SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the state will provide nearly $491,000 in matching funds to support a $946,000 grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to protect threatened and endangered species. The grants, funded through the Landowner Incentive Program (LIP), will help private landowners enhance, protect or restore habitat for at-risk species along the Lower Sangamon River Watershed (LSRW) and Alton Bluffs area.
“This program is an example of landowners and state government working cooperatively together to conserve native habitat. The areas that have been chosen for the pilot program are some of the most unique, diverse habitats in the state, so this investment will not just benefit today’s generation, but many generations to come,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
“Private citizen-landowners are key to the state’s resource conservation and enhancement efforts,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Acting Director Sam Flood. “The LIP program gives landowners an incentive to work cooperatively with the state and help us meet objectives that have been identified as being critical to the state’s habitat conservation efforts.”
The LIP program was first offered to states on a national level in 2002 to establish or supplement existing landowner incentive programs. These programs provide technical or financial assistance to private landowners for the protection and management of habitat for at-risk species. There are two levels of LIP funding – up to $180,000 in Tier 1 funds are available annually to states for administrative costs associated with program development and implementation. Tier 2 funds are available for project implementation, monitoring and assessment. Unlike Tier 1 funds, caps for Tier 2 funds are determined from year to year.
Illinois was first awarded $180,000 in a Tier 1 Grant to develop a LIP program in November 2004. The state decided to focus on three counties – Cass, Menard and Sangamon – to develop a small pilot. In September 2005, the state received $705,000 to develop LIP in the Lower Sangamon River Watershed, which resulted in 15 projects that are currently underway. The area was selected because it has some of the state’s most unique habitat remnants, with over 48 state-listed and four federally-listed threatened and endangered animal species. The area also has over 28 state-listed and one federally-listed threatened and endangered plant species.
This year’s grants will support key projects critical to the state’s habitat enhancement efforts, including: funding for 250 landowners to restore, enhance and manage their properties for habitat for species at risk; increase the quality of habitat for up to 48 species at risk in key conservation opportunity areas; restore or enhance 200 acres of woodland areas and conduct research to help reduce soil erosion and identify land and water resources that could benefit at risk species.
“This program is a great opportunity for landowners to get involved with the state’s conservation management efforts. These grants have saved hundreds of acres of key habitat from destruction and have benefited species ranging from mud turtles, red headed woodpeckers, slender glass lizards, to wood ducks and barn owls,” said Mike Conlin, director of IDNR’s Office of Resource Conservation.
“We’ve made every effort to ensure effective implementation of LIP based on goals identified in the Wildlife Action Plan as being most critical to reversing the decline of native species in Illinois. This work couldn’t be done without partners including the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture, along with local soil and water conservation districts and conservation organizations assisting in this effort,” said Debbie Bruce, program support administrator for the IDNR.
The federally-funded LIP program is administered by the USFWS, and implemented on the state level by the IDNR. Since the inception of the program, Illinois LIP has received nearly $2 million in funding to develop and implement LIP projects. This year, nearly $20 million in funding was awarded to 42 states across the United States.