USDA Money Benefits Central Illinois

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Decatur - Projects designed to cut down on fertilizer runoff, expand bird nesting areas and restore native grasslands are among those selected for funding under a new initiative that encourages conservation partnerships between government and private organizations, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

The federal agency has approved 115 proposals in an initial round of funding under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which was authorized under national farm legislation that Congress enacted last year.

"This is a new approach to conservation," Vilsack stated. "We're giving private companies, local communities and other non-government partners a way to invest in a new era in conservation that ultimately benefits us all."

Three of the projects are in Illinois.  Water quality at Lake Decatur should benefit.

“We have almost half a million acres of corn and soybean fields that drain into Lake Decatur,” said Keith Alexander of the city water department.  “And this work reduces the amount of sediment and the amount of nutrients that run off from those fields.  It also means that our drinking water will also be improved.”

Migratory birds, including the American Golden-Plover, will benefit from conservation practices on farms that create temporary wetlands.  The Golden-Plover migrates through central Illinois on its way to the Arctic Circle each spring.

“It stops over literally in Macon County, Champaign County and East Central Illinois in the tens of thousands,” stated Dr. Michael Ward of the University of Illinois.  “We've been doing some monitoring for the last several years and we know certain areas where just leaving it wet for a couple of more weeks could have great benefits for the birds.”

(Pictured: American Golden-Plover)

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