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Published on April 24, 2024
Illinois Joins Biden's America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge to Revitalize Wetlands and WaterwaysSource: Google Street View

Illinois is diving headfirst into the Biden Administration's latest environmental initiative, the America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge. Announced during a White House Water Summit, the initiative aims to conserve and restore a whopping 8 million acres of wetlands and 100,000 miles of rivers and streams across the nation.

Through a new partnership bent to protect and restore America's freshwater systems, the Prairie State is rallying to the cause. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has endorsed the call for action in an effort to safeguard these essential resources. Director Natalie Phelps Finnie voiced her support, stating that Illinois' wetlands and waterways "are fundamental to the health, prosperity, and resilience of our communities and the wildlife that call Illinois home," in a press release.

Participation in the initiative will tie in with various existing strategies in Illinois, including the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy and the State Water Plan. Tackling issues like stream connectivity, aquatic invasive species, and groundwater protection, Illinois positions itself as a proactive force in this national challenge. Furthermore, Finnie emphasized the significance of these natural assets, highlighting that they not only provide clean drinking water but also support jobs and outdoor recreation.

At the White House summit, Finnie joined other state and Tribal leaders in a dialog about water conservation. Leveraging strong existing floodplain management and public water standards, her presence reaffirmed Illinois' commitment to enhancing local water systems. According to the same press release, Finnie said, "Now is the time to work together to use all the tools and resources available at the national, state and local levels to protect waters that are at risk from pollution, destruction, and other threats."

The state's participation generates further momentum toward national conservation goals, with Illinois leading efforts on several fronts including dam removal, coastal resiliency via the IDNR Coastal Management Program, and more. It's a big move for the Land of Lincoln, and through close collaboration with other entities, the America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge stands to make significant waves in preserving the lifeblood of the nation's ecosystems.