Macon County Conservation District Explore the Outdoors
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Natural Resource Restoration

Prescribed Fire

When settlers established farms and villages, they snuffed out the natural process of fire. Since 1978, the Macon County Conservation District has used prescribed burns to restore conservation areas.

District staff will be conducting prescribed burns in our prairies and woodlands from November to April. Prescribed fire is an important tool for habitat management because it helps control invasive species and stimulates new growth of native species. Safety and smoke management are our top priorities. If you have any questions please stop in or give us a call! (217) 423-7708

Fire consumes dead and decaying vegetation and controls invasive species of trees, shrubs and other plants. This reduces competition, allowing native plants proper access to water, nutrients and sunlight. Fire helps release nutrients in dead vegetation, returning it to the soil, and the blackened soil stimulates seed germination and plant growth in early spring.

Healthy natural areas help keep our environment stable. They preserve air and water quality, reduce soil runoff, and provide habitat for wildlife. Yet, today’s natural areas are subject to relentless pressures from development and competition from non-native species.

To restore the processes to which central Illinois habitats have adapted and to ensure these places are left for future generations, staff at the Macon County Conservation District use restoration and management practices such as prescribed burning, planting native species, removing non-native invaders, and wetland re-creation.

Prairie burns may be conducted in the spring to set back encroachment of woody plants and to invigorate native grasses adapted to periodic fire. Prairie burns are carried out in the fall to curb thick stands of grass and stimulate the germination of wildflowers—which typically begin to grow much earlier than prairie grasses.

Periodic woodland burns stimulate wildflowers by reducing the amount of organic debris on the ground, allowing more sunlight to reach young seedlings. These burns also thwart tree species like sugar maple, which can prevent oak seedlings from flourishing.

Invasion by non-native species is one of the biggest challenges that natural areas managers face. Invasive species often originate from other continents. Some were introduced for erosion control or wildlife cover due to their quick development and vigor.

Because of these qualities, some non-native species become invasive, growing well outside the areas where they were intended and outcompeting native species for space, sunlight, and nutrients.

Habitat managers combat invasive species with prescribed burning, mowing or cutting, herbicide application, and planting native plants. Homeowners can help by landscaping with native species instead of exotic plants.

Our restoration staff welcomes volunteers who would like to help with restoration efforts. Volunteering to help restore a natural area is a great activity for families, groups, or individuals who wish to benefit their community. Prescribed burns are held November through April at Sand Creek, Rock Springs, Fort Daniel and Friends Creek Conservation Areas. District staff plan these burns with great care. Safety is our highest priority. We choose locations, dates and times based on weather conditions. A key goal is keeping smoke from blowing towards homes and roadways. If you have questions or concerns, please contact us: or 217-423-7708.

Deer Herd Management

White tailed deer are an important part of Macon County’s natural areas. Like many native species they are beautiful and have a place in the ecosystem. But in many of our high quality conservation areas their numbers are so high that habitats are becoming unbalanced. Deer are large plant eaters and consume a great number of plants. As a result, their high numbers are reducing the native plant and animal populations including endangered species. Additionally, natural predators of deer such as mountain lions and wolf were eliminated from our county in the early days of settlement with no hope of returning. In their absence deer populations are able to grow unchecked.

To maintain a balance between the deer population and other species the Conservation District has initiated a limited archery hunting program. Monitoring takes place of deer habitat and their numbers so over harvest will be avoided.

Can we let nature take its course? The unfortunate reality is we may never be able to “let nature take its course”. The high reproductive capability of deer (each doe can have two fawns); lack of natural predators and limited suitable habitat mean deer numbers can become unmanageable to a point of jeopardizing themselves and communities they inhabit.

The Conservation District’s archery deer hunting program generally starts the first part of November and runs through the end of December. For more information about the Deer Herd Archery Program please contact us at 423-7708.

2013 Deer Herd Archery Program
Deadline is August 30, 2013
- Lottery Drawing is September 6, 2013 at 3 p.m.
Season runs from October 25-December 20, 2013
Exceptions--There will be no hunting allowed during the Illinois Firearm Deer Seasons (Nov. 22, 23, 24, or Dec. 5, 6, 7, 8) or on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28)

Fort Daniel application
Fort Daniel Hunt Map

Friends Creek application
Friends Creek Hunt Map
Rock Springs application
Rock Springs Hunt Map
Sand Creek application
Sand Creek Hunt Map
2013 Regulations
Hunter Fact Sheet 2013

Exotic Species Removal

You may see changes take place at Macon County Conservation District areas. As part of an effort to improve or restore natural habitat we may be removing exotic and invasive species of plants. Exotic species are those plants and animals that are from somewhere other than Macon County. Many of the problem exotic plants that we see in the conservation area are from Europe and Asia. Some of these exotics are very invasive and take over choking out native plants and displacing the animals that depend on those native plants for their survival. Removing exotic species is done by cutting, herbiciding or prescribed burning.


Today's Sunrise Sunset in Decatur, IL:
    Sunrise is at: 5:35 AM
    Sunset is at: 8:10 PM

What can you do at the Nature Center?

Visit Our Conservation Areas

Rock Springs Conservation Area
Friends Creek Conservation Area
Sand Creek Conservation Area
Griswold Conservation Area
Fort Daniel Conservation Area



The Macon County Conservation District invites you to visit the many natural areas in Macon County, Illinois, including Rock Springs Nature Center, which offers nature programs, special activities, nature hikes, summer camps, music programs, conference rooms for all ages throughout the year in Decatur, Illinois.
Macon County Conservation District
3939 Nearing Lane
Decatur, IL 62521
(217) 423-7708

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