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Protecting Mississippi River Key Focus of IL Fund

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Friday, May 28, 2021   

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - A bipartisan effort to extend a conservation fund in Illinois continues ahead of next week's budget deadline. Supporters in the Legislature say residents across the state should realize the bill's environmental benefits, including water quality.

At stake is funding for a 20-year-old program now known as the Partners for Conservation Fund, which supports better land-management practices, including in agriculture. Rep. Tim Butler - R-Springfield - said that from urban areas to rural communities, the program is key to protecting natural resources.

"Especially in a state like Illinois," said Butler, "where we have issues with nutrient loading into the Mississippi River basin."

He said that affects states downstream as well.

The program is scheduled to sunset July 1. Butler has co-sponsored a bill to extend it, and direct more money to reducing nutrient pollution.

While lawmakers have a lot on their plates in the face of a deficit, Butler said he's confident the plan will be considered as the budget comes together.

Rep. Dave Vella - D-Loves Park - chief sponsor of the House version, said he's cautiously optimistic about its chances. He said he feels it's an opportunity to help communities around the state improve the quality of their lakes and rivers.

"There's a lot of farm runoff," said Vella. "We have some big cities, there's a lot of big-city runoff. And you know, someone down in Metropolis could see the results of something bad that happened up in Rockford. So, I want to make sure that we're all together on this."

Vella echoed concerns from environmental and conservation groups, who note Illinois is behind in reaching the goals of its Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy from 2015. The lawmakers say if the plan isn't part of the budget, they could appeal to the governor's office for executive action.




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