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NATURAL RESOURCES: AISWCD President Steve Stierwalt and Executive Director Grant Hammer had the opportunity to visit with Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Colleen Callahan earlier this week at her office. The AISWCD was glad to meet with the Director, and discuss ways to continue to build upon the historic partnership between the two organizations. Callahan, who has a background aligned with agriculture and conservation, was very knowledgeable of the good work performed by the SWCDs of the state. The AISWCD greatly looks forward to working with her office in coming times.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A catastrophic event that was witnessed from the Great Plains to the U.S. Capitol over 80 years ago resulted in efforts that still have positive impacts on farms today.

Beginning in 1932, persistent drought conditions on the Great Plains caused widespread crop failures and exposed the region’s soil to blowing wind resulting in the Dust Bowl.

A large dust storm on May 11, 1934, swept fine soil particles eastward and over Washington, D.C., and 300 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Dust Bowl continued in 1935 and on March 6 and again on March 21, dust clouds passed over Washington and darkened the sky just as Congress commenced hearings on a proposed soil conservation law.

President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Soil Conservation Act in April 1935, creating the Soil Conservation Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That was followed by the Standard State Soil Conservation Districts Law that was sent to governors in all states as a blueprint to form Soil Conservation Districts to provide local guidance and opportunities for farmers.

Today, over 3,000 Soil and Water Conservation Districts, including 97 in Illinois, provide boots on the ground in a wide variety of ways.

Read the full story via AgriNews


WELCOME: AISWCD is pleased to welcome Michelle Bloomquist as she begins in her new role as the Program Manager for IDNR's CREP Program. Please join us in welcoming her! 


I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself.  On May 16th, I started as the new CREP program manager.  For a little background on me, I received my bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University.  After college I worked a variety of wildlife related jobs which included positions at the Michigan DNR, Ducks Unlimited, Southern Illinois University, and the IDNR as a contract employee on the Natural Heritage Database.  For the past seven years I have been working for USDA Wildlife Services.  I started out working in Chicago on the Ring-billed Gull Damage Management Project and the Great Lake Restoration Initiative (GRLI) Goose Project.  In 2015 I relocated to the Springfield Wildlife Services office and worked primarily on budget tracking, report writing and research. 
I understand that many of you have several questions and issues related to the CREP program.  I am working diligently with Mike Chandler, Phil Cox, and Luke Garver to understand the CREP program and get up to speed on all of its components.  We also working to hire a CREP coordinator and administrative assistant in the near future.
I ask for your patience as we work to get the program up and running again.  I plan to start addressing the some of the issues that you have sent to the DNR.CREP email in the next few weeks.  Please continue to email your correspondence to the DNR.CREP email and eventually we will work through the backlog.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.  I look forward to working with all of you.

QUAIL: Click on the above image to view the Illinois Wildlife Bonus and Pheasant Program's promotional postcard from AISWCD Annual Meeting & Summer Training Conference sponsor Quail & Upland Game Alliance. 

Different Goals, Smarter Farming
By Paige Buck, State Public Affairs Specilist | USDA-NRCS Illinois

Champaign, IL — Joe Rothermel was busy out in his tractor in early May spraying his fields in preparation for planting. And last week, he began planting soybeans when a lot of his Champaign County neighbors were in a holding pattern, waiting for fields to dry. “I was able to get into my fields to do some work without doing any damage to my equipment or my soils,” Joe says.

For 27 years, Rothermel’s curiosity and commitment to no-till, cover crops, and improving the biology and health of his soil has been his most important goal. And last week, Joe was one of a very few farmers who planted soybeans in a field growing cereal rye (or some other cover crop species) since last November.

“I don’t ‘work’ my ground,” Joe says. “But I do work hard building and strengthening the underground soil structure in all my fields. I let nature construct soil aggregates and the results are simple and simply amazing.” Joe’s soils have a strong, biology-based structure that works. Water infiltrates deeper so his ground is firm. “I wait for my fields to dry out too, I just don’t wait as long. I can get out there and not sink,” adds Joe.

By building up natural micro-environments beneath the soil and not ripping up and destroying the tiny drainage systems and networks, his soils are strong enough to support equipment. His soils are ready to receive seeds and begin good germination of his 2019 crop.

“Illinois could use more innovative and conservation-minded farmers like Joe. He’s trying new things, conducting research in his fields, learning more, and helping to teach others what he’s learned,” says State Conservationist Ivan Dozier. 

Rothermel has a process that’s different from conventional cropping systems. He does different things, measures and focuses on different things. “My techniques and emphasis on getting back to the natural biology of healthy soil is the direction agriculture is going. It’s happening in the US and around the globe,” adds Rothermel.

To learn more about improving soil health on your acres, visit or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District today.

COOL: The Stark County Soil and Water Conservation District sent Illinois Extension educator Haley Haverback a unique thank you, which she proudly shared on Twitter!

