Coming Soon: Nature Weekend at Bremer!
For all ages. Click to see flyer.


NatureWeekend



Illinois Audubon Society Begins Fundraising to
Match Community Stewardship Challenge Grant

SPRINGFIELD, IL. The Illinois Audubon Society is launching a fundraising campaign for stewardship at its Helen and Betty Bremer Wildlife Sanctuary. The campaign is tied to a Community Stewardship Challenge Grant the Society received from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. The Foundation will match up to $7,000 dollars at a 3-to-1 ratio providing up to $21,000 in total support from the Foundation. Any funds received beyond the $7,000 will also be used for stewardship at Bremer. The completion of 400 hours of volunteer work at the Sanctuary will leverage an additional $4,000 in grant funds from the Foundation, and an additional $2,000 will be earned upon the completion of 100 hours of volunteer time related to publicizing events and volunteer workdays via social media.

The Helen and Betty Bremer Wildlife Sanctuary (HBB) is located near Hillsboro, Illinois, in Montgomery County. In 1977, Helen and Betty Bremer began to donate parcels of their property to the Illinois Audubon Society. The Illinois Audubon Society came into possession of all 203 acres in 1999. In Helen’s words, “I am the fourth and the last generation of my family and we never wanted to see this land torn up into plots or sold for the construction of houses. We want the wildlife to have access to it in perpetuity.” In keeping with the wishes of the Bremer sisters, the goal at the sanctuary is to provide habitat for forest, savanna and grassland birds.

Volunteer stewards at the Helen and Betty Bremer Wildlife Sanctuary are continuously restoring the site’s grasslands and woodlands, but controlling non-native plant species remains the most serious challenge to maintaining the sanctuary’s management goals.

Funds from the Community Stewardship Challenge Grant will be used to remove invasives from a particularly heavily infested area of approximately 13 acres, reseed that area with woodland plants and repair an eroded bank that will allow volunteers to move small machinery across the creek bed to restore and maintain trails. The grant will also provide assistance in purchasing stewardship tools and equipment.

Donations to the Helen and Betty Bremer Wildlife Sanctuary Community Stewardship Challenge Grant fund can be made out to the Illinois Audubon Society and sent to PO Box 2547, Springfield Illinois, 62708 or online at illinoisaudubon.org. Please indicate that your gift is for the "HBB Challenge Grant."


Bremer Visitors Urged To Use Little Free Library
    "With the addition of a new Little Free Library outside the barn of Bremer Sanctuary north of Hillsboro, guests can broaden their reading interests while visiting the conservation area. The invitation is simple – take a book, return a book.
   The idea for this sharing system began in 2009 when, according to the website www.littlefreelibrary.org, Todd Bol of Hudson, WI, built a scale model of a one-room schoolhouse in tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard with the sign, "Free Books." Neighbors and friends loved it, so Bol built several more and gave them away. He then partnered with Rich Brooks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison to spread Bol's idea via youth and community development and social media.
   Growth over the years has been tremendous, with approximately 15,000 registered Little Free Library locations around the world as of January 2014. The one at Bremer honors the late Richard Slepicka of Hillsboro. "Richard had a passion for literature, evidenced by his opening of a book store, So Many Books (now Books & Moore), his founding of a local book club, and his 'second job' as an instructor of literature for Lincoln Land Community College," said project organizer Terry Trader.
    "The Little Free Library offers a way to honor Richard by carrying on his efforts to promote literacy and an appreciation for literature. He was also passionate about nature and had served on the Bremer Sanctuary board," Trader said. "By locating the Little Free Library at Bremer, it is hoped that more people will visit the Sanctuary and will use and cherish a natural resource that Montgomery County
is so very lucky to have."
   Trader said that both nonfiction and fiction books are welcome, including nature, history, biographies, sci-fi, poetry, even westerns – Louis L'Amour was a favorite author on Richard's light reading list.
   "Books were Richard's passion throughout his life," said his wife, Nancy. "And Bremer Sanctuary became his focus after we retired from the newspaper. I know he'd be pleased to see this Little Free Library at his favorite place."



Why Do We Do Prescribed Burns At Bremer?
   Each of us grew up with Smokey the Bear’s admonishment “only you can prevent forest fires”. At one time, fire was thought to be only detrimental – never beneficial AND necessary – to healthy ecosystems. The catastrophic fires in our western states that have destroyed thousands of acres of forests and have resulted in the loss of many human lives are a result of this aversion to fire.
   Historically, fire resulted from occasional lightning strikes. Later, Native Americans used fire as a hunting tool, to burn vegetation around their campsites to prevent a lightning-induced wildfire from destroying the settlement and in warfare. Fire still is used by indigent peoples to prepare land for farming.
   Fire is now recognized as an integral part of healthy ecosystems and all ecosystems are fire-adapted. Fire reduces fuel load (dead woody vegetation and leaf litter) that, if left unchecked, results in conflagrations. Prairies are fire-dependent communities. Fire maintains prairie ecosystems by preventing the encroachment of shrubs and trees. Because their growth is triggered by underground structures, prairie grasses and wildflowers are well-adapted to withstand fire.
   In forests, fire prevents fire-intolerant species (which in our area include maples and elms) from moving into drier uplands which are more likely to burn. By restricting the movement of fire intolerant species, fire prevents maples and elms from competing for nutrients and sunlight required by upland species such as oaks and hickories. The thick barks of mature hickories and oaks allow them to withstand fire.
   In any ecosystem, fire releases nutrients remaining in dead vegetation into the soil providing a quick influx of nutrients for a new generation of vegetation. In turn, this nutrient boost allows the ecosystem to thrive and provide abundant food for wildlife.
   Fire is used by restoration ecologists as a tool to rid an ecosystem of invasive (especially, non-native) species of vegetation such as the non-native honeysuckle that plagues Bremer. In this way, fire also encourages diversity since honeysuckle competes with native woodland wildflowers and trees for sunlight for germination and growth and for soil nutrients.
   Some of your young charges might question whether prescribed fires hurt or kill wildlife. We need to keep in mind that just as native plants are adapted to deal with fire, so too are our native animals. Although some might not survive a fire, most animals that are active at the time of year (after the breeding season and prior to the start of the next one) prescribed burns are conducted do escape. Those that burrow underground will retreat into their burrows while birds fly away or take shelter in tree cavities above the fire. Other animals hide under logs and others run away from the fire. Those insects that over-wintered as eggs or larvae and were overlooked by hungry burns might not survive. In the end however, enough insects do survive to quickly repopulate the area. Since fire maintains or creates suitable habitat and encourages the growth of nutrient rich food resources, wildlife in general benefits from fire.