December 18, 2014

Pollinator Panel

pollinator final


There’s been a lot of concern lately about our pollinator friends amidst reports of declining populations of bees and other beneficial insects.  The loss of pollinators is of great concern because many agricultural crops would be less productive and of lower quality without certain insects.  Insect pollinators provide us with essential services valued in the billions of dollars.

Pollinators face multiple threats, including habitat destruction, disease, parasites, and insecticides.  By understanding these threats and seeking to minimize them, we can better protect the health of pollinators and ourselves. The future of our food supply is not the only thing at risk here.  Insects also pollinate plants that are not crops, and make the world as we know it possible.

Prairie Rivers Network invites you to attend a Pollinator Panel, which we are co-sponsoring with Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District and University of Illinois Extension.  Four panelists will discuss threats to pollinators and what homeowners and farmers can do to help.  We have organized this panel because efforts that protect pollinators will ultimately benefit our lakes and streams.  For example, flowering prairie plantings established along streams to attract pollinators will simultaneously buffer the streams from any upgradient, polluted stormwater runoff.

Thursday, January 22, 2015
University of Illinois Extension Building Auditorium
801 N. Country Fair Drive, Champaign

Seating is limited.

May Berenbaum – University of Illinois
Emil Blobaum – Beekeeper
Jason Bleich – Pheasants Forever
Sandy Mason – UIUC Extension

December 3, 2014

Earn Money for PRN While You Shop this Holiday Season

Shop At Amazon

If you shop online using, you can shop at and .5% will be donated to Prairie Rivers Network. is just like shopping at

If you already have an Amazon account, just go to and sign in with your account information and enter Prairie Rivers Network as your charitable organization.

If you don’t already have an Amazon account, you can create one when you go to



December 2, 2014



November 26, 2014

State Strategy Falls Flat as Overload of Nutrients Harms Illinois Waters

Too many of Illinois' recreational lakes have algae problems (pictured: Lake Dawson at Moraine View State Park)

Too many of Illinois’ recreational lakes have algae problems (pictured: Lake Dawson at Moraine View State Park)

CHAMPAIGN, IL — Yesterday’s release of the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture importantly recognizes one of the state’s most serious water pollution problems: Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from farms and sewage treatment plants harming Illinois waters and contributing to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. However, environmental organizations say the proposed strategy falls short of laying out needed targets and programs to resolve this critical water quality issue.

The Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force (led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and including the Illinois Department of Agriculture) asked Illinois and other Mississippi River Basin states to tackle the problem by developing strategies to reduce the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen flowing out of rivers from each state. The science suggests that at least a 45% reduction is needed to address Illinois’ contribution to the nutrient pollution of the Gulf of Mexico, and much deeper reductions are needed to resolve nutrient problems in many rivers and lakes within Illinois.

If the nutrient reduction strategies are to work, they must contain effective limits on the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that can be discharged into lakes and streams. While the Illinois strategy describes many good principles and options for reducing nutrient pollution, it primarily relies on voluntary actions with no enforceable benchmarks.

“The Illinois government needs to insist that those causing the problem take action in a timely manner so that this decades-old problem can finally be resolved,” said Stacy James, a water resources scientist at Prairie Rivers Network, which along with the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and the Sierra Club is calling for stricter policies.  {Continue Reading »}

November 19, 2014

IDOA approves factory farm over local objections

Save Our Sandy continues to fight this mega-hog operation.

Save Our Sandy!  Photo credit: Gary L. Smith/Journal Star

Photo credit: Gary L. Smith/Journal Star

Despite local objections, another large hog operation has been approved for construction by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Local Marshall County residents fear their new neighbor will pollute nearby beautiful Sandy Creek and foul the air with unbearable odors. For months Prairie Rivers Network has been providing assistance to these concerned citizens, known as Save Our Sandy. Even with this latest setback, Save Our Sandy is not giving up!  Visit their Facebook page to help.

Beautiful Sandy Creek. This is what Save Our Sandy is fighting to protect.

Beautiful Sandy Creek. This is what Save Our Sandy is fighting to protect.
Photo credit: Save Our Sandy

For a full story on the Department of Agriculture’s approval of the controversial Sandy Creek Lane, LLC hog operation, see this Peoria Journal Star article (PDF).

Long-term reform means changing the law. Prairie Rivers Network has been working to improve the livestock operation siting law so that neighbors have more rights and protection from pollution. We are currently trying to find a rural legislator willing to sponsor a bill that will address the law’s shortcomings.

How can you help?  One way is to sign our petition.

Help protect the people living next to factory farms!

Sign our petition to change the law.


November 6, 2014

A rural paradise lost

David Leifheit once lived on “a little slice of heaven” in Ogle County, about halfway between the churning metropolis of Chicago and the muddy waters of the Mississippi River, Illinois’ western border. He proudly maintained the home he built himself on his mother’s ancestral land – land homesteaded by his great-great-grandparents over 150 years ago. The house sat at the edge of an old and rich forest, overlooking a prairie which boasted two ponds and a sparkling stream running through it. From his porch, David kept vigil over more than 1,000 family monuments—trees his father had planted when young, now reaching high up into the pristine skies of rural Illinois. When David speaks of his former home, his voice takes on the unmistakable timbre of a man in love. And in mourning.

David still lives on this property, but it is no longer the same place. In 2006 trouble found its way into heaven. That summer, David received notice that a neighbor would be building a 4,800-head hog confinement a quarter of a mile from his home. David’s life has not been the same since.

hog factory = paradise lostIn rural Illinois it is easy to find stories similar to David’s. Stories of people who lived to be outdoors now retreating inside, shut off from the world of fresh air and open spaces that once defined and drove them. Stories of a farming paradise swept under by an unrelenting tide of factory farm stench and pollution. Stories of lives lived in confinement.

Like David, Nancy Spratt treasured her summers outdoors on her family farm, with children splashing in the pool and ducks swimming in the pond. But also like David, Nancy’s world has been remade by the presence of a nearby hog confinement and the shifting winds that now determine whether she can open her windows or even walk outside without retching.

How is such a horrible smell created? How many hogs have to die to create this?


“It’s been horrible in recent weeks. If it’s not at our house, it’s in town. It’s an everyday smell now. Twenty-four years ago, I could walk outside, breathe my fresh country air. And I think I have a right to do that. Since the hog facility came, we can’t open up our house. Should we have to live like that? We shouldn’t.

Nancy is quick to point out that she is under no illusion of what it is to live on and around farms. “We are farmers,” declares Nancy. “We have cattle, chickens and ducks. We take pride in our farm. We love our livestock, but I’m not an animal rights person. We raise cattle and we raise them to be butchered.”

Nancy is emphatic that these factory farms are, in fact, heavy industry, and nothing like farms at all.

Nancy SprattNancy Spratt

“How is such a horrible smell created? How many hogs have to die to create this? It makes me question whether they are running it properly, and it makes me wonder what the long-term health effects are of breathing this in everyday.”

“And you have to wonder about the runoff. Salt Creek runs right behind us. What is it doing to the soil? What are they pumping into the soil?”

Sometimes the stench will even invade Nancy’s home. {Continue Reading »}