Partner Spotlight: The Wetlands Initiative

In honor of American Wetlands Month, ISAP is excited to introduce The Wetlands Initiative (TWI) as May’s Partner Spotlight. The Wetlands Initiative is a founding member of the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership and has been a leader in wetland restoration for over 25 years.


In addition to their ecosystem restoration work, TWI has become a national leader in the practice of farm-based constructed wetlands that reduce nutrient pollution in agricultural runoff through their Smart Weltands program.



A TWI constructed wetland from above. (Photo credit: The Wetlands Initiative)


Smart Wetlands are small, constructed wetlands custom-designed to fit within a farm’s tile drainage system for the specific purpose of reducing nitrogen loss. They are an effective and efficient nitrogen removal practice that can operate for 30 years or more with very little maintenance and put a farmer’s least profitable acres to work with an alternate use.


Smart Wetlands, and the nutrient loss reduction benefits they provide, are especially important for the state of Illinois because the Illinois River Watershed is one of the largest contributors to the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, primarily through excess fertilizer that eventually flows down the Mississippi River.


A close-up of the TWI constructed wetland. (Photo credit: The Wetlands Initiative)



With The Wetlands Initiative’s membership, the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership is better equipped to support Illinois agriculture in reducing the state’s contribution to the “dead zone,” and meeting the goals of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS). Staff from The Wetlands Initiative contribute their expertise to several of ISAP’s programs including coordination and development of the Advanced Conservation Drainage Training, leadership on the governance and communication committees, and facilitation of the Illinois Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) cohort.


The Smart Wetlands Team is already making plans to build more Illinois tile-treatment wetlands in 2022. If you are interested in learning more about Smart Wetlands and how they can benefit your farm, get in touch with The Wetlands Initiative to gather some preliminary information from their field outreach specialists.

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ISAP Coordinator