Bustos co-sponsors four-state “Driftless Area” conservation initiative, including parts of Illinois and Iowa

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The legislation would revive the U.S. Department of Agriculture Driftless Area Landscape Conservation Initiative.

Quad Citizens certainly know what the bi-state area is, but did you know we are appropriately part of a quad-state area?

The four-state “Driftless Area” — an ecologically-unique region covering parts of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin — would get extra protection under a bill introduced Tuesday by U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Ashley Hinson (R-IA), Angie Craig (D-MN) and Ron Kind (D-WI).

The Driftless Area Landscape Conservation Initiative (DALCI) would re-establish efforts by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to improve management of working lands, woodlands, prairies and cold water streams in the Driftless Area. 

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U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline)

“The Driftless Area is one of the most beautiful and ecologically important regions of our state and is a driving force for tourism in Northwest Illinois,” Rep Bustos of Moline said in a Tuesday release. “Ensuring it remains intact for future generations is critical.

“The Driftless Area Conservation Initiative Act will recommit efforts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the preservation of these lands and the native species that call them home. It’s an honor to join Representatives Ashley Hinson, Angie Craig and Ron Kind on this bipartisan bill to improve management of this unique area and support the region’s family farmers in their stewardship of the land,” she said. 

The Driftless Area is comprised of the northwest corner of Illinois, northeastern Iowa, southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin that was never covered by ice during the last Ice Age, and therefore lacks glacial deposits. The geography of the area is characterized by its steep, rugged landscape and by the largest concentration of cold water streams in the world, the Tuesday release said.

The Driftless Area incorporates parts of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A previous Driftless Area Landscape Conservation Initiative was launched by the USDA in 2012 to help farmers fight erosion and restore cold water stream corridors. The program ended in 2017 and was never re-established. The DALCI Act would recommit the USDA to conservation efforts in the Driftless Area with $5 million through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program for efforts managing working lands, woodlands, prairies and cold water streams in the region. 

The DALCI Act would re-establish the Driftless Area Landscape Conservation Initiative with the following objectives: 

  1. Manage working lands for year-round ground cover to rebuild soil, sequester carbon, improve water quality, increase water holding capacity of soil, reduce soil erosion, and mitigate flooding and other climate impacts. 
  2. Manage woodlands for increased biodiversity to improve the health of woods to provide habitat and sequester carbon.
  3. Restore prairies and manage grasslands, oak savannas, and barrens to expand habitat and sequester carbon.
  4. Restore cold water streams by reducing stream bank erosion and threats of flooding while improving trout habitat. 

“Iowa’s Driftless Area is a local gem. Preserving Iowa’s Driftless Area is a priority for the entire Northeast Iowa community including farmers, families, and our local tourism economy,” said U.S. Rep. Hinson (R-Marion). “The Driftless Area Landscape Conservation Initiative (DALCI) was a success story. During the five years it was authorized, the initiative helped improve water quality, mitigate flooding, and streamline agriculture conservation practices across Iowa’s Driftless Area.

“I am proud to introduce the bipartisan DALCI 2.0 Act with Representative Cheri Bustos to build on these successes,” Hinson said in the release. “This legislation will reauthorize this critical program for the next five years, at no additional cost to taxpayers, to provide farmers with new conservation tools, improve flood resiliency, and enhance drinking water quality for families along the Mississippi River Watershed.”

“The four-state scenic Driftless Area’s splendor draws people who enjoy its outdoor recreation opportunities, waterways and wildlife, and stunning landscape,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The Driftless Area is as vibrant as it is vulnerable. By directing the USDA to restart the successful DALCI program, this legislation advances protection for important fish and wildlife habitat, supports the transition to sustainable agriculture, and expands outdoor recreation places for fishing, hiking, biking, canoeing and hunting.”

For more information, visit the USDA website.

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