EMBARGOED UNTIL 10:00 a.m., April 19, 2006
Contact: Duke Welter, 715-579-7538 or Kathleen Campbell, 571-274-0597
LACROSSE -- At a ceremony organized by Trout Unlimited (TU), four state governors and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture today pledged to work together to restore the lands and waters of the Midwest’s Driftless Area.
The governors of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois signed a joint resolution (available at www.tu.org), which commits state and federal agencies to work together in collaborative restoration projects for the Driftless area and to utilize Farm Bill conservation programs to help finance the work.
“By bringing together partner agencies and community groups, we can work to restore whole watersheds,” said Duke Welter, a member of Trout Unlimited’s Board of Trustees. “Working together, state and federal agencies and local communities can bring watersheds back to health. And at Trout Unlimited, we’ve always believed that if you take care of the habitat, the fishing will take care of itself.”
The last glaciers bypassed the 24,000 square miles of the Driftless Area, leaving behind 3,600 miles of streams and spring creeks that flow through portions of the four states. With its limestone bluffs, waterfalls and springs, it is considered a unique national treasure. However, past farming practices in the 1800s and early 1900s led to massive erosion and water quality degradation throughout the region.
“The Natural Resources Conservation Service cut its teeth by helping to improve farming practices in the Driftless Area in the 1930s,” said Mark Rey, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at USDA. “Through Farm Bill conservation programs, we will continue to improve the health, diversity and productivity of these watersheds and the quality of lives for the people that live in them.”
“The actual restoration of these rivers and streams requires skilled operators of heavy machinery and provides family-supporting jobs,” said Barbara Lawton, the Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin. “To complete this project, we will need people to slope back the eroded stream-bank and stabilize and reseed with native prairie grass. Restoring the Driftless Area holds promise to be a huge jobs program for the region.”
Trout Unlimited has been one of the leading organizations associated with the efforts to restore streams and rivers in the Driftless Area. In addition to its volunteer stream restoration work, last year the organization released a report (The Driftless Area: A Landscape of Opportunities) calling for the wide-scale restoration of the streams and rivers of the region.
In late 2005, Trout Unlimited and DNR partners from all four Driftless states received a two-year Multistate Conservation Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sport Fish Restoration Fund. In addition, TU – in coordination with a consortium of Resource Conservation and Development Agencies – helped secure a congressional appropriation of $263,000 for Driftless Area restoration, which was included in the conservation budget of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
In conjunction with the release of the resolution, Trout Unlimited announced the hiring of Jeff Hastings to lead the organization’s Driftless Area Restoration Effort. Hastings has spent most of his life in the Driftless and worked for the past 25 years in county government to conserve its streams and landscape.
Trout Unlimited is North America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, with more than 150,000 members – including over 10,000 members in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois – dedicated to the protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. More information on TU’s work to restore the Driftless Area is available at www.tu.org.