Plum Island Eagle Sanctuary
The Plum Island Eagle Sanctuary is a 52-acre island in the Illinois River owned by the Illinois Audubon Society. It was purchased March 24, 2004 to act as a wildlife sanctuary, to protect foraging habitat for wintering bald eagles. It is close to Matthiessen State Park and adjacent to Starved Rock State Park.
In 1950, the park acquired a state charter to use the island as an airstrip known as Starved Rock Airpark. A cable car shuttled visitors from the park to the island, where they could go on a plane ride for a fee. Severe flooding destroyed the cable car infrastructure in 1970. Plane rides stopped being offered in 1975, with the airstrip finally closing just before 1980.
When purchased in 2002, it had been slated by developers for development of fifty high-priced homes, and fully half of the island would have been bulldozed, destroying both bald eagle habitat and Native American burial sites. Audubon Society and its supporters successfully prevented Plum Island from being developed into a resort area and upscale condominiums. The group of supporters who accomplished this was led by the Illinois Audubon Society with substantial support from Friends of Plum Island, Midwest SOARRING Foundation, Starved Rock Audubon Society, Eagle Nature Foundation, Save Our American Raptors, the Sierra Club of Illinois, and then Illinois Lt. Governor (now Governor) Pat Quinn.
Funds to purchase the island were provided by a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. The Trust For Public Land also assisted with the purchase by negotiating with the developers and other legal aspects.
After acquiring the island, the Illinois Audubon Society gained the support of Living Lands and Waters, a river cleanup group led by Chad Pregracke. LL&W removed unsightly buildings and structures from the island during a month-long effort, hauling away the debris on their barge.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency provided a small grant to help fund removal of debris, old cabins and a boat from the island.
The island is closed to the public, except for restoration activities. The Illinois Audubon Society wanted to save the island for the eagles, to preserve the scenic view from Starved Rock, and to protect the Native American archaeological sites which are there.
The first release of rehabilitated eagles at the sanctuary occurred on November 12, 2011. Two juvenile bald eagles were rescued on June 2, 2011 after their nest fell 85 feet in a windstorm at the Mooseheart facility near Batavia, Illinois. They were rescued and raised by the Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation organization and were released back to the wild at Plum Island to blend with the current eagle population.
- Illinois Audubon Society: http://www.illinoisaudubon.org/MAINLINKS/LANDCONS/PLUMISLAND.html
- Eaglets heading back into the wild Linda Girardi, (Chicago) Sun-Times Media. Publishing instance: The Naperville Sun, October 23, 2011 P17
- "Eagle Habitat on Illinois River Protected". Retrieved 2011-02-12. Archived
- http://www.illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectID=1&RecNum=2875 Victory Rally to celebrate saving Plum Island from developers March 28, 2004 access date 2011-02-12
- ILLINOIS EPA CONTRIBUTES FUNDING TO PLUM ISLAND CLEANUP EFFORTS, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency press release, October 15, 2004
- http://www.illinoisaudubon.org/MAINLINKS/LANDCONS/PLUMISLAND.html Illinois Audubon Society Plum Island Eagle Sanctuary web page Retrieved 1026-11
- http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20111112/news/711129825/ Eaglets Rescued at Mooseheart Released at Starved Rock Marie Wilson, (Chicago) Daily Herald. Publishing instance: The Daily Herald, November 13, 2011