EAST PEORIA -- Governor George H. Ryan today signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The Nature Conservancy to allow for scientific exchange of information that will benefit the Illinois River Basin.
“Early on in my administration we focused our efforts on enhancing and restoring the Illinois River through Rivers 2020 and the Conservation Reserve and Enhancement Program,” Gov. Ryan said. “It’s taken generations for the Illinois River to deteriorate to the point where it is now. By working with The Nature Conservancy and the state of Mato Grosso, we’ll have a better understanding of what needs to be done to restore it.”
Illinois has been aggressively working to restore and enhance the Illinois River Basin under Governor Ryan’s administration through Rivers 2020 and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). Rivers 2020 is a 20-year, $2.5 billion plan Governor Ryan created to restore and enhance the Illinois River Basin. The Illinois CREP program is the most successful river restoration effort in the country, with more than 100,000 acres enrolled.
“We are very pleased the Governor has signed this Memorandum of Understanding,” said Michael Reuter, Chief Conservation Officer of The Nature Conservancy’s Illinois Chapter. “Working together with partners at the State of Illinois and the State of Mato Grosso, Brazil, we can share information and learn from each other’s research to impact the health of large floodplain rivers in a much greater way than we can individually.”
Brazil’s Pantanal Wetland, the world’s largest wetland, today is similar to what the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers were a century ago. The Memorandum of Understanding allows for scientists at the Illinois State Water Survey to communicate with and travel to Brazil to study with Brazilian scientists on issues effecting both Illinois and Brazilian river basins.
Restoration of the Illinois River is important not only from a conservation standpoint, but from an economic standpoint as well. The Illinois River Basin contains 10 million acres of prime farmland, nearly 90 percent of the state’s population lives within the Illinois River Basin and nearly a million people rely on it for their drinking water. The Illinois River sustains a wide variety of industries and is an important transportation system, each year more than 42-million tons of goods are shipped down the Illinois River.