January 18, 2022

Southern Illinois conservation efforts awarded grants

WASHINGTON — Two locally driven Illinois projects were among 85 public/private partnerships nationwide awarded funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

The partnership projects are aimed at improving water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habit, address climate change and protect agricultural viability.

Illinois recipients were the Shawnee Resource Conservation and Development Area and Kinkaid-Reed’s Creek Conservancy District.

Shawnee

An oak ecosystem restoration project proposed by the Shawnee Resource Conservation and Development Area will receive $1.1 million in funding over the next five years.

The Southern Illinois Oak Ecosystem Restoration project will allow for the targeted implementation of forest conservation practices on an estimated 4,000 acres of private land in Union, Alexander, Johnson, Pope and Hardin counties.

“This new project stems from the fact that the historically dominant oak forests of southern Illinois are failing to regenerate, which has created a crisis for biodiversity in the region, including migrant songbirds and several game species,” said Illinois State Conservationist Ivan Dozier.

“Using RCPP, Shawnee Resource Conservation Development Area and partners will target restoration activities to several ‘forest stewardship clusters,’ in five counties which are ecologically significant areas that include a mosaic of state, federal and privately owned lands.”

American Bird Conservancy and the University of Illinois will model and monitor project activities to report on outcomes.

“In the short-term, this project will help local landowners afford to implement important conservation practices while providing work for local contractors. But in the long-term, healthy oak ecosystems are vital to the economy of southern Illinois,” said Kevin Rohling, SRCD chair.

“This project epitomizes the mission of the SRCD by promoting the conservation, development and wise use of the region’s natural resources. We are proud to be the lead partner on this project.”

“Projects like this one offer impactful and measurable outcomes,” said Ron Ziehm, assistant state conservationist. “The great thing about RCPP is how local partners offer value-added contributions to amplify the impact of federal RCPP funding.”

Contributing partners to this project include SRCD, Illinois DNR, The Nature Conservancy and the University of Illinois.

Since it’s founding in 1967, the SRCD has served the southernmost Illinois region as a source for resource conservation, environmental education and economic development.

Kinkaid-Reed

Kinkaid-Reed’s Creek Conservancy District has been awarded a 2021 Resource Conservation Partnership Program grant of $253,572. This grant will enable landowners in the Kinkaid Watershed area to obtain technical and financial assistance to address gully, sheet and rill erosion, stream bank and shoreline erosion that contribute to an estimated 77,600 tons of sediment entering Kinkaid Lake annually.

Kinkaid Lake provides drinking water to 30,000 people within 11 communities in the surrounding area. KRCCD along with its partners, Kinkaid Area Watershed Project, Jackson County Soil & Water Conservation District, NRCS, Illinois DNR and the U.S. Forest Service, will be working with local landowners in the watershed to help implement conservation practices that help to reduce the sediment load entering Kinkaid Lake.

The KRCCD was created by referendum vote in June 1963. The district boundaries are 13 townships all within Jackson County. The primary purpose for the creation of the district was to build Kinkaid Lake for a municipal water supply with tourism and recreation as a side benefit for the area. Crisenberry Dam was completed in 1971 and Kinkaid Lake filled in 1972.

RCPP

Through RCPP, conservation partners work in collaboration with NRCS to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners throughout the nation to implement systems that conserve water and soil resources, improve the health of wildlife habitats and increase climate resilience.

RCPP partners offer value-added contributions to amplify the impact of RCPP funding. These projects offer impactful and measurable outcomes. Throughout its history, RCPP has leveraged partner contributions of more than $1 for every $1 invested by USDA, resulting in nearly $3 billion collectively invested in natural resource conservation on private lands.

USDA anticipates the investments with the 85 new projects will generate at least $440 million in additional conservation funds by communities and other partners.

Tom Doran

Tom Doran

Field Editor