Illinois Department of Transportation, Erica Borggren, Acting Secretary
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Marsh Rice Rat

Marsh Rice Rat

  Marsh Rice Rat

In November 2001, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) received an Authorization from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) for the incidental take of the state-threatened marsh rice rat (Oryzomys palustris). Through coordination, the IDNR and IDOT determined that complete avoidance of any take of marsh rice rats was not possible while the IDOT made necessary improvements to IL Rt. 3 in Alexander and Union Counties. To conserve or mitigate impacts to the marsh rice rat, the IDOT minimized the highway footprint, replaced lost habitat off-site and resurveyed the construction site and adjacent rights-of-ways for marsh rice rats after the improvements were completed.

In May 2001, before construction, a mammal survey was conducted by field biologists at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS). That survey resulted in the capture of five individual marsh rice rats at four locations within a study corridor of 100’ feet on either side of the existing highway centerline. In April 2007, a post-construction re-survey by the INHS at the same locations resulted in the capture of 27 individuals.


 

Indiana Bat

Indiana Bat
 

  Indiana Bat

The Illinois Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Design and Environment, Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, and Chicago office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) developed a plan in 2006 for a mist-netting survey in northeastern Illinois to determine if the federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) occurs in the region. The USFWS staff produced a list of 20 survey areas, primarily in public ownership, in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kankakee, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties that were deemed to provide high-quality summer habitat for the Indiana bat. Most of these areas included multiple netting sites. The Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) conducted the survey during the summers of 2006 and 2007. Mist netting was conducted for 87 nights at 43 sites. This represented a 176 net-nights of effort (1 net-night = 1 net checked for one night). Following this effort, no Indiana bats were captured by the INHS. The Indiana bat collected in Chicago in September 1928 remains the only record for the area. Results of the 2006-2007 survey suggest that the Indiana bat is extinct from the northeast corner of the state. Survey results will be used by the USFWS to clear a number of transportation projects over the next several years that involve impacts to suitable habitat for the Indiana bat.

Below are the results for the 2006 and 2007 mist netting surveys:

 
Forked Aster

Forked Aster
 

  Forked Aster (Aster furcatus)

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) proposed replacement of culverts on IL 71 through Starved Rock State Park. The project was submitted by the District to the Central Office for review in accordance with our environmental survey request process. During the review and early coordination with the Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), the IDOT was notified of the location of listed plants in the area and that Starved Rock State Park was listed as a Natural Area. The Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), funded by IDOT through a statewide contract, conducted surveys and found a state-threatened plant, Aster furcatus (Forked Aster) in the project area. Various on-site meetings were held with IDNR, INHS and IDOT personnel to determine how to avoid and/or minimize impacts to this plant. During an on-site meeting an additional population was discovered on the side of the canyon. It was agreed by the IDOT that temporary fencing could be placed during construction to avoid that population. The population was marked with flags by the INHS botanist. The population that occurred at and around the headwall of the culvert could not be avoided.

 

Discussions among IDNR, INHS and IDOT staff resulted in an agreement to dig the plants that were in the construction zone, have them held at a native plant nursery during construction and then replanted back to their original site after construction was completed. The plants were dug in June of 2005 prior to construction. It was planned to replant them in the fall of 2005 after construction was complete, however, construction was not complete in time to replant, so the plants were kept over the winter until the next spring. The plants that were over-wintered at the nursery had a normal to better than average survival rate. The plants were replanted in late March, 2006 and will be monitored for three years. This project was accomplished through extensive coordination and cooperation among the District, IDNR and Central Office.

 

Decurrent False Aster

Decurrent False Aster

 

  Decurrent False Aster (Boltonia deccurens)

The decurrent false aster (Boltonia decurrens) is a federally threatened plant whose range includes the floodplains of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers in Illinois and Missouri. At times, this plant is found within Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) project areas that are located in floodplains. The IDOT usually is able to avoid impacts to the plant; however, there are projects where this is not possible. An example is the planned New Mississippi River Bridge on the American Bottoms near St. Louis, Missouri. Early field studies located 22 colonies of the decurrent false aster scattered over a large area within the project's study area.  Botanical reports were coordinated with the United States Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), whose charge (among others) is to protect endangered and threatened species. In response to the submittal, the USFWS prepared a technical assistance letter and recommended that the IDOT prepare a Biological Assessment (BA) to address the mitigation of impacts to the decurrent false aster. A BA was prepared by the IDOT and coordinated with the USFWS. In their Biological Opinion (BO), the USFWS concluded that the project was not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species.

