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Popular Illinois land conservation program reopens, enrollment begins June 15

SPRINGFIELD – Farmers, ranchers and agricultural landowners with property prone to flooding and nutrient runoff will have the opportunity to enroll in Illinois’ reopened land conservation program, now available in 68 counties.

The Illinois Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) – administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency (FSA) – is one of the oldest and most popular in the nation and an important tool in addressing climate change and natural resources conservation challenges.

“Programs like CREP provide critical support to private landowners who want to implement sound conservation practices on their property,” said IDNR Director Colleen Callahan. “These efforts help reduce runoff, protect our precious soil and improve wildlife habitat.”

Illinois CREP will reopen for enrollments June 15 for the first time since 2015. State funding for the program is provided through Gov. JB Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois capital program.

Through Illinois CREP, federal and state resources are made available to program participants to voluntarily enroll in 14-to-15-year federal CREP contracts and a subsequent 15-year or permanent conservation easement with the State of Illinois. It expands the voluntary, incentive-based Conservation Reserve Program available through FSA to Illinois agricultural producers and landowners within the Illinois and Kaskaskia River watersheds.

“CREP is one of our most flexible tools when it comes to voluntary, locally led, partner-drive conservation efforts, and we’re so glad we’re able to put it to work again in Illinois,” said Scott Halpin, USDA Farm Service Agency State Director in Illinois. “This initiative previously had a positive impact in Illinois, and we look forward to broadening the reach of the program to new agricultural producers and landscapes. We are so grateful to have support from Illinois leaders to make this program possible.”

Illinois CREP assists farmers, ranchers and agricultural landowners to improve water quality and conserve natural resources. Participants remove cropland and marginal pastureland from agricultural production and convert the land to grasses, trees or other approved vegetation. This improves water quality by reducing sediment and nutrients entering streams and rivers, and enhances fish and wildlife habitat in the project area.

In return, FSA provides participants with rental payments, a 50% cost-share payment for installing approved conservation practices, and incentive payments for certain practices. The State of Illinois provides a cost-share match in addition to a one-time payment for all land entered into an easement.

CREP conservation practices include of permanent native grasses, hardwood tree plantings, permanent wildlife habitats, shallow water areas for wildlife, filter strips, riparian buffers, wetland restorations, non-floodplain wetland restorations, and rare and declining habitat for prairie and oak savanna ecosystems.

The Illinois CREP includes all or portions of the following 68 counties in the Illinois and Kaskaskia river watersheds: Adams, Bond, Brown, Bureau, Calhoun, Cass, Champaign, Christian, Clinton, Coles, Cook, DeKalb, DeWitt, Douglas, DuPage, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Fulton, Greene, Grundy, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Iroquois, Jefferson, Jersey, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Knox, Lake, LaSalle, Lee, Livingston, Logan, McDonough, McHenry, McLean, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Mason, Menard, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie, Peoria, Perry, Piatt, Pike, Putnam, Randolph, St. Clair, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott, Shelby, Tazewell, Vermilion, Warren, Will and Woodford counties.

Interested farmers, ranchers and agricultural landowners are encouraged to contact the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Farm Service Agency or their local soil and water conservation district for more information about enrolling in Illinois CREP.