SPRINGFIELD - Governor George H. Ryan today announced the release of $8.5 million for conservation projects on floodplain and other highly erodible land as part of the Illinois River Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).
“The Illinois River CREP is the nation’s most successful river basin restoration effort and serves as the foundation for my Illinois Rivers 2020 initiative to restore the long term health of this vital waterway,” Ryan said. “This funding provides even more landowners with the tools they need to reduce topsoil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance habitat for wildlife and aquatic life throughout the Illinois River basin.”
The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program is a joint state-federal land conservation program providing financial incentives and technical assistance to owners of floodplain land and adjacent environmentally sensitive agricultural lands in the Illinois River watershed. Participation in the program is entirely voluntary. It provides assistance to landowners who agree to plant trees and grasses, create buffers, expand or restore wetlands, and implement other conservation practices to reduce river sedimentation and chemical runoff.
Landowners agreeing to extend their contracts through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) beyond 15 years, or agreeing to permanent conservation easements, receive bonus payments from the state, and are eligible for state and
federal financial assistance in installing conservation practices on their land.
Since 1998, state appropriations totaling $48 million have resulted in the commitment of $260 million in federal funding for the Illinois River CREP. The funding announced today will allow 125 landowners throughout the Illinois River basin to enroll approximately 9,500 acres in permanent conservation easements.
During Governor Ryan’s administration, the Illinois CREP has been expanded three times through the addition of the LaMoine River watershed in west-central Illinois in 1999, the Sangamon River basin in central Illinois in 2000, and the inclusion of the balance of the Illinois River watershed in 2001. During Governor Ryan’s tenure, nearly 5,000 landowners have enrolled more than 108,000 acres in the program, including approximately 62,000 acres now protected through permanent conservation easements.
In all, more than 5,500 landowners along the Illinois River and its tributaries have enrolled 118,000 acres of flood-prone, environmentally sensitive cropland in CREP.