Conservation Hotspot Analysis in Illinois


Why Our Work is Needed

Agricultural land management decisions are influenced by a suite of social and economic factors, many of which are difficult to control for. What we do know is that conservation programs can drive stewardship by incentivizing proactive land management which focuses on soil health and other conservation-oriented productivity indicators. Understanding conservation behavior among landowners is one of the key factors in designing effective programs. Decisions to implement conservation practices, or not, may be affected by bottom line and soil productivity; land tenure and farming experience community and peer norms; cross-generational succession planning; and, beliefs and attitudes about the environment and their actions in it. Funded by the Walton Family Foundation, Delta Institute has focused on how these