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Bob Caveny of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources looks out over Lake Carlinville as he discusses plans to keep the lake from filling with sediment. Photos by Chris Young.

Partnerships benefit wildlife, water supply in Macoupin County

June 01, 2013 at 11:50 AM

The State Journal-Register

CARLINVILLE — Jay Greenwalt loves to see wildlife on his farm.

“I’m kind of a wildlife nut,” he said.

Greenwalt lives in Macoupin County south of Carlinville, and his interest in improving wildlife habitat also might be helping keep the town’s water supply clean.

He is one of several landowners working with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the city of Carlinville and various government agencies and nonprofit conservation groups to reduce sediment flow into a pair of lakes that are the source of the town’s water.

Called the Honey Creek Stewardship Project, the partnership encompasses a watershed that is about 15,481 acres in size.

And almost two-thirds of that area is in agriculture.

Bob Caveny, program coordinator for DNR’s Illinois Recreational Access Program, started enrolling landowners in a program that provides limited access for youth turkey hunting and other outdoors recreation.

Landowners receive lease payments if they agree to allow access, and DNR helps connect landowners with resources to maintain the woods and prairies enrolled.

“The Illinois Recreational Access Program signed up some landowners,” Caveny said. “Then later on down the line, Carlinville started to implement an Illinois (Environmental Protection Agency) 319 grant, to prevent sediment from going into Carlinville Lake.”

Then Caveny started connecting the various components.

“Bob has put this together in less than a year,” said Tammy Miller, manager of the DNR program. “It is a great partnership with all these different agencies.”

Caveny said the scope and costs of big projects are not so overwhelming when partnerships are formed.

“Not when you can use different programs and combine the grants together,” he said.

For starters, he has organized invasive-species removal and instituted forest management practices for participating landowners.

Aggressive, non-native species, such as bush honeysuckle, shade out other plants and allow the bare ground beneath the shrubs to erode.

Removing them allows vegetation to return and for the soil to be stabilized by plant roots.

And timber management allows landowners to occasionally harvest some trees while leaving the forest intact.

The city of Carlinville has about 600 acres of timber around two lakes and could see some economic return from a limited timber harvest.

DNR has 1,200 acres in the recreational access program so far, and another 225 acres are enrolled as a land and water reserve with the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission.

Native grass plantings, dry dams and other conservation practices can help prevent gully erosion.

Other conservation practices also are being implemented, such as planting native, deep-rooted grasses to help to stem gully erosion.

Dry dams, earthen berms that slow running water and allow sediment to settle out, are being constructed.

Macoupin Energy LLC has joined in by voluntarily planting 65 acres of native grasses as buffer zones around crop fields on its land.

Greenwalt will have several dry dams constructed on his property.

Fast moving water can carry a higher sediment load. If nothing slows it down, water will carry its load suspended all the way to Carlinville Lake.

“We’re trying to hit it from all directions, to stop as much sediment as possible and get the wildlife benefits, too” Caveny said. “Before we started, there were 21,000 cubic yards of sediment a year coming into Carlinville Lake.”

Efforts to reduce erosion by slowing the flow of water and allowing sediment to settle out before reaching the lake are part of a the Honey Creek Stewardship Project.

The work already is paying off.

“I put in a bunch (of land) in that CP 33 cover and set aside,” said Greenwalt of a conservation program that is designed to bolster quail habitat.

“What it has done for the wildlife is unbelievable,” he said. “I had six different coveys of quail this winter.”

Habitat benefits are multiplied when neighbors participate.

“When landowners start to work together, they create a larger block of habitat that we can use to build source populations to spread out across the landscape,” Caveny said.
In ecology, source populations produce enough offspring that some can move out to colonize other areas.

Caveny said the Honey Creek Stewardship Project serves as a model for others who want to accomplish the same goals.

“Relatively, it is one of the smaller watersheds,” he said. “But it will show how all the programs can work together, and moving them out to larger watersheds would be ideal for the future.”

Greenwalt is standing in his front yard while purple martins fly back and forth to a martin house. Migrating ducks take a break on the pond just behind the house.

He says he’s not sure what some of his neighbors will think of him “planting prairie grass and building brush piles.”

Watching his dog run around the yard, possibly on the trail of a rabbit or other critter, Greenwalt seems sure of his decision.

“I just think it’s nice to leave the land in a better shape than I found it.”

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow him at

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