Taking Action in Southern Illinois: About Let the Sun Shine In
Let the Sun Shine In (LSSI) was established in 2016 as a conservation program dedicated to restoring and maintaining southern Illinois’s Oak Ecosystems. LSSI works with federal, state, local, nongovernmental partners, and private landowners with the goals of addressing threats to woodland and forest communities, maintaining biodiversity, and reducing forest fragmentation.
By emphasizing the need for more sunlight in oak forests, LSSI created a science-based theme that has garnered tremendous public support and served to bring together a wide variety of partners. Equally important, the creation of priority forest clusters has allowed partners to focus and prioritize management activities and get the biggest bang for their conservation bucks.
Importantly, LSSI recognizes and emphasizes the critical stewardship role that private lands will play in saving oak forests in southern Illinois and is dedicated to helping private landowners sustainably manage their forests.
Program Coordinator, Mike Baltz, has been living and working in southern Illinois since 2000. He has a Masters Degree in Environmental Science from Miami University and a PhD in Ecology from the University of Missouri-Columbia. His area of expertise is avian ecology and he is a past Southern Illinois Projects Director for The Nature Conservancy.
The program is administered by the Shawnee Resource Conservation and Development Council.
A Vision for the Future
Oak-dominated forests cover hundreds of thousands of acres in; Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky, making-up an area known as the ‘central hardwoods’. These oak forests support many other species directly or indirectly – from deer and turkeys, to migrating songbirds, to wildflowers and pollinators. As such, a loss of oaks would be bad news for the species that depend on them.
The Let the Sun Shine In program is making great conservation strides in Illinois and is poised to do big things. As these successes continues to mount, we look forward to exporting this cutting-edge approach to neighboring states with oak forests and similar problems. And that could add up to letting a lot of sun shine into oak forests and making a BIG Difference!!