WITH SYMPATHY: The AISWCD is saddened to learn of the passing of Patrick M. McVeigh, a 25-year member of the Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District. McVeigh, a lifelong farmer, was a dedicated conservationist who held numerous leadership positions in conservation organizations. The AISWCD extends its deepest sympathies to his family and the Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District. You may view his full obituary, clicking HERE

FLASHBACK: This might be the BEST Flashback Friday installment yet. We'd like to know - does anyone out there know anything about this wartime era poster or the Roy Cross & Sons Farm!?
NRCS Announces Cutoff for Precision Conservation Management

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier recently announced the U. S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer special funding for precision conservation management through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Precision conservation management is an innovative service program designed to combine financial farm business planning with precision conservation technology to help farmers make intelligent conservation decisions. NRCS has partnered with the Illinois Corn Growers Association to help producers address resource concerns, such as water quality and soil health.

Read more via the Hoopston-Chronicle 
Sullivan Brings Ag, Legisaltive Experience to Director's Post

Throughout his careers in banking, insurance, auctioneering and politics, John Sullivan never strayed too far from the farm. Now the director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Sullivan continues to be a strong advocate for farms and ranches as he was in the Illinois Senate Sullivan, who took the helm as ag director Jan. 20 after his appointment by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, reflected on his years growing up on the farm, his career and goals in an interview with Illinois AgriNews.

Read more via AgriNews
ROWVA Places Third at Envirothon

Eleven high school teams recently participated in the annual Western Illinois Land Use Council No. 4 Envirothon. LUC No. 4 consists of the Soil and Water Conservation Districts from Knox, Warren, Henderson, Fulton, McDonough and Hancock counties. Abingdon/Avon, Galesburg, Knoxville and ROWVA high Schools represented Knox County. It is estimated that Envirothon materials are used to educate over 300 high school students within the six-county LUC.

Read more via the Review-Atlas
ACTION REQUESTED: The AISWCD is hard at work during these final days of the spring legislative session, and we are asking for your help to reinforce our efforts!

Please find below draft language that can be copied and pasted into email.

Pro Tips:

1) Share this message widely - ask friends, family, and SWCD supporters in your community to consider sharing this message via email with elected officials.

2) Always, always, always be respectful when communicating with lawmakers - doing so otherwise is counterproductive and can be damaging to our cause.

3) Customize! Personalize the email if you have the time - relate it to your own community, and tell lawmakers how you benefit their district.

4) Let the AISWCD know that you have done your part! Blind copy on the email. This helps us know if lawmakers are receiving the message, and in what volume. 

Dear (Representative/Senator) (Insert Last Name) –
I am writing to ask for your support for the Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) of Illinois.
SWCDs work to protect Illinois’ greatest assets – the rich, fertile soils and important water resources of the state through strategic conservation efforts. SWCDs, working in conjunction with agricultural as well as environmental stakeholders, have for decades over played a central role in efforts to protect and sustain the viability of Illinois’ natural resources for future generations.
Budget Impasse Fallout:
The Illinois budget impasse of the recent past wrought tremendous hardship on SWCDs – Illinois’ only conservation delivery system having a presence in every county. Funding for soil and water conservation programs was greatly diminished, or altogether absent for more than two years. As a result, SWCDs across the state were forced to lay off valuable, highly skilled employees with decades of technical environmental expertise. Further, most remaining employees lost access to health insurance benefits at a time when health insurance is unaffordable for many. As a result, the conservation delivery system for federal, state, and local conservation programs focused towards soil health and erosion and water quality was pushed nearly to the brink.
As lawmakers work to develop a state budget in these waning days of the Illinois General Assembly’s spring session, I respectfully ask that you support the SWCDs of Illinois in the following ways:
#1 A Renewed Commitment to Funding Soil & Water Conservation Programs
Simply put - SWCDs desperately need greater investment from Illinois policymakers following the budget impasse to continue to stabilize, rebuild, and lead new efforts at the ground-level in pursuit of state conservation goals that include the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.
#2 Restore Funding for Health Insurance Lost During Budget Impasse
Arguably one of the most damaging effects of the Illinois budget impasse was the loss of appropriations made for healthcare insurance to SWCD employees. Restoring this appropriation would greatly aid in rebuilding and retaining the human personnel assets critical to the SWCD conservation delivery infrastructure of the state.
#3 Include Funding for Conservation in Capital Bill
As policymakers consider the prospect of a potential capital program for Illinois infrastructure projects, consideration should be given to those projects that will protect water supplies or provide an environmental benefit. SWCDs have a proven track record of using appropriated capital funds to implement conservation practices that improve improve public health, support economic growth, and help meet and support the needs of rural areas.
Thank you. Your past support for Illinois’ Soil and Water Conservation Districts is truly appreciated.
Clean Water, Healthy Soils,
(Your Name)
(City), IL
SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITY: The Illinois Soil & Water Conservation Districts Employees Association is once again offering an academic scholarship for students! 
JOB: USDA-NRCS is hiring soil conservationists! View the posting HERE.

DONT FORGET! Register today! Click the above image to go to the conference web page. 
Copyright © 2019 Association of Illinois Soil & Water Conservation Districts, All rights reserved.

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