For release September 29, 2005
For more information: “Duke” Welter 715-579-7538
Chris Wood 571-274-0601
Laura Hewitt 608-250-3534
U.S. SENATE APPROVES APPROPRIATION FOR RESTORATION PLANNING IN THE MIDWEST’S DRIFTLESS AREA
Arlington, VA – The United States Senate has approved an appropriation to help with the planning for the restoration of the Midwest’s Driftless Area.
The $350,000 appropriation was approved last week as part of the Senate’s agriculture appropriations bill. The measure, which was introduced initially by Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl, dedicates the money for conservation in the Driftless Area in the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota. It is included in the conservation budget of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
“This appropriation is a tremendous boost for planning efforts to restore the streams and rivers of the Driftless Area. Senator Kohl deserves a huge pat on the back from everyone who cares about this special place,” said John “Duke” Welter, a member of Trout Unlimited’s National Board of Trustees from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
The Driftless Area is considered by many to be a national treasure with its unique limestone formations, springs and small trout streams. Bypassed by the last glacier, the region lies within the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. Land use practices in the 1800s and early 1900s led to wide scale erosion, flooding and the altering of its streams and valleys. Though conditions have improved, impacts from past damage continue today in many forms, especially on the streams and rivers in the region.
Trout Unlimited has been one of the leading organizations in the efforts to restore streams and rivers in the Drifltess Area. In addition to its volunteer stream restoration work, earlier this year they released a report (The Driftless Area: A Landscape of Opportunities) calling for the wide-scale restoration of the streams and rivers of the region, which they believe will bring enormous environmental and economic benefits to local communities.
“The Driftless Area is a national treasure,” said Chris Wood, Trout Unlimited’s Vice President for Conservation. “This appropriation is a significant step forward in the effort to not only heal the region, but to provide local residents – including agricultural producers – with substantial long-term economic and social benefits.”
Wood said the Driftless Area has been the site of restoration activities since the 1930s, when the Works Progress Administration (WPA) implemented the first efforts. Later, the U.S. Soil Conservation Service teamed with agricultural producers to transform much of the region into a system of contoured fields, strip cropping, and terracing. Most recently, local conservation organizations and state and federal agencies such as the NRCS have worked together on a small scale to restore sections of trout streams throughout the region. Trout Unlimited will cooperate with the NRCS, Resource Conservation and Development Councils, and other agencies and organizations to implement conservation practices and planning.
In addition to enhancing the economy of the region, the Trout Unlimited report noted that restoration would bring major environmental benefits including a reduction in sedimentation in the upper Mississippi River basin, which the watersheds of the Driftless Area drain into. Currently the federal government spends nearly $20 million on environmental management programs – including extensive dredging projects – in the upper Mississippi River basin alone, and millions more attempting to address problems associated with the hypoxia zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
To be final, the Senate’s appropriation for the Driftless Area must be agreed to in a budget conference with the U.S. House of Representatives.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s largest coldwater conservation organization dedicated to the protection of trout, salmon and steelhead populations and the watersheds upon which they depend. The organization’s 147,000 members – including more than 10,000 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois – work with landowners and state and federal resource agencies to protect and restore coldwater fisheries.