All wildlife need a place to call their own, no matter if it’s a small habitat in a large city or an open field in a rural part of the country. That’s why the Wildlife Habitat Council, a nonprofit group dedicated to restoring wildlife habitats, developed a program called Wildlife at Work, which creates opportunities for corporate America to help preserve rural America. Monsanto’s Illiopolis, Ill. manufacturing facility is applying for participation in the program and partnering with local schools to turn 14 acres of the company’s land into a protected place for area wildlife.
This program caught the interest of Nick Winegar, Monsanto seed technician in Illiopolis, who heard other facilities were involved and saw successes with employees and the community. Fueled with his own passion to preserve the land, Winegar championed for his facility to take action.
“The main reason I wanted to get involved in this program came from my desire to do anything that involves improving the area’s wildlife,” Winegar said. “Every year, I’m required to make individual goals for myself at work, and this is part of my plan. I’m glad Monsanto is allowing me to pursue my interest in protecting our environment.”
Winegar is partnering with three local schools: Mt. Pulaski High School, where the students built goose nesting boxes to attract more wildlife; Sangamon Valley High School, which is currently designing picnic tables; and Tri-City Elementary, where students are raising quail to be released on the land next spring. Winegar and the Monsanto team are also growing Cave-In-Rock Switchgrass and Pheasant Country, two types of grass to serve as wildlife food and cover plants, to help encourage more animals to inhabit the restored grounds.
Although the main purpose of the Wildlife at Work program is to help preserve the environment, it has also taught the children of Mt. Pulaski High School a valuable lesson about community spirit and giving back to the environment.
“I think this program is an excellent thing for the kids to be involved in,” explained Ralph Allen, Mt. Pulaski ag teacher and FFA advisor. “To have the students work on a project that involves improving the community while working with a local business is a great opportunity. It’s great for a large company to set a good example, and I know the kids are excited to see their hard work put to good use.”
The Illiopolis Wildlife at Work program is currently under review by the Wildlife Habitat Council. Monsanto is expected to hear the results in October. If the site becomes certified, the 14 acres will be available for the entire community to enjoy and take part in preserving.