gress and the Task Force, drawing on $100 million to fund nine new pro grams in three State of Illinois agencies.

    One of these programs is IDNR's Ecosystems Program, whose purpose is to support cooperative public-private partnerships that merge natural resource stewardship with compatible economic and recreation al development. The program redirects existing department programs to support new local and re gional resource protection initiatives. The Ecosystems Program also is the means by which the State of Illinois may support Ecosystem Partnerships. These are coalitions of local and regional interests seeking to maintain and enhance ecological and economic conditions in local landscapes (usu ally defined by watershed boundaries). In addition to coordinating its own programs with those of its local partners, the Ecosystems Program will:


  • provide technical assistance to the partnerships, such as resource management plans for use by participating landowners;
  • assess resources in the area encompassed by each Ecosystem Part nership, collecting data that the local partners themselves may use to set project priorities and design projects and supplying scientific support to ecosystem partners, including on-going monitoring of Ecosystem Partnership areas;
  • fund site-specific ecosystem projects recommended by each partner ship. Such projects may involve habitat protection and improvement, technical assistance, research, and education, including projects that seek to expand on the rela tionships between natural resources, economic development, and recreation.
  • The landscape level approach to identifying and managing natural resources is critical to the long-term preservation of the rich heritage of Illi nois. This publication identifies and describes large areas where such re sources are concentrated. Four parameters were used in the analysis: for ests, wetlands, Illinois Natural Areas Inventory sites, and Biologically Significant Streams. Watersheds were used as the geographic unit for evaluation.

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