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The Nature Conservancy announces $225,000 Ameren Corporation gift
to support Illinois River Project   
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[APRIL 2, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois River is one of the few remaining large-floodplain rivers in this country that maintains enough key natural qualities to allow it to regain its ecological health. The Nature Conservancy and its partners have been working on the Illinois River Project for more than a decade, using science to guide conservation work on a variety of projects throughout the basin. Healthy communities and economies rely on healthy water systems such as the Illinois River.

The Ameren Corporation Charitable Trust is supporting the river recovery work of the conservancy with a donation of $225,000. The announcement of the gift was made Wednesday at the Illinois State Museum by Michael Reuter, chief conservation officer for the conservancy in Illinois, and by Jim Davis, vice president of Division Operations and Gas Support for Ameren Corporation.

"The recovery of the Illinois River is a systemwide project, involving communities, public and private partners, and individuals up and down the river," said Reuter. "With the generous support of businesses such as Ameren Corporation, we're able to continue doing the recovery work which will lead to a healthy river, healthy communities and healthy economies."

The Ameren gift will be used to support the conservancy's work within the Illinois River Project, including programs with agricultural communities, floodplain and habitat restoration work along the river and its tributaries, and nature-based tourism. The Nature Conservancy has also been actively engaged in studying economic benefits of nature-based tourism and how it can add to local economies.

"At Ameren, we are committed to providing our customers with clean, reliable energy, while preserving, protecting and improving the environment," Davis said. "Our support of The Nature Conservancy's Illinois River Project is in keeping with Ameren's many other efforts to preserve and protect the environment, ranging from the way the lands and cooling lakes at our generating plants are managed to the Ameren SmartLights grant program for energy-efficient lighting projects," he said.

Ted Eubanks, founder of Fermata Inc., has worked closely with the conservancy and local communities along the Illinois River to help identify economic opportunities related to nature-based tourism. Working with the conservancy and the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Eubanks has been sharing ideas with local community leaders on how to engage their communities in the natural and economic benefits of conservation projects. Eubanks, who is also working with Lt. Gov. Quinn on developing nature-based tourism along the Illinois River, participated in the Ameren gift announcement.

"Nature-based tourism is big business for the state. In Illinois there are approximately 181,500 out-of-state nature tourists each year, amounting to $88.5 million per year in visitor spending," said Eubanks. "Birding and other nature tourism development and promotion in other parts of the country have helped to make significant economic contributions to local communities. For example, bird-watchers spent $7.4 billion nationwide in 2001 for food, lodging, transportation and other trip-related expenses and another $24.3 billion for wildlife-watching equipment and expenses," he said.

 

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The conservancy's Illinois River Project encompasses the river and its tributaries. Within the project area, the conservancy is working to mitigate the affects of sedimentation and runoff and is working with the agricultural community to find solutions that are good for farming and good for the river. In addition, at the Emiquon and Spunky Bottoms wetland restoration sites on the Illinois River, the conservancy is working to show the benefits of restoring the river's wetlands -- allowing river species to have the safe breeding grounds they need and bringing the added benefits of clean water, flood control, migrating waterfowl and nature-based family recreation opportunities to local communities.

"Ameren is proud to be a partner with Nature Conservancy's Illinois River Project, which will significantly improve the Illinois River and its tributaries while promoting the economy of the Illinois River Valley through ecotourism," Davis said.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization that preserves the 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 1 million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 15 million acres in the United States and have helped to preserve more than 102 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. In Illinois, its nearly 40,000 members have helped to protect approximately 76,000 acres of Illinois for future generations to enjoy. For more information, visit nature.org.

Ameren Corporation, with assets of $14.3 billion, owns a diverse mix of electric generating plants strategically located in its Midwest market with a capacity of more than 14,600 megawatts. Ameren serves 1.7 million electric customers and 500,000 natural gas customers in a 49,000-square-mile area of Illinois and Missouri. Ameren is based in St. Louis.

[News release from
The Nature Conservancy]

Related article from the LDN archives

"Spunky Bottoms -- a wetland returning to its natural rhythm," by Joan Crabb

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