BANNER, IL – Today, Lt. Governor Pat Quinn launched a grassroots initiative to protect an area along the Illinois River from a proposed strip mine, which would threaten drinking water as well as habitats of the American Bald Eagle and American White Pelican. Local environmental advocates and elected officials joined Quinn at the site in Banner, Illinois – about 25 miles southwest of Peoria.
“Rice Lake, Banner Marsh and the Illinois River are too vital to the region for us to allow the devastating effects of strip mining,” Quinn said. “Strip mining on this site threatens the drinking water of local residents and habitat of eagles, pelicans and fish. It will reduce tourism potential, strain local water treatment systems, and pollute the Illinois River and Copperas Creek.”
This area is used each winter by hundreds of American Bald Eagles and is a major rest stop on the migratory flyway of the American White Pelican.
As Lieutenant Governor, Quinn chairs the Illinois River Coordinating Council, which is responsible for protecting the Illinois River and its tributaries. His office supported a project to dredge sediment from Peoria Lakes and ship it to nearby Banner Marsh and helped obtain Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) funding to protect local floodplain land.
As part of a grassroots initiative, Quinn launched an on-line petition drive (http://www.saveoureagles.org/
) and offered support to a local petition drive organized by the “Heart of Illinois Sierra Club”. He also released a letter to the Chicago-based mining company urging it to find a more appropriate use for the land.
The mining plan is being pushed by Capital Resources Development Company, which hopes to surface mine a 643-acre tract located between the Rice Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area and the Banner Marsh State Fish and Wildlife Area, a site less than a mile from the Illinois River. Mining operations could drain local wells, pollute water with heavy metals and possibly rupture the Banner sewage treatment plant. “There are appropriate places in Illinois for mining, but this isn’t one of them,” Quinn wrote in a letter to Capital Resources Development Company CEO Thomas Korman. “I urge your company to re-think this flawed idea.”
In addition to American Bald Eagles and American White Pelicans, the site is habitat to great blue herons, ospreys and other magnificent birds. The Rice Lake and Banner Marsh sites offer a range of nature-based tourism opportunities, including bird watching, hiking, biking, fishing, boating and camping. Further, efforts are underway to have nearby US 24 declared a “Route of the Voyageurs Scenic Byway”.
“Nature-based tourism is booming in Illinois, but this strip mine plan sends tourists and eagles packing,” Quinn said. “I urge everyone concerned with natural resources such as the Illinois River, wetlands or eagles to let your voices be heard. Sign our online petition; let your public officials know how you feel. We stopped the forces of destruction at Plum Island and we’re drawing a line in the sand here.”
In 2003, Quinn launched an online petition drive to save 83 eagles from the developer’s bulldozer on Plum Island, an island in the Illinois River near Utica. More than 26,000 people signed the petition forcing the developer to back down with his plan to build 50 luxury condos there.
“A century ago, President Teddy Roosevelt defined conservation of our nation’s natural resources as a noble, needed and patriotic thing to do,” Quinn said. “Let us honor his great love of the American outdoors by protecting the American White Pelicans and American Bald Eagles at Banner.”