The Illinois Valley Soil and Water Conservation District has served the people of the Illinois Valley since 1949. Our service area encompasses most of the Illinois River watershed: bounded on the west by the Josephine County line, California to the south, and to the east, our District begins at top of Hayes Hill on Highway 199. About 75% of lands within the District are publicly owned and managed, and we focus our conservation efforts on private lands. The Illinois is a wild salmon stronghold, featuring strong populations of endangered coho salmon, zero fish hatcheries, and no large-scale dams (though we do have our share of smaller dams and passage barriers).
Our mission is to serve local landowners and land managers by coordinating assistance from all available sources in an effort to develop locally driven solutions to natural resource concerns. We have no tax base and no plans to pursue one, and thus are funded entirely by grants and private contributions. The District is comprised of seven elected Directors, five associate Directors, and two staffers working a combined 1.2 Full Time Equivalents.
Our current projects include an irrigation efficiency and fish passage barrier project with a group of neighbors on Sucker Creek, ramping up community engagement endeavors, and small grants through OWEB and RBP. We’re also looking into what role the District should play in coordinating fire and fuels management resources for the landowners.
We partner closely with the Illinois Valley Watershed Council (IVWC), sharing office space and collaborating on projects. Together, we have utilized the University of Oregon’s Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) program to host an AmeriCorps member focused on community engagement and outreach for both the District and Council. We are now entering a second year with the program, and have goals to transition into hiring a permanent engagement staff person.
We also partner with the federal land management agencies, and of course, the Rogue Basin Partnership and member organizations. We participate in the Riparian and Fish Passage work groups, and have taken advantage of RBPs grant offerings through these groups. We are highly motivated to maintain our active membership with RBP: we have benefitted from the loads of expertise that is shared among members, making our work more efficient and improving the service we provide. We believe in the power of regional partnership and collaboration for leveraging funding to influence the outcomes we’re working to affect – this is the way toward the greatest impact, collectively.