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  Wetlands

VOLUNTARY INCENTIVE PROGRAMS

There is a total of over 223 separate federal, state, local, and private wetlands-related programs applicable to Illinois. Only a handful of these programs are regulatory. Most are non-regulatory and incentive-based. These non-regulatory programs provide private landowners the opportunity to preserve or enhance wetlands in ways not otherwise required by law. Participation in these programs is one of the major actions an individual can take to help improve the status of Illinois' wetland resources (Hubbell et al. 1995).

Participation in non-regulatory programs can cause some of the most immediately-visible, positive effects on wetland resources. These programs have very diverse approaches to protecting wetlands. They sponsor a variety of wetland acquisition, planning, education, restoration, and technical assistance activities. The relative effectiveness of each practice as a wetlands protection and improvement mechanism varies with each program (Illinois Department of Natural Resources 1997).

Although there are a number of programs providing funding for wetland research and educational activities, participation in some of these programs is limited to landowners. Sometimes participation is limited to only those landowners who already have viable wetlands on their property. A few of the most popular federal and state non-regulatory programs that directly interact with landowners and provide incentives or assistance for the protection, restoration, and/or enhancement of wetlands on private property are discussed in detail.

Wetland Reserve Program (WRP)
Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) The WRP was established in a 1990 amendment to the NFSA. It is administered by the USDA/NRCS. The objective of the program is to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands and their functions on private property through conservation easements and agreements. (U.S. Department of Agriculture 1997)

There are three ways landowners may participate in the WRP. They may enter into permanent conservation easements, 30-year conservation easements, or restoration agreements. Landowners participating in permanent easements receive a 100 percent federal cost-share for the agricultural value of the land and the restoration costs. Landowners participating in 30-year easements receive a 75 percent federal cost-share for the agricultural value of the land and the restoration costs. Landowners participating in restoration agreements receive a 75 percent federal cost-share for restoration costs. Reforestation practices occurring under WRP may also be eligible for a 75 percent state cost-share under the Illinois Forestry Development Act and the no-cost seedling program. The non-federal portion of all these programs is the responsibility of the landowner (U.S. Department of Agriculture 1997).

There are five categories of lands eligible for enrollment in the WRP: agricultural land with restorable wetlands; land adjacent to wetlands; wetlands restored under federal or state programs; land coming out of enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program; and riparian areas. To be accepted into the WRP, landowners are required to meet five conditions. They must grant the USDA/NRCS a recordable easement on the eligible land; provide clear title to the easement area; install restoration practices and manage them according to a developed, agreed upon plan; provide the USDA/NRCS with access to the easement area from a public road; and permanently retire cropland acreage specified by the Farm Services Agency (U.S. Department of Agriculture 1997).

The USDA/NRCS determines eligibility for the WRP in consultation with the USF&WS and IDNR. Acceptance into the program is competitive. Applications that most cost-effectively protect the greatest acreage of valuable wetlands are given the highest priorities (U.S. Department of Agriculture 1997).

After land is enrolled in the program, the landowner retains the responsibilities and rights of ownership. The land may be used for a variety of recreational uses such as hunting or fishing. The landowner, however, is not required to allow public access to the property (U.S. Department of Agriculture 1997).

The North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP)
The NAWMP was established in 1993 by an agreement between the Canadian, Mexican, and United States governments. It is administered in the United States by the USF&WS. The objective of the program is to maintain and restore an adequate habitat base for the perpetuation of North American waterfowl and other migratory species. The program has a long term goal of enrolling throughout North America six million acres of habitat crucial to waterfowl survival (Hubbell et al. 1995 and Illinois Department of Natural Resources 1994).

The NAWMP provides funds for the acquisition, planning, restoration, creation, and management of critical wetland habitats. Through joint ventures with non-profit organizations, it encourages the use of regional plans for wetland conservation which involve farmers and citizen advocacy groups. It also provides funding for research on wetland restoration and contamination, wetland status surveys, and wetland inventories (Hubbell et. al. 1995 and Illinois Department of Natural Resources 1994).

