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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 17, 1999

Governor Signs Agreement Expanding Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture adding the LaMoine River watershed in west-central Illinois to the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, expanding efforts to encourage landowners to participate in the long term initiative to restore and protect the Illinois River.

"The LaMoine is second only to the Spoon River in the amount of sediment dumped annually into the Illinois River," Ryan said. "Working with landowners in the LaMoine basin and those along other key tributaries, we can make progress in preserving the economic and environmental health of the Illinois River watershed."

Governor Ryan signed the agreement with the USDA Farm Service Agency adding the LaMoine River watershed to the area in which landowners who voluntarily protect their most erodible crop land may be eligible for expanded benefits. The agreement expands Illinois Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) eligibility to landowners in Adams, Brown, Hancock, McDonough and Schuyler counties.

"Ground will be taken out of production, the soil will remain on the river banks, farmers doing their part for the well-being of the Illinois River will be compensated, and the public will gain long-term benefits."

The program provides incentive payments and technical assistance to farm owners who plant grasses and trees and restore wetlands to reduce top soil loss, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat in the Illinois River basin. Farmers who voluntarily agree to extend their USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts beyond 15 years, or agree to grant permanent conservation easements, receive bonus payments from the state.

The initial focus of the 15-year, $459-million Illinois CREP initiative is 100,000 acres of the most highly erodible land adjacent to the middle Illinois and Peoria Lake sections of the Illinois River and the watersheds of tributaries including the Lower Fox, Vermillion, Kankakee, Mackinaw, Spoon, Lower Sangamon and LaMoine rivers.

"We are delighted that landowners in the LaMoine watershed have stepped forward to be included in the Illinois CREP," said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Brent Manning. "Their commitment sends a signal that CREP makes sense for the economy and the environment all along the Illinois River."

Eighty landowners have expressed interest in signing permanent easements for land surrounding the LaMoine River, providing a corridor of protection that will help the state achieve its goal of reducing sediment runoff by 20 percent in the Illinois River basin.

"I think it is very important that Illinois is adding the LaMoine River into the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program," said USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Bill Gradle.

"The addition will help local landowners make great strides in conservation that will protect and improve the quality of the Illinois River's natural resources, especially in these economically difficult times."

The agencies also work closely with county Soil and Water Conservation Districts, which provide program information, administrative support and promote landowner interest in the Illinois CREP and other resource conservation programs.

"The strong interest in the conservation benefits of the CREP program by landowners in the LaMoine River watershed area has been overwhelming," said Steve Stalcup, executive director of the Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts. "We're pleased by Governor Ryan's and the Farm Service Agency's action to add this area to the CREP program."


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