The State of Illinois is a major contributor of nitrogen and phosphorous the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Mississippi River and tributaries: 20% of nitrogen and 11% of phosphorous comes from Illinois alone, yet only 7% of the water. Of the nitrogen and phosphorus lost from Illinois, 80% and 48%, respectively, originates from rural non-point sources. The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) identifies the Macoupin Creek Basin (HUC8) as one of the three highest yielding phosphorus watersheds in Illinois. The NLRS outlines a voluntary approach to stemming nutrient loss through widespread adoption of agricultural conservation practices, and notes that without any new funding, public-private partnerships will be critical in its implementation.
The Upper Macoupin Watershed Partnership is launching what we view as the first phase of farmer-led conservation efforts to reduce loss of P and soil erosion across the Macoupin Creek Basin. To begin, the Upper Macoupin Creek watershed was selected because of resource concerns, the presence of two local water supply lakes and local interest. Project objectives are to increase watershed awareness, increase awareness and understanding of the new NLRS, promote conservation practices that address P and soil loss, improve wildlife habitat in woodlands and eroding streambanks, and ultimately reduce the loss of P from the Upper Macoupin Watershed by at least 300 pounds per year. Outreach is ongoing – a steering committee has been formed, a soil health meeting for women landowners was held, a watershed awareness event is scheduled, and woodland restoration continues. If awarded RCPP funds, the team will build on this outreach by driving enrollment in practices with cost-share assistance, with a goal of enrolling 25% of producers in conservation programs.