Lee County recognized advocate for outstanding wildlife conservation efforts

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WIFR) – Lois Helms was one of six nominees recognized by the Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP) of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) for their stewardship of Illinois’ natural resources.

Helms, a resident of Lee County and conservation advocate is named IRAP Landowner of the Year for 2021.

“IDNR is grateful for landowners like Lois and her family, who have shown true dedication to improve habitat for wild game and ecologically important species like pollinators,” said IDNR Director Colleen Callahan. “We appreciate their enthusiasm for providing new generations with the opportunity to enjoy memorable recreational experiences and learn about land management.”

Helms, who died in early 2022, was a longtime participant in the program with her husband, William, who initially enrolled the couple’s land in IRAP in 2012. The Helms wanted to ensure it was cared for and available to youth for recreational and learning opportunities. even after his death, according to the couple’s daughter, Mindy Berge.

“We assured our father we would do all we could to keep the property as he wanted it to be, and we have received wonderful support from IRAP,” Berge said, noting that the family intends to remain in the program so that future generations of their family and the public can enjoy the land.

The Landowner of the Year award is presented to a landowner enrolled in the IRAP program who has demonstrated outstanding wildlife management, habitat improvement and conservation practices while allowing public access on private through the IRAP initiative.

The Helms family devoted attention to restoring the ecological quality of their property, including adding native tree and grassland plantings, prescribed burns, and removing invasive and non-native species from the property, all allowing access to youth, first-time hunters , and veteran hunters who otherwise would have nowhere else to hunt.

Other 2021 nominees were:

  • Father and son Jack and Andrew Robertson (Whiteside, Morgan, Scott and Macoupin counties)
  • Blake Hiltabrand (Bureau County)
  • Don Dobrinich (Montgomery County)
  • Jonna Krueger (Macoupin County)
  • Tom Held (Calhoun County)

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