Conservation Priorities

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

The Illinois Wildlife Action Plan provides a means for public agencies, non-profit organizations and citizens to focus collective efforts on common goals. The Action Plan gives an overview of the major habitat types, their current condition, challenges to their integrity, and actions to conserve them. Assessments of the 15 ecological regions of Illinois focus on key natural communities and species, places with special importance for conserving wildlife, and opportunities for outdoor recreation. The assessments also denote regions with partners who are already working together locally.

Wildlife Highlights

The amount of forest in Illinois has doubled over the past century, but in spite of efforts like the Conservation Reserve Program, the state has less than half as much grassland today as in 1950. The Mississippi Flyway and Lake Michigan shoreline continue to bring spectacular concentrations of migratory birds to Illinois, and the state has long been a leader in identifying and conserving high-quality natural areas.

Bald eagles and river otters, once endangered, now thrive. Meanwhile, greater prairie chickens – the signature bird of the tallgrass prairie – barely hang on in the Prairie State. Water quality and many fish populations have greatly improved, but a quarter of our freshwater mussels are extinct or extirpated. Game animals like white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and Canada geese are doing well, while bobwhite are not.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in Illinois

In much of Illinois, intensive agriculture and development limit wildlife habitat. Carefully planned development, and incentives and technical assistance to landowners are keys to conserving wildlife species. Habitat fragmentation and fire suppression, among other factors, diminish habitat quality. Invasive species are an enormous problem. For example, Asian carp escaped from fish farms into the Mississippi River system. Now, Asian carp account for 90 percent of the biomass in some pools of the Illinois River and are threatening to invade the Great Lakes. Securing a future for Illinois’ wildlife will require a blend of maintaining the habitat we have, helping landowners restore some habitat that has been lost, and finding ways to balance economic needs and wildlife conservation.

Working Together for Illinois’ Wildlife

More than 850 people representing 150 agencies and organizations helped develop the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan. These partners represented diverse perspectives, and included the Illinois Farm Bureau, Field Trial Clubs of Illinois, and the Sierra Club. They also varied greatly in geographic scope, from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to municipal park districts. In the fall of 2004, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources hosted eight planning workshops for partners. Drafts of the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan were posted on our website, with hard copies sent on request, for two public comment periods in the spring and summer of 2005.

Grouped by habitat and issues, these seven overlapping “campaigns” outline the steps to take to reach our goals:

Farmland & Prairie Campaign

Expand and improve grassland, shrub and wetland habitats in agricultural landscapes, with economic incentives and technical assistance for private landowners.

Forests Campaign

Improve wildlife habitat, ecological integrity and economic value of the state’s forests and savannas through appropriate, sustainable forestry practices.

Wetlands Campaign

Restore and enhance wetlands for wildlife habitat, reduced flooding and improved water quality.

Streams Campaign

Reduce sedimentation and enhance biodiversity by protecting riparian areas, stabilizing stream banks, and repairing in-stream habitat.

Invasive Species Campaign

Prevent, contain and manage exotic plants, animals and diseases that threaten natural areas, wildlife and human health.

Land & Water Stewardship

Provide public and private land owners with the knowledge and tools to best manage healthy forests, grasslands, wetlands, streams and lakes with abundant wildlife.

Green Cities Campaign

Make cities and towns more livable through encouraging smart growth, protecting open space, and providing wildlife recreation opportunities.


The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.


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