The Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Partners for Conservation Ecosystems Program has developed a process to examine where protection and restoration efforts should be focused within Ecosystem Partnerships. The SSIP has been piloted in the Illinois River Bluffs Partnership.
The purpose of the SSIP is to rapidly assess (in2-3 months) the condition of a partnership’s natural resources at a sub-watershed level and identify “strategic sub-watersheds” where Partners for Conservation projects should be focused to maximize the benefits of ecosystem management. The guiding principle for evaluating sub-watersheds is to protect better quality habitat first. Protecting “the good stuff” first is the most effective way to maximize benefits from protection and restoration efforts, given a limited conservation budget. Furthermore, focusing in smaller sub-watersheds is more effective and easier to illustrate results than scattering projects throughout the entire watershed.
This process is interactive and dynamic – involving the data analysis capabilities of the DNR’s Ecosystems Program and the local knowledge and involvement of the partnership members in choosing strategic sub-watersheds. While the Ecosystems Program staff provides technical assistance for this process, the partnerships will make the final decision of selecting strategic sub-watersheds.
The SSIP consist of six components: four that can be quantified (habitat quality, monitoring locations, conservation activity and "at risk") are included in the Ecosystem Program’s methodology for scoring and ranking watersheds. The other two components, other funding opportunities and other considerations, are based on information provided by the partnership and state and federal agencies. Other considerations includes landowner willingness, sub-watershed planning activities, and other relevant issues raised by the partnership.