Rivers Project


Environmental Stewardship

Mission Statement:

“. . . to manage and conserve those natural resources, consistent with ecosystem management principles, while providing quality public outdoor recreation experiences to serve the needs of present and future generations.”
 Managed Lands
The Forest Cover Act provides authority for the Corps to manage project lands and waters for any or all conservation purposes, including fish and wildlife conservation. Therefore, the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and federally owned land surrounding the rivers are managed by the Rivers Project Office. Environmental Stewardship managed lands are in Illinois and Missouri, along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. The lands acquired consist of 47,757 acres and 63,489 acres of jurisdictional waters. Some of these lands are managed in cooperation with US Fish & Wildlife Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Missouri Department of Conservation. The following is a breakdown of managed land acreages:

US Army Corps of Engineers - 13,945 acres

US Fish & Wildlife Service - 7,272 acres

Illinois Department of Natural Resources – 14,616 acres

Missouri Department of Conservation – 10,441 acres
 Forest and Woodland Management
The Forest Cover Act provides a statutory mandate for multiple use forest management, or other vegetative cover management, on project lands and waters. Forest and woodland management will be applied to develop, maintain, protect, and/or improve vegetation conditions for timber, fish, wildlife, soils, recreation, water quality, and other beneficial uses.

On going activities for forest and woodland management include:

Systemic Forest Management Plan - Navigation and Environmental Sustainability Program

Sustainable Forest Ecosystem - OMP’s (Operational Management Plans)

Natural Resource Inventories – Digital Imagery and Analysis

Reforestation – Agricultural Lands and Old Fields Conversions

Forest Management – Silviculture and Selective Harvesting

Invasive and Exotic Species - Eradication Management

Natural Resource Based Recreation - Watchable Wildlife
 Fish and Wildlife Management
The Rivers Project Office will conduct fish and wildlife management activities which seek to maintain populations of targeted wildlife species through the manipulation and management of habitat. We will coordinate and conduct its program in conjunction with other Federal, state, and local agencies having fish and wildlife management responsibilities using a variety of techniques including the placement of artificial structures and other practices.

Where not managed by other Federal, state, and local agencies, we will conduct fish and wildlife management programs on all project lands and waters which are identified by land classification.
 Endangered Species Management
On Ellis Island , a least tern (Sterna antillaru) habitat construction project was completed in 2003. This project created an isolated, island sandbar habitat suitable for the least tern and other shorebirds to nest, with an adjacent foraging area. This area provided protection from unpredictable hydrology.

In 2009, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in close collaboration with the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, introduced an Interior Least Tern (LETE) nesting habitat on two sand filled barges. The floating habitat is located in Ellis Bay at Mississippi River Mile 201.7, within the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary. 

Download the "Interior Least Tern Floating Habitat Project Brochure"

The endangered decurrent false aster (Boltonia decurrens) populations are thriving in the EDA and therefore have been monitored for a number of years. This species prefers moist habitat but can tolerate drought. B. decurrens is an early successional disturbance species that requires alluvial soil disturbances every 3-5 years for its life cycle. Loss of a dynamic floodplain habitat is a major threat to this plant. The construction of levees, locks, and dams has altered the natural hydrologic cycle. These man-made structures cause a change in the natural hydrological cycle, by either lack of flooding or prolonged flood waters. The Flood of 1993 was a benefit to B. decurrens, by eliminating many competing plant species and allowing areas for new colonization.
 Grassland Management
Grassland management is within the mandate of the Forest Cover Act. We will provide for the protection and development of vegetative cover other than forests and woodlands as well as establish conservation measures for its maintenance. Grassland management techniques will be applied whenever the opportunity exists to protect native grasslands or prairie, and/or improve vegetative conditions as a soil conservation, watershed, protection, or fish and wildlife habitat. One of the ways in which to manage these grasslands is through prescribed burns.

Prescribed burns:

In late winter/early spring, between the 2nd week of February through the 4th week of March, Riverlands Rangers conduct prescribed burns on the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary and in the American Bottoms. The up-most caution is taken when lighting and controlling such burns. Environmental Protection Agency permits are acquired prior to each burn season. Local fire departments, adjacent land owners, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and other such agencies and person are contacted prior to initiating burning.

The primary purpose of this action is to promote the germination and growth of new and existing stands of native warm season grasses and forbs by eliminating vegetative debris, recycling nutrients, reducing the composition and population sizes of competing species and creating desired conditions for optimal growth. This action is necessary for sustaining warm season grasses and forbs.

The secondary reason for this action is to minimize the invasion of woody species. The heat generated from the fire in a prescribed burn will often eliminate vulnerable woody species. The elimination of these invaders through fire will help maintain the prairie system and reduce cost of removing woody species by other means.

Here is the prescription followed for prairie burns:

  • Fire Technique: Backfires, in conjunction with a flank and head-fires will be conducted.
  • Desired Fire Behavior: The fires should consist of deep penetrating heat with 2-20’ tall flames. The rate of speed for the fire shall be 1-5 m.p.h.
  • Average Slope: Minimal sloping occurs in burn area
  • Season: Late winter / early spring
  • Time of day: Late morning through early afternoon.
  • Fuel Condition: Dry, with some moisture
  • Relative Humidity: 50% - 90%
  • Wind Speed / Direction: North, Northwest, West, Southwest, South at 5-15 m.p.h. (depending on area to be burned)
  • Air Temperature / Stability: 50° - 75° F
 Wetlands Management
The Forest Cover Act provides for the development of other vegetative cover, such as wetlands, so as to yield maximum benefit and otherwise improve such areas. Wetlands are those areas inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence or vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.
 Soils Management
All land management prescriptions developed for use at water resources development projects will integrate the constraints and favorable characteristics associated with specific soil types and land use capabilities. Land uses and conservation practices recommended by the Natural Resources Conservation Service for each land use capability class are carefully considered during the development of management practices.
Partnerships have been made with several local organizations to accomplish common goals. Association with the Audubon Society has lead to building Least Tern Island , as well as several blinds to monitor bird populations. Work with local Boy/Girl Scouts has lead to work being done on trails and boardwalks, building bird houses and informational signs. All Eagle Scouts that complete their projects will have their name on a plaque at the Rivers Project Office. Work with the Living Lands & Waters and the Sierra Club allows us to clean-up the river shorelines. The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited are two other partners that aid our efforts for habitat restoration.
Community outreach provides environmental stewardship of natural, cultural, and created resources. It is a tool to encourage students to pursue careers in mathematics and science. Relevant interpretive services and outreach programs can enhance the visitor’s experience by providing interpretive resources. The Rivers Project Office implements comprehensive interpretive services and outreach programs designed to enhance public understanding and appreciation for the lands and waters we manage.
 Collaborative Efforts
Forest Management - Rock Island and St. Paul Districts
Upland and Riparian Land Boundaries – Bureau of Land Management