The 2016 Shawnee America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coin will be the first strike that year for the US Mint’s America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coin™ Program. It marks the thirty-first coin out of fifty-six that will be issued in the program which launched in 2010 and runs through 2021.
The America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008 which authorized the series dictates that each piece in the program be struck from five ounces of .999 fine silver to a diameter of three inches. Also, each coin will be edge inscribed with its weight and fineness. Five new pieces will appear under the program each year until the series has been completed.
This series is issued as a companion to the circulating America the Beautiful Quarter Dollars which will be released at approximately the same time. Both series will contain similar designs with all of the obverses having a portrait of George Washington, the first President of the United States, on them.
The reverse of the Shawnee strike will showcase a portion of Shawnee National Forest which is located in Illinois. Design candidates should appear for this coin in the first part of 2015 so that they may be reviewed by the appropriate groups and agencies such as the Citizen’s Coinage Advisory Committee and the Commission of Fine Arts. Their recommendations will be taken into consideration by the Treasury Secretary who is charged with making the final selection.
Each state in the union, the District of Columbia and the five US territories – Guam, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands will all be featured in this new series with one site of national interest chosen from each of those jurisdictions. A national interest site could include a national park, national forest, national monument, etc.
The US Mint will only sell these bullion strikes to its network of authorized purchasers. Participants in the network will then resell the pieces to coin dealers and individuals for a small premium over the spot price of the five ounces contained within them.
As the first strike in the program for 2016, it will be followed by four other coins honoring Cumberland Gap National Historical Park of Kentucky, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park of West Virginia, Theodore Roosevelt National Park of North Dakota and Fort Moultrie (Fort Sumter National Monument) of South Carolina.
Shawnee National Forest in Illinois
President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared two separately purchased units of land in the southern portion of Illinois as the Shawnee National Forest in September of 1939. This declaration was the culmination of almost a decade of work which included not only obtaining the desired acres, but also in the creation of a forest from old farmland.
Trees once covered much of this area, but through a century of both logging and farming the old-growth had been stripped from the land. Farmers needed to have clear wide-open spaces so that they could plow and plant their crops while loggers sold the trees they cut-down for lumber. But, by the 1930’s, most farming was deemed un-productive due to the soil being over-used or eroded away. Also, logging had practically died out in the area as few large trees were left.
A report had been completed on the feasibility of a re-forestation program and the results looked promising. Consequently, in the early 1930’s, several programs were begun to achieve that result. These programs were run under several different agencies including some of the social work programs of the era like the Civilian Conservation Corp. The CCC planted thousands of pine trees to stop the erosion and to start the process of rebuilding the soil.
Today, the forest consists of over a quarter of a million acres that provides visitors with countless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Those interested in wildlife can find hundreds of different species within the forest’s boundaries including 48 mammal species, 237 bird species, 52 reptile species, 57 amphibian species and 109 fish species.
All of these creatures along with a plethora of plants make the forest an ideal retreat for the people of Illinois and the surrounding area. In fact, even though Illinois is the 5th most populous state with the 25th largest land area, it only ranks 48th for the amount of land set aside for public use making the Shawnee National Forest a natural gem in the state.