URBANA – Attorney and philanthropist John Simmons recently donated a 170-acre island, appraised at $250,000, to the Lewis and Clark Community College Foundation to be utilized by the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC).
An official signing of the deed to the foundation took place at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 24, in the lobby of the Jerry F. Costello Confluence Field Station.
The forested island, located in Calhoun County in the Upper Mississippi River, provides an ideal setting for both research and conservation, said Lyle Guyon, the center’s terrestrial ecologist.
"Land is an enabling and precious resource for research and outreach, particularly in river islands that have unique and dynamic ecosystems," said University of Illinois associate dean for research Jozef Kokini in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. "This generous gift from John Simmons will provide many new opportunities for research, new discoveries, support to our communities, and answers to previously unanswered questions about our rivers and other natural resources."
Guyon said the land will allow NGRREC to sustainably manage the island’s natural floodplain forest and wetland communities, ensuring that they continue to provide benefits to the numerous wildlife, waterfowl, and migratory bird species that are dependent on riverine habitats. A long-term ecological monitoring project will be initiated to study the vegetation and wildlife that inhabit this part of the river. “Researchers will be able to actively explore the effectiveness of specific methods to restore habitat diversity, as well as the long-term impacts of those efforts on wildlife communities,” Guyon said.
The island will also provide an educational location where Lewis and Clark and the University of Illinois (both partners of NGRREC) will be able to train the next generation of ecologists.
Lewis and Clark Community College President and NGRREC Chair Dale Chapman said Simmons’s gift will prove an extremely useful site for the long-term monitoring projects the center is currently conducting along the rivers. “This island, which is located adjacent to Rip Rap Landing State Fish and Wildlife Area and Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge, provides an ideal setting for both conservation and research,” Chapman said.
Simmons has owned the island since 2003. “This River Bend area has an abundance of wildlife and natural history. I’m happy my donation will help in the mission of NGRREC to protect and sustain the river environment,” Simmons said.
NGRREC is an innovative center for research, education, and outreach located near the confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers in East Alton, Ill. The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center is a partnership of Lewis and Clark Community College, the University of Illinois, and the Prairie Research Institute’s Illinois Natural History Survey.
For more information about NGRREC, visit www.ngrrec.org.