Biological Hot Spots

o	Bell Smith Springs is one of 80 natural areas on Shawnee National Forest.


About 7,000 acres of the forest’s most biologically diverse places, often called natural areas, are the focus of a new conservation effort. “Barrens, glades, seeps and springs are just a few of the rare and unique places that we strive to conserve,” says Matthew Lechner, who oversees natural resources’ management at Shawnee National Forest.

Often called biological hot spots, natural areas support so many species that scientists call them genetic banks. Illinois surveyed its lands and waters to identify its rare places. This effort, called the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory, documented 1,200 such places. Of these, about 80 are found at Shawnee National Forest. View and learn more about these special places in Natural Areas of the Shawnee National Forest booklet.

The Forest Service is working with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Shawnee Resource Conservation & Development to develop and implement management plans for these sites. A new Illinois state wildlife action grant provides on-the-ground support.

Conservation partners also working on natural areas includes Native Plant Society, River to River Cooperative Weed Management Area, Sierra Club, Southern Illinois Prescribed Burn Association and Southern Illinois University.

Illinois Indigenous Plant Symposium - April 13-15

Illinois Native Plant Society will host the 2018 Indigenous Plant Symposium focusing on Shawnee Natural Areas: Hotspots of Biodiversity. Featuring a variety of speakers the symposium will host guest speakers who are experts on the region’s natural areas; beginning with keynote speaker, Gerould Wilhelm talking about why it’s important to save and manage natural areas.

The symposium's sessions will be split into two tracks: Understanding Natural Areas, for those who are just learning about natural areas, and Getting More Technical, for people who want to delve into the science of managing natural areas. Participants also will have the opportunity to attend guided hikes on Friday and Sunday. 

Visit the Illinois Native Plant Society website for event schedule and registration details.