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The ninth biennial Conference on the Management of the Illinois River System takes place October 7 to 9 at the Holiday Inn City Center. The first conference was held in 1987 and demonstrates the high priority placed on our natural resources.

The systems approach to river management will be emphasized throughout the conference. Speakers will address issues, programs, and future plans that will influence the Illinois River into the 21st century.

Kicking off the three-day conference will be an all-day conservation tour October 7. Participants will board a motorcoach and tour both rural and urban sites in Peoria and Tazewell counties. Restoration of native habitats, forest management, municipal wastewater treatment, brownfield redevelopment, backwater lake restoration, and lock and dam operations are part of the itinerary.

The conference is designed to bring together concerned citizens, agricultural, conservation and environmental organizations, industry and government representatives, educators, and resource management professionals. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who chairs the Illinois River Coordinating Council, will moderate an evening session October 7 that will be free and open to the public. 

The following two days of the conference will feature numerous speakers and topics at the City Centre. Keynote speaker Robert B. Flowers, Commander and Chief of Engineers at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will talk about "The Future of the Nation’s Waterways" at the closing luncheon October 9.

There’s a cost to attend; you can choose just the tour, specific days, or the entire three-day event. More information is available at www.heartlandwaterresources.org. You can also contact the Peoria County Farm Bureau for a complete itinerary.

An event that should be of interest to everyone in central Illinois is the Household Hazardous Waste Collection October 18 at Exposition Gardens, which is adjacent to Richwoods High School in Peoria. The collection is free to residents and takes place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is a great opportunity to clean out the garage or shed and get rid of old oil-based paints, solvents, garden insecticides, lawn herbicides, used motor oil, household and auto batteries, and numerous other hazardous products that may be on your property or in your possession. There’s a complete list of materials that will and won’t be accepted at www.peoriacounty.org. You can also contact the Farm Bureau for the list. At the collection site, trained technicians and chemists will unload the waste from your vehicle. The waste will be separated for proper disposal, which may include chemical detoxification, incineration, fuel blending, and recycling.

This type of collection doesn’t take place every year. In fact, the last one in Peoria County was in 1996. With the state in a budget crisis, it’s hard to predict when or if another collection will take place. The event is sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and Peoria County Recycling.

Satellite Images Now Available

Satellite images of all the land in Illinois and an analysis of how it’s being used are now available online through the Illinois Department of Agriculture. The detailed pictures and data complete the final phase of a three-year collaborative effort with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the National Agricultural Statistics Service, known as the Illinois Interagency Landscape Classification project.

Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke indicated the images, along with the data, will be instrumental in the effort to preserve precious farmland. The technology gives local governments and developers the tools to implement proper planning strategies without disturbing the state’s most productive farm ground.

The satellites can record ground reflectance from a small area of land cover. It allows users to zoom in and find out exactly how each acre of land is being used, such as crop production, forests, or urban build-up. It allows the Agriculture Department to track how much farm land has been converted to non-agricultural uses, as well as where the conversion has occurred and why.

IDNR uses the maps to monitor the state’s supply of woodlands, wetlands, and prairie, as well as the acreage of ponds, streams, and rivers. The National Agriculture Statistics Service can use the maps to verify the accuracy of its county crop acreage estimates.

The map can be accessed through the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s web site at www.agr.state.il.us. IBI

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