SPRINGFIELD – Governor George H. Ryan today released $5.25 million to the Department of Natural Resources for Conservation 2000, a broad-based program to manage the state’s privately owned natural resources.
“Conservation 2000 is a partnership between the state, local citizens and private landowners that is providing important land management, habitat enhancement and conservation projects in watersheds throughout Illinois that otherwise would not be possible,” Governor Ryan said. “It is a tremendous challenge to preserve and enhance Illinois’ landscape, when more than 90 percent of it is privately owned. Working together, the partners are meeting that challenge.”
Conservation 2000 has become a model program across the country. Since the program began, more than 39 Ecosystem Partnerships have developed, covering most of the state and its watersheds. The partnerships are made up of citizens in a region of the state who work together to improve their local environment. Grant funding is available from the state, but partnership members often contribute their own funding, as well as on-site labor.
So far, 50,600 acres of habitat, such as prairie, forest and wetlands have been restored. Another 5,000 acres are being protected through acquisition and conservation easements. In addition, more than 1,500 sites around the state are being monitored for their ecological health.
During the Ryan Administration, $19.75 million has been appropriated for on-the-ground Conservation 2000 projects. The Governor signed legislation continuing the program through 2009.
Conservation 2000 provides technical and financial assistance to landowners interested in improving and enhancing the ecology in environmentally sensitive watersheds throughout the state. The program provides funding for habitat protection and restoration, environmental education, planning and research projects proposed by the local watershed partnership organizations.
Prior to Conservation 2000, most of the state’s natural resource preservation and enhancement efforts were limited to public land.