The BO includes four Conservation Recommendations. The recommendations are discretionary activities to minimize or avoid adverse effects of a proposed action on listed species or critical habitat, to help implement Recovery Plans or to develop information.   The four recommendations are as follows: monitor existing colonies of boltonia within the limits of the study area to determine if they are stable or expanding, establish colonies of boltonia within acquired wetland mitigation sites, monitor established colonies and acquire conservation easements on ground containing the largest concentrations of boltonia.

The IDOT agreed to implement the recommendations and to guide these activities a Recovery and Monitoring Plan for Boltonia was prepared by the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS). The five-year effort began in 2002.  Annual reports of the Decurrent False Aster (Boltonia decurrens) Recovery Project were prepared by the INHS. The effort concluded in 2006.The USFWS, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the IDOT met in 2007 to discuss results of the effort. A Boltonia Presentation summarizing early coordination with the USFWS and the conclusions of annual reports was given by the IDOT. The INHS concluded that none of the existing 22 colonies of boltonia that were monitored could be considered stable or expanding (a goal of the decurrent false aster Recovery Team) and attempts to establish new colonies within wetland compensation sites failed. INHS scientist’s conclusions parallel current knowledge of boltonia, that absent flood disturbance the species tends to decline and that the establishment of new colonies is more difficult that one might suspect given the species local distribution. The 80-acre IDOT-owned wetland mitigation site near Fairmont City, IL will be planned to conserve the decurrent false aster and may function as a conservation bank for the species on future IDOT projects. Termination of the effort to implement the conservation recommendations was documented in a letter to the USFWS.

Additional Information:


False Mallow

False Mallow

  False Mallow (Malvastrum hispidum)

A new interchange to replace the obsolete and under capacity interchange at I-55 at Arsenal Road was proposed to be built between the Des Plaines River and the Blodgett Road overpass near Channahon in Will County. The reason for construction of this new interchange was to safely accommodate increased semi-trailer truck traffic resulting from an intermodal facility built within the nearby former Joliet Army Ammunition Arsenal. Coordination with IDNR and USFWS resulted in numerous biological and wetland surveys being conducted between 2003 and 2009. Interchange design alternatives were carefully considered in order to avoid and minimize impacts to various natural resources.

Several populations of the state endangered false mallow (Malvastrum hispidum) occurred within the construction limits and would have been unavoidably impacted. False mallow occurs in only two counties in Illinois. In Will County it occurs in several locations within and near the project area. This annual species occurs in a very specific and rare habitat. The required habitat is dry to mesic dolomite prairie with soils a maximum of four inches deep over dolomite bedrock. Because this species is an annual species, transplantation would be inappropriate, as the plant dies at the end of the growing season. Its seeds then grow the following season, as well as persisting in the seedbank. The best mitigation strategy is to collect seed.

A commitment was made to collect seed from the plants to be impacted and to distribute the seeds to qualified biologists who would then plant them in appropriate nearby habitat. This would keep the genetic material of the affected plants near adjacent populations. Seed harvest was planned to occur during the growing season right before construction was to begin.

Construction is planned starting late fall 2009 or early spring 2010. IDOT District One staked the construction limits of the project in August 2009. In September 2009 the Illinois Natural History Survey botanist received permission from the various landowners housing the plants, collected the seeds and gave them to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie per prior agreement. Midewin biologists then plan to distribute the seeds later in fall or winter 2009-2010 in a dolomite prairie area recently restored by removal of a raised railroad bed placed there by the Army. The area contains the appropriate shallow dolomitic soils and has already been overseeded with native seeds from nearby locations.
 


 

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