Posted Online: Dec. 06, 2012, 11:59 am

Blanding's Turtle Habitat Protected

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Press release submitted by Illinois Audubon Society

The Illinois Audubon Society announced today its acquisition and permanent protection of a rare and fragile Northern Illinois ecosystem. Amboy Marsh, located in southeastern Lee County, is a 272-acre wetland complex interspersed with black oak sand savannas, sedge meadows and dry sand prairie. According to Illinois Natural Area Inventory data, Amboy Marsh has unique natural features that attract and host one of Illinois' highest populations of nesting state-endangered Blanding's turtles.

Illinois Audubon Executive Director Tom Clay praised Chicago-based Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and Grand Victoria Foundation for their financial support of Amboy Marsh. "Like never before, and primarily due to these conservation-minded Foundations, Illinois land trusts are protecting some of our most vital lands," Clay said. "These Foundations and our members are preserving land for public use and benefit now and for generations to come."

Blanding's turtles are medium-sized, semi-aquatic, freshwater turtles that inhabit wetlands in parts of the upper Midwest, New York, New England and southern Canada. With comparable sea turtle and tortoise life history characteristics, they can live 70 years. Blanding's turtles reach sexual maturity at more than 20 years of age and have low reproductive potential. "When you consider the turtle's natural reproductive challenges and compound that with massive habitat loss, there is little wonder why Blanding's turtles are Illinois-endangered and nationally classified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need" said Anne Mankowski, Director of the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board.

Debra Carey, Chair of the Natural Area Guardian Committee of Lee County Soil & Water Conservation District, said "We have worked with the site owners, and neighboring land owners, since 1986, carrying out Blanding's turtle research. We could not be happier about Illinois Audubon's permanent protection of this site and we look forward to a long-term partnership with the Society to steward and study this rare and remarkable land."

Besides helping to cover the land cost, Grand Victoria and Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundations each granted dollars for near-term restoration as well and Grand Victoria's grant also includes support for long-term site stewardship. Illinois Audubon will immediately assemble an Amboy Marsh management team consisting of local, regional and statewide natural resource professionals. "Our goal is to have the site open for public day use by next summer," Clay said. "We also look forward to Amboy Marsh becoming a scientific research and environmental education resource for the community and the region."

The mission of the Illinois Audubon Society is to promote the perpetuation and appreciation of native plants and animals and the habitats that support them. The Illinois Audubon Society is a member supported, not-for-profit, statewide organization. Founded in 1897, the Society is Illinois' oldest private conservation organization with over 2300 members, 20 chapters and 13 affiliate groups. Illinois Audubon Society has protected over 3000 acres by investing more than $6 million to protect land and water throughout Illinois.