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Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI)

In fall 2010, a diverse coalition of government, agriculture, and conservation groups began an outreach and education campaign to help producers in the Big Bureau Creek watershed participate in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) voluntary program to address sediment and water resource issues.

The new coalition is called "Friends of the Big Bureau Creek Watershed – A Coalition for Clean Water." The coalition will assist landowners in voluntarily implementing best management or conservation practices to reduce downstream nutrient loading into local waters. The coalition initially will serve as a communication and technical assistance network in support of the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), which offers increased funding to priority watersheds.

Coalition members meet with a local land manager to look at a conservation project that features a restored wetland.

The Big Bureau Creek Watershed is located within one of Illinois' high priority areas due to its high levels of excess nutrient runoff and sedimentation. The purpose of the MRBI is to improve the health of the Mississippi River watershed by working with producers to voluntarily implement conservation practices that

  • avoid, control, and trap nutrient runoff;
  • improve wildlife habitat; and
  • maintain agricultural productivity.

The Big Bureau Creek Targeted Subwatershed Initiative was one of 19 projects selected nationwide through a competitive process under the MRBI Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI). This was the only Illinois project selected in 2011. The $204,000 requested for FY2011 was approved (total request for FY2011-2014 was $2,098,000).

MRBI-CCPI funding is administered by NRCS directly to eligible agricultural producers through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP). This is an extraordinary financial and technical assistance commitment by the NRCS to the priority areas, above and beyond the regular conservation working lands programs. The purpose of the cooperative conservation partnership is to provide additional financial or technical assistance to producers and support the local NRCS offices with outreach and education efforts and water quality monitoring.


TWI's outreach and education work in support of the MRBI-CCPI is funded by a federal USDA Conservation Innovation Grant and the McKnight Foundation.


Friends of the Big Bureau Creek Watershed

A project partner collective created to strengthen and develop local resources by expanding partnerships and supporting a broader education and outreach efforts to improve water quality, improve habitat, and reduce flooding damage within the Big Bureau Creek Watershed.

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Environmental markets leverage private investments that result in cleaner air, improved water quality, restored wetlands, and enhanced wildlife habitat. [They] have the potential to become a new economic driver for rural America."

— Tom Vilsack,
USDA Agriculture Secretary

Mission Statement

The Wetlands Initiative is dedicated to restoring the wetland resources of the Midwest to improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and reduce flood damage.