TAMMS, Ill. — At the confluence of the Mississippi and Cache Rivers in Alexander County, farmers and landowners in Dogtooth Bend, who have been repeatedly affected by multi-year flood events, will soon be eligible to apply for financial assistance. Through a federal Farm Bill program offered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS), a new public-private partnership will enable landowners to voluntarily enroll in wetland reserve easements while also keeping their land.
NRCS’s Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) has allocated $14.36 million to enroll easement acres into NRCS wetland easements, supporting landowners and farmers who are seeking to phase out of crop production after repeated flood-related damages and losses.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the private non-profit partner, is contributing $583,000 to enable this program. A portion of the TNC contribution will create a new, full-time job through the Pulaski-Alexander Soil and Water Conservation District as it hires a staff person to assist in the enrollment process.
“The landowners of Dogtooth Bend have suffered economic and property losses due to repetitive flooding,” said Dale Shumaker, chairman of the Soil and Water Conservation District.“ We are pleased the Natural Resources Conservation Service and The Nature Conservancy recognize the need to act, and are providing this opportunity to not only offer support to those looking to move on from the difficulties of managing land in this flood zone, but are also taking a practical approach to restoring the landscape over the next several years.”
State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced, “NRCS will open a 30-day application period for WREP, beginning August 17 and closing September 17, 2020. We will announce more details about how to apply in the coming weeks.”
A coalition of public and private entities are working on a collaborative process to help implement this project. Multiple state, federal and private organizations are providing input towards the development of a ranking process for applications and restoration planning. Southern Illinois University will be monitoring the natural resource response to the project. The voluntary nature of the NRCS easement program supports willing landowners who, by enrollment, are enabling effective integration of wetland restoration on working landscapes. It is projected that over $25 million will be invested in wetland easement programs through this WREP partnership as well as through the NRCS’ emergency floodplain easement program over the life of the projects.
— USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
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