NRCS offered financial assistance through Fiscal Year 2017 to agricultural producers for implementing practices that reduce erosion and improve fish wildlife habitat in the Driftless Area of Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. Financial assistance went through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and focussed on reducing erosion and sediment delivery to surface water, as well as activities related to improving fish and wildlife habitats.
The program provided payments to help implement designated conservation practices. Socially disadvantaged farmers, limited resource farmers, and beginning farmers qualified for higher program payments.
Four resource objectives of the DALCI:
manage working lands for increased perennial cover;
manage woodlands for increased diversity
restore working lands to prairie and manage existing grasslands and oak savanna habitats for improved bird and pollinator habitat;
restore cold water trout streams and adjacent riparian areas of the region.
The Driftless Area is a 24,000-square-mile area in the four states of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. This area, unlike most of the Upper Midwest, was bypassed by the last continental glaciation. The area features steep valleys, sandstone bluffs, more than 600 unique spring-fed creeks and flat ridges that were once covered in prairie and scattered oaks. The rugged topography led to more examples of remnant natural communities than are found in other regions of the Upper Midwest.
The ancient landscape supports a diversity of plants and animals unique to the Upper Midwest, including dozens of uncommon species of birds of woodland and grassland habitats, reptiles, and amphibians and abundant populations of native fish found in the high concentration of cold water streams. The Driftless Area’s diversity of habitats provides critical habitat for dozens of species of concern in the four states’ Wildlife Action Plans, and is cited in the Wisconsin plan as one of North America’s most important resources.
The Driftless Area, sometimes referred to as the Paleozoic Plateau, is a unique region of the Upper Mississippi River Basin with a landscape that is rich with ecological and economic opportunities. It is called Driftless because the area was by-passed by the last continental glacier, which occurred about 12,000 years ago, resulting in an absence or reduction in glacial till, also known as drift. The area is characterized by differential weathering and erosion that results in a steep, rugged landscape that includes karst topography. The land, soils and ecosystems are diverse, and the area is home to hundreds of threatened and endangered state and federal animal and plant species. Each state in the Driftless Area lists a large proportion of their Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in this unique area.
The Driftless Area plays a critical role in the lives of many bird species both because of its position as a rest/feeding stop during migration season, and because of the habitat opportunities it presents. The Upper Mississippi River and its tributaries provide vital migration corridors for more than half of North America’s bird species, forming the largest contiguous area of fish and wildlife habitat remaining in the Central United States. This area represents one of the best opportunities remaining in the upper Midwest to manage forest interior habitat for species dependent on southern forest types.