Durbin: Illinois Conservation Projects Receive $2.7 Million Through Farm Bill Program

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded a total of $2.7 million in funding for three local conservation projects aimed at protecting wildlife and improving soil quality along waterways in Illinois. Today’s funding was made available through the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which was created in the Farm Bill that Congress passed last year.

In May 2014, USDA designated both the Mississippi River Basin and the Great Lakes as “Critical Conservation Areas” under a new RCPP program. In an April 2014 letter, Durbin and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) wrote Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in support of this designation. Under today’s announcement, conservation projects outside of Illinois associated with the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin also received funding. More information is available here.

“Funding through this new USDA initiative will support local conservation efforts to increase sustainability and protect our waterways for generations to come. Illinois’ waters – including the Mississippi River Basin and the Great Lakes – provide drinking water to millions of Americans, act as major economic arteries for our state’s producer and farmers, and bring commerce and tourism to our region,” Durbin said.


The following projects are funded under today’s announcement:


  • The Illinois Department Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences: $500,000 to protect wildlife in Northeast Illinois by creating temporary wetlands and improving drainage water management, which also improves water quality and may lead to increases in crop production;
  • Illinois Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Land and Water Resources: $1,600,000 to improve soil and water quality by working with Illinois farmers to create a network of “Soil Health Model Farms” and identify effective farm management practices; and
  • Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District: $600,000 to develop ecologically and economically practices to reduce soil erosion and water quality.


The RCPP streamlines conservation efforts by combining four programs into one, both finding savings while protecting some of our nation’s most sensitive lands. The RCPP competitively awards funds to conservation projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. These public-private partnerships will dramatically increase the capacity to fund conservation efforts nationwide and will spur economic growth.


As members of the Great Lakes Task Force, Durbin has consistently advocated for efforts to restore the Great Lakes to their most pristine status. The Great Lakes are a national treasure, a significant economic resource, and an invaluable recreational ecosystem going back centuries. In 2011, the University of Michigan released a study that showed 1.5 million jobs and $62 billion in wages were directly attributable to the Great Lakes. 

According to the Department of Agriculture, eligible partners under the RCPP include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives. With participating partners investing along with the Department, USDA’s $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program can leverage an additional $1.2 billion from partners for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation. Through RCPP, partners propose conservation projects to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands.


In addition to supporting local conservation goals, clean land and water investments create jobs in local communities. Conservation work can also provide an economic boost by spurring local tourism. Cleaner water and enhanced wildlife habitat provide additional opportunities for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation. The outdoor recreation economy supports 6.1 million direct jobs, $80 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue, and $646 billion in spending each year.