Success Story - Fledgling Floodplain Attracts Endangered Crane
Illinois Success Story
Fledgling Floodplain Attracts Endangered Crane
By: Jody Christiansen, NRCS Public Affairs Specialist
Date: March 2008
Who would believe that within a year of restoring a floodplain, an endangered
species could find a newly restored wetland along an Illinois River? But more
important, it is a breeding pair of whooping cranes. These cranes are considered
one of the most endangered wetland dependant species in North America. To have a
pair stop along their migration, well, “it was spectacular,” said Dave Hiatt,
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) wildlife biologist.
Immediately after its restoration, the floodplain in Lawrence County began
storing rainwater and floodwaters, creating an oasis for migrating and regional
wildlife. The area provided food and shelter for birds and mammals all winter.
“To see an endangered species return to former migration patterns so soon is
remarkable,” said Bill Gradle, NRCS State Conservationist. “This is a real
testament to what these restored floodplains have to offer.”
The land resides in the historical Purgatory Swamp which lies between the
Wabash and Embarras Rivers. Over time it has been drained and farmed. “When I
first saw this land I thought it was fantastic for restoration,” said landowner
Ray McCormick. “It was a restoration just waiting to happen.” It didn’t take
long for the 330 acre site to respond. As soon as the restoration work was
completed, the rains came and it began ponding water. After the winter thaw, the
river swelled and created a nice wet area that apparently was attractive for the
pair of whooping cranes. The cranes had previously been banded as 2009 No.4
Female and 2004 No. 16 Male, according to a source from the Patoka River
National Wildlife Refuge and Wildlife Management Area.
important feature of this floodplain is its location. Hiatt says, “This
particular floodplain easement is located within a contiguous area of 453 acres
of floodplains along the Embarras River.” It is becoming evident, contiguous
wetlands like these offer significant benefits for wildlife. Additional benefits
include flood prevention downstream and water quality protection.
Whooping cranes on a recently restored floodplain
funded through the Recovery Act of 2010.
(photographer landowner Ray McCormick)
The floodplain restoration was one of 11 restorations in Illinois funded
through the Administration’s 2010 America’s Recovery and Reinvestment Act
(Recovery Act). The NRCS used Recovery Act funding to offer landowners the
opportunity to apply through the Emergency Watershed Protection - Floodplain
Easement Program (EWP-FPE). The goal was to take cropland in flood prone areas
out of production and restore the land back to original conditions.
Though restoring a floodplain is not a quick process, it is obvious some
benefits are visible almost immediately. Not only have the whooping cranes
arrived, but the landowner has noticed a large increase of ducks and other
waterfowl. “This is a great program,” said McCormick, “I encourage birdwatchers
to come out and enjoy. I believe the public has the right see these areas. USDA
wetland programs are just what the whoopers ordered.”
To learn more about NRCS programs and services go to
Fledgling Floodplain Attracts Endangered Crane (PDF, 154kb)