From: The Nature Conservancy in Illinois
Published October 26, 2004 04:28 PM

Plan to update Critical Conservation Information in the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory

Chicago, IL — New plans are underway to update the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory, which identifies and classifies the state’s vanishing natural heritage. Its pioneering implementation, beginning in 1978, made it a profound agent of change, driving decisions at multiple levels of Illinois government.

“For 25 years, the Natural Areas Inventory identified and classified Illinois’ vanishing natural heritage and drove policy, appropriations and management decisions,” said Joel Brunsvold, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, at the 31st Natural Areas Conference. “The original inventory trained professionals, engaged the public and provided a body of information that allowed natural area protection programs in Illinois to expand. Now is the time to update it.”

The Nature Conservancy in Illinois recently received a $125,000 grant from Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and $20,000 from IDNR’s Wildlife Preservation Fund to develop a coordinated plan, in collaboration with the Illinois Natural History Survey, to update this vital conservation tool with new technology and knowledge.

“Critical information is needed to move forward with protecting the natural areas that remain in Illinois,” said Bruce Boyd, executive director of the Conservancy in Illinois. “Maps and information about natural areas and endangered species in Illinois will be updated, centralized and computerized. The process will incorporate new knowledge about landscape science, restoration, the dynamics of wildlife corridors and help us understand what plants and animals need to survive.”

State and local government officials, land trust leaders, landowners and land managers, rely on this critical conservation information to make knowledgeable decisions. Because their capacity to protect Illinois’ natural areas has increased, the inventory must expand to meet their need.

Although IDNR quarterly updates and maintains the INAI, a more extensive update is needed to take advantage of current knowledge in the fields of conservation biology, restoration ecology and historical ecology, which details past conditions. It also will include scientific discoveries made in the last 25 years. The new inventory will identify local and statewide areas of significance and consider the potential for restoring natural areas, while also maintaining large areas of habitat for some animals.

The first stage of the update is to coordinate and design a structure that not-for-profits, universities and partners with the IDNR and INHS can use to update and maintain the INAI. The selection of a Geographical Information System for recording and protecting information about the sites will be part of the first stage, along with identifying users and a method for assessing information. New protocols and processes will be used to gather, store and apply information. The end-product will be a new and fresh set of information about natural areas.

It is anticipated that the completed update will:

  • identify sites of local and statewide significance not yet recognized by the INAI;
  • assess current conditions of previously-identified natural areas;
  • survey selected plants and animals;
  • include a comprehensive database that is compatible with state agency systems;
  • have a Web site the where the public can access the information; and
  • note partnerships.

    Stakeholders that have programs and conduct activities that provide protection to Illinois’ natural areas will be included in the development of strategic plans for protecting the sites. The new inventory will provide more and better information, accessible across a wide range of users.


    The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 15 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 102 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit us on the Web at

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