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ISA conservation grant program

Tim Smith

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ISA to open competitive bidding for conservation grants!


Over the past few months it has become clear that the word is out. The number of requests for our financial help and manpower in conservation projects around the state is increasing steadily. That’s good news for the ISA and good news for Illinois smallmouth bass. The ISA is a willing and able partner for conservation in Illinois. Our task now is to be as effective and thoughtful as possible in that role.


To help us in that goal, we are in the middle stages of creating a new, open granting process. By early next year, a form will be posted on our web site that applicants can download, fill out and submit to request funds for conservation and education projects. A panel of ISA officers will review, compare and score grant applications based on their merit. Once the most deserving projects are identified and selected, funds from the annual conservation budget will then be allocated to get the work done. Projects will be evaluated for their adherence to stated ISA priorities in conservation and education, relevance to the membership, and potential for future partnering, co-operation and collaboration with the ISA.


The new approach differs somewhat from the current system. As things stand now, the officers receive a steady stream of informal funding requests throughout the year. If all the officers deem a request to be worthwhile, funds are allocated to it from the conservation budget. Eventually, the conservation budget becomes depleted during the year and the contributions stop for that year. Up to now, this process has worked reasonably well. It could bear improvement.


The new system has several clear advantages:

  1. It will allow the ISA to take control of its’ charitable giving by more carefully and systematically prioritizing our contributions.
  2. It will increase the number of requests for funding, giving the ISA more choices about the way we spend our conservation budget.
  3. It will create an even higher level of transparency for our charitable giving.
  4. It will increase our visibility within the conservation community and give us a stronger leadership role in setting the conservation agenda in the state of Illinois.
The new system will also have a direct impact on the average member of the ISA. More than ever, our conservation funds will be operating at the member’s behest. Keep an eye on the ISA forum discussions over the coming months. Officers and members will be discussing the ins and outs of this new system. More importantly, we will be working to define our conservation priorities.


You are a vital part of that process. Who should the ISA help? What do we want to see accomplished? As in any ISA venture, its’ success depends entirely on our members. Your participation through dues, volunteerism and the Bronzeback Blowout creates the fund that does this work. This is a great opportunity to make a statement about who we are, to guide conservation work in Illinois in positive directions, and to build on the good work we’ve already done!



The ISA officers have some specific ideas about the kinds of grants we would like to fund. Here are a few of them.

  1. Projects that focus on conservation of whole ecosystems with smallmouth bass being an important part of those ecosystems
  2. Projects that involve ISA members directly through participation or at least indirectly by having membership support
  3. Projects that are integrated into the conservation community and have evidence of support elsewhere such as matching funds
What do you think the ISA should be supporting?
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Just some ideas...


Maybe the most important thing is to fund pilot projects that establish stewardship groups that will continue to work on a given stream/watershed. The best projects are not ones that do activity X, but ones that bring together municipalities, water quality stewardship groups, home owners, politicians, regulators, and other recreation groups like birders, hunters, and canoe/kayakers... to do activity X together. A demonstration project is needed to give people something to focus on, but ISA funding should be given with the understanding that the funding is "seed money". We should expect to hear great things from groups long after the pilot project is funded.


That said, some project types to include:


* Restoration of natural flow regimes, especially increasing floodplan capacity.

* De-channelization of streams.

* Erosion control/stream bank restoration.

* Fish passage and/or dam removal.


I would be wary of doing pure "education" work. It rarely spontaneously translates into actualy on-the-ground work. It's usually better to fund a small on-the-ground project as a practical way to do the educating.


For what it's worth! :D

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