The USF&WS determines the eligibility of participants and suitable projects. States, private groups, and individuals may receive matching grants for wetland conservation projects through the North American Wetland Conservation Fund if they further the goals of the NAWMP. Non-profit organizations participating in the NAWMP in Illinois may also receive funding from IDNR through the Migratory Waterfowl Fund (Hubbell et. al. 1995 and Illinois Department of Natural Resources 1994).

Partners for Wildlife
Partners for Wildlife was established in 1987 as a habitat restoration program for private landowners. It is administered by the USF&WS. The objective of the program is to increase the amount of habitat, including wetlands, available for wildlife in the United States.

The program provides technical assistance and funding to landowners for the restoration, creation, and management of wetlands and other habitats for wildlife. Technical assistance is provided by the USF&WS. Funding for on-site construction is provided by Partners for Wildlife and additional USF&WS funds. Additional funding is provided in Illinois, through the Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund and IDNR's pheasant and migratory waterfowl funds. Landowners may volunteer their lands for restoration efforts provided they maintain the restored wetlands for at least 10 years. Eligibility is determined by the USF&WS in cooperation with IDNR (Hubbell et al. 1995).

State Programs
Farmland Assessment Act (FAA)
This act was passed in 1977 by the state of Illinois. It is administered by the Illinois Department of Revenue. The objective of the program is to offer property tax relief to landowners and farmers for pastures, forests, open spaces (including wetlands), and other non-intensive uses of land. The FAA requires the Department of Revenue consider wetlands as open lands and assess them as such at "fair cash value" instead of as croplands. To be eligible for tax relief, the area must be a minimum of 10 acres in size and not in production during the year for which it is being assessed. Lands enrolled in federal or other conservation programs are eligible for tax relief under the FAA (Natural Resources Coordinating Council 1994).

Private Land Wildlife Habitat Program
This program was established and is administered by IDNR. The objective is to protect, enhance, and develop wildlife habitat, including wetlands, on private land for the purpose of improving wildlife populations, soil and water conservation, and quality of life for Illinois residents. The program assists landowners with plans, field equipment, plant materials, and labor to develop, implement, and maintain wildlife habitat management practices that require specialized training, equipment, or resources which would otherwise be unavailable to landowners. Eligible lands must be in private ownership and be a minimum of one acre in rural areas, or one-quarter acre in urban areas. The acceptance of projects is determined by IDNR (Natural Resources Coordinating Council 1994).

Other Programs

In addition to these federal and state programs, some local communities may have separate programs that encourage wetland proteciton.Local governments may follow the example of the FAA and extend local property tax relief to landowners who protect wetlands. They may also have acquisition program that set aside wetlands as parks and open spaces or as sensitive habitat areas. There may also be local regulatory and zoning ordinances regarding wetlands as they relate to water quality or stormwater management (IL Dept. of Natural Resources 1994).

A complete list of all of the wetland-related regulatory and non-regulatory programs in Illinois can be found in a IDNR publication entitled, "Selected Wetlands-Related Legislation and Programs Applicable to Illinois. There is also a free document available through IDNR entitled, "A Landowners Guide to Natural Resources Management Incentives". This document contains brief overviews of most of the conservation programs in Illinois, including those related to wetlands. If persons are interested in learning more about wetlands conservation program, they should contact either their local USDA/NRCS District Conservationist, USF&WS field staff, IDNR District Biologist, or University of Illinois Extension Agent (Hubbell et al. 1995 and Natural Resources Coordinating Council 1994).

    [ Introduction     | Voluntary Incentive Programs | Advocacy Introduction  |Financial Contributions |Public Outreach | Stewardship | Public Policy   | Enforcing Compliance | Conclusion  ]

Wetlands

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 Literature Cited

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