Target: Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois
Goal: Fund efforts to save Illinois’ dwindling prairie chicken population
The greater prairie chicken is an icon of midwestern wildlife. Mark Twain once wrote about the bird, and it is even the logo of the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board. But the bird itself could soon disappear from the Illinois wilderness entirely. Fewer than 100 birds remain in Illinois’s grasslands. Without intervention, this year could be the last for the Illinois prairie chicken.
One hundred years ago, these birds — known for their peculiar plumage and distinctive mating calls — numbered in the millions. Hunting and habitat loss cut that number to 25,000 in 1933, when the bird became a protected species. Its population has only nosedived since; in the 1960s, only 2,000 birds remained, and today birdwatchers count just 48.
Agricultural development has cut away much of the natural grasslands the prairie chicken needs to survive. Conservationists have been hard at work preparing more than a thousand acres of habitat for the birds, but their efforts have not been sufficient. In 2011, a vicious hailstorm killed many birds, and 2012’s drought caused many chicks to starve to death.
Biologists from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources have been seeking funding to transplant birds from Kansas — a last hope at saving prairie chicken populations in Illinois. Urge the governor of Illinois to support these scientists in their efforts to restore the population of this once-abundant species.
Dear Governor Pat Quinn,
A century ago, the greater prairie chicken thrived in Illinois. Its numbers totaled in the millions. Thanks to its unique plumage and mating rituals, the bird soon became an icon of midwestern wildlife. Mark Twain has written about the Illinois prairie chicken, and its image is even the logo of the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board.
However, the prairie chicken might now be facing its last year in Illinois. Conservationists count just 48 birds living in the wild. Despite efforts to restore prairie habitats, unusual weather patterns have driven the prairie chicken’s population numbers down to critical levels in recent years. Drought and storms have killed young chicks. Given recent trends, it seems the species will not recover without intervention.
Prairie chickens must be transplanted from out of state if they are to survive in Illinois. I urge you to support the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and allocate badly-needed funds to save this iconic bird.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Wikimedia Commons