After an absence of almost a decade The Nature Conservancy, a not-for-profit conservation group, will have a program director located in Southern Illinois.
Meredosia native Tharran Hobson has already accepted the post. He will be establishing an office in Southern Illinois, hopefully by the end of January.
“I’ve been with The Nature Conservancy for 20 years,” Hobson said. “I started my conservation career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and worked for the Illinois River Refuge system. That’s where I began my career in the early '90s. I worked for them for about five years, I started with the Conservancy.”
According to The Nature Conservancy’s website, the organization’s vision “is a world where the diversity of life thrives, and people act to conserve nature for its own sake and its ability to fulfill our needs and enrich or lives.”
Although he has spent most of his life and career around the Illinois River, Hobson is no stranger to Southern Illinois.
“I’ve advanced my career and moved up to restoration manager for our rivers program, which involved the Cache River,” he said. “I did do a little bit with the Cache, working with partners. About six years ago, I took on the Strike Team program. At that time it was two persons, at that time they were doing a lot of invasive species work around the Shawnee, working with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
“Over those six years, I’ve grown the program to where it is a five-person team. We call them a strike team at times, and other times the Interagency Habitat and Fuels Strike Team.”
The goals and vision of The Nature Conservancy dovetail nicely with Hobson’s plans for Southern Illinois.
“We’ve got three major goals in Southern Illinois,” he said. “The Conservancy over the last couple years has been developing our new shared conservation agenda for the entire conservancy. We have a set of overall goals, North American priorities. One of the priorities is to protect land and water on a scale that makes a difference, that matters. We are focused on resilient landscapes. Southern Illinois is a perfect example with the Shawnee National Forest.
“A key will be working with private landowners, there is a lot of good momentum going in in Southern Illinois with conservation. There is a lot of interest in bringing in grant money to work with private landowners. Also, working with the Forest Service to expand their prescribed burning. Right now they have a goal of tripling the acres they use prescribed fire on.”
Hobson said the size and stature of The Nature Conservancy should be a welcome addition to Southern Illinois.
“There are perhaps resources we can bring to the table,” he said. “Our staff has always been known to be innovative. We’d like to work with all the great partners down there to see what we can do to help restore oak hardwood systems, the Cache River Wetlands system and perhaps the Mississippi River floodplain systems. We don’t have a magic bullet or unlimited resources, but Southern Illinois is such a unique part of our state. It only makes sense that its one part of the state the Nature Conservancy would have a big interest.”