"River Bend Wildland Trust"

Protect · Educate · Engage

What Will Your Land be in 25 years?

Posted by on Jun 29, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

wildflowers in a prairie

You know a prairie is special when the pale purple coneflowers and the big bluestem are balanced.

“68 acres saved in Mecklenburg and Lincoln Counties” the headline reads. No doubt the Catawba Lands Conservancy in North Carolina was working on this project for a year or more before it pieced the partners, resources, and will together to protect an urban forest and a corridor to a regional trail. Huge development pressure around Charlotte, NC makes deals like this both difficult and high priority.

What do we think about in terms of development pressure and relatively natural areas in the Quad Cities Area? How did you feel when the stately bur oak next to the Milk House in Viola was removed as the property was being redeveloped? What about that forest that is now a field, or the field that is now a lit-up parking lot surrounding a massive new building? How close does development need to be to your favorite view before you take action? When the family property sells, will the new owner care about the migrating birds, the water quality, or the generations of children that had their first experience of the great outdoors on this land?

children in the distance walking through a prairie

Remember when you first learned that prairies have wildflowers.

Long term conservation is a conscious choice that River Bend makes possible. Catawba is 25 years old with 15,000 acres protected and hundreds of supporting members. River Bend is starting its 4th year and growing our member support. Where will we be at 25? Will your favorite place exist? Contact us to discuss how permanent conservation can be incorporated into estate planning. Even if you cannot give the property away, we can probably help make conservation permanent. There is more information on our website under Conservation Options.


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Readying for Success

Posted by on Mar 5, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

An oak leaf, from a tree we planted or transplanted by the wind?

An oak leaf, from a tree we planted or transplanted by the wind?

If every seedling produced by the Illinois state tree nurseries were to survive, Illinois would no longer be called the Prairie State. So maybe I should not feel so bad after viewing the results of a 2012 tree planting.

Industries are built up around growing the perfect turf grass, high yielding commodity grains, and designer nursery plants, though when it comes to growing plants that support birds, bees, and butterflies, we are often on our own. This reality, combined with the tricks nature can play (and there are many), can ruin the best intentions.

Going by memory past a dozen or so homes on a dead end road, I parked as the sun was just above the horizon. The neighborhood was tired and questioned my presence even without a person in sight. If anyone was awake they are definitely wondering who I am and what I am doing, but no would call the police. They handle their own problems here. Trekking along the old access road over logs and debris left by the last flood, I could not imagine how I drove down this same path just a few years ago.

How tall would the trees be? Were they taken care of? Did the river impact their survival? Am I in the right place? The walk seemed much longer than when I drove. Rounding the final bend the memories rushed back.

It was mid-June. High water and wet conditions prevented the usual early spring planting. I pulled into the site well after dark. Candace had a fire started and her tent set up. Brad was joining us first thing in the morning. The 1989 Beast truck rumbling juxtaposed to the river’s edge stillness, illuminated by the Milky Way felt like a dream taking a turn, switching the smell of anxious diesel fumes to subtle campfire smoke and acoustic music on a radio in the distance. It was the night before the big game, this is what we were put on earth to accomplish.  At sunrise we offload the tractor and plant 5,400 river bottom hardwood trees.

One can imagine the feeling when I rounded the same bend almost four years later to see an empty, snow covered, mowed field. “Damn it!” I whispered under my breath walking out into the open field looking for clues under the snow. A redwing blackbird in the distance tried to cheer me up with its spring song. I kept walking, looking for signs of mowed off trees in the blanketed soft ground.

snow covered field

The first round of planting did not fair well. The sun rises over the river and so will this forest.

Would killing the invasive reed canary grass, as we recommended, have made things better? Spraying it at the exact time to get a good kill could have been difficult and would have had to be done on foot if the road was impassable. 2012 had a wet spring that turned to drought. I remember a rain shortly after planting, but do not recall if that was the last rain before October. If trees had survived, did the person mowing know to look for them? An oak leaf in the snow! Did they know that coppicing bareroot seedlings (cutting at the ground, mowing in this case) after 3 or 4 growing seasons is a good way get straight, fast growing trees from deer browsed oak bushes? Maybe another flood wiped them out a year later. I’ll bet the deer came down each row and ate the tops, uprooting each stem, laughing at our effort.

The advice of Joe Slater, a now retired wildlife biologist for the US Fish & Wildlife Service, resounded in the cold air. “River bottoms are a harsh environment. We plant hardwoods here because this is where they belong. If they die, get washed away, crowded out, or drowned, we replant and adjust our management for what we can control. If it happens again we replant. Conditions for survival may occur only once every few years. We have to be ready for success.”

oak leaf in the snow

Maybe there is a survivor.

How much time do we spend caring for a newly planted lawn in the first season and every year after? Farmers prepare the fields, plant in windows between springtime rains, control weeds, check for insect damage, and manage accordingly. What successful flower bed goes unweeded, unfertilized, and unwatered? When we plant a field of trees, what changes? If John Chapman had stayed in one place to manage his apple orchards would our culture around tree planting be different. The last time I planted an apple tree without a fence and armed guards it was destroyed by deer in two days.

I will make a call next week and speak with the landowner. Maybe there is something we can do. This land has been manipulated by humans for 150 years. Rejuvenating natural processes is going to take more than one day’s effort in late spring and a token mowing. When you hire someone, RBWT or other, to plant trees and 2 or 3 years of maintenance is included as part of the bid, no one is trying to milk your bank account. They are readying you for success.

Below freezing temperatures cannot keep the commercial fisherman at home.

Below freezing temperatures cannot keep the commercial fisherman at home.

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Spring is upon us, or I am just looking for it.

Posted by on Feb 25, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Man walking across a beaver dam

Jacob Smith crossing a beaver dam in the Milan Bottoms.

I have fondness for every season, but when the transition to the next occurs I am always excited. Friday’s (February 19) warm temperatures and high winds really got me going. Coming back from a meeting in Muscatine, Iowa, I gave Jacob Smith our intern a call. “Meet me at the Milan Bottoms in 30 minutes. It is time for an education.” Yearning for Spring we went for a walk into the still dormant wilderness. Young oak trees still had last year’s leaves. Ice still covered most of the Mississippi backwaters. Beavers had not started back to work, but someone forgot to tell the waterfowl it is still February.

Canada geese rarely get me excited anymore. Every golf course, storm water retention pond, and riverside park features a flock or two. Walking back to the road, conversation with Jacob, kept getting interrupted by the honking of geese flying over. Their silhouettes were outlined by the nearly full moon lighting our walk. We stopped, breathed in the warm, humid air and listened. For 5 minutes we listened to waves of geese, one after the other, gliding in to the Bottoms to rest for the night on their journey north.

Sycamore tree beside a frozen river

The Rookery Sycamore awaits it Spring companions.

This land is a special place. It is part of nature’s process. I have described the Milan Bottoms as a stopover on the Mississippi River flyway at least a hundred times in the past decade. But somehow it feels different now, witnessed, or maybe I am just longing for Spring and the geese my personal harbinger.

We conserve and restore land with support from our members. Join today to show your support.

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Member Meeting tonight!

Posted by on Feb 18, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

question mark butterfly

Third Thursday of Each Month: Member Meetings

When: Thursday February 18th Doors open at  6:00 program begins at 6:30 and should last less than an hour.

Where: Singing Bird Nature Center in Black Hawk Park (approximately 4450 15th Street, Rock Island, Illinois)

Who is invited: Past, Present, Future Members and Friends

Program: An Investigation of Butterfly Species Diversity in Rock Island/Moline, Illinois

Kassandra Tyra (Augustana College Class of 2016)

Summary: Urbanization is dramatically impacting our ecosystems, and we are losing biodiversity at unprecedented rates. These losses are occurring across all levels, from genetic to organismal. This study aimed to discover the extent to which urbanization has impacted butterfly biodiversity in the urban forests of Rock Island/Moline, Illinois.

Following the presentation there will be question and answer.

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S130/190 Field Day Training

Posted by on Feb 11, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

This is the Field Day portion of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) S130/190  Basic Wildland Firefighter Training.  If you are interested in learning prescribed burning techniques and safety for prescribed prairies and woodlands burns this is the course for you.

Course Date: Friday April 15, 2016, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Location: Illinois City, Illinois (Directions provided upon registration) 2 miles west of Muscatine, Iowa

Deadline for Registration: April 1, 2016

Deadline for online course completion (it takes about 36 hours): April 7, 2016


The intended audience is:

  1. Land Managers and Owners interested in learning how to use the natural process of prescribed fire to restore and maintain prairie and woodlands.
  2. Volunteer Land Stewards interested in doing land restoration with their host organizations.
  3. Rural Fire Departments: Grassfires and agricultural field fires account for most rural fire incidents. This course will apply standard firefighter techniques to this wildland setting teaching to fight fire with fire while earning a nationally recognized certification.
  4. Agency, NGO, and Contractor Employees: This course meets the standards for individuals participating in prescribed fire on federal lands and wildland fire incidents.

Woodland Burn

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Wolf Moon Hike Postponed to February 1

Posted by on Jan 26, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments



Due to cold rain and potentially freezing road conditions the Wolf Moon Hike is postponed until Monday, February 1, 2016.

See you at Milan Bottoms (5405 78th Avenue W, Milan, Illinois)

Monday, February 1, 4:30 pm to 8:00 pm

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Post Holiday Potluck Dinner

Posted by on Jan 11, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments


When: Thursday January 21st  6:00 to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Singing Bird Lodge in Black Hawk Park (approximately 4450 15th Street, Rock Island, IL)

Who is invited: Past, Present, Future members and friends

What to bring: A covered dish. Beverages, cups and place settings will be provided


Program: Eric Anderson our newly hired Executive Director will give a short presentation on recent activities and the active role that River Bend is taking as a conservation land trust in land protection, environmental education, and natural area restoration. RBWT has turned a corner and is about to become an even bigger player in Quad Cities conservation and community development. We will be working with private landowners and public entities in a bigger way to grow, connect, and restore natural areas.


If the any of the following topics are of interest, you should attend and consider becoming a member of River Bend Wildland Trust.

  • Nature
  • Improving water quality
  • Prescribed burning
  • Environmental education
  • Natural areas restoration
  • Prairie management
  • Forest management
  • Animal rehabilitation
  • Pollinators and their habitat
  • protecting land from development
  • Shaping smart growth of communities
  • Making sure your children do not turn the family farm into a subdivision
  • Indoor bee hives
  • Invasive species control


Announcements: River Bend Wildland Stewards: (our volunteer group) Member Meeting schedule and activities for 2016 will be announced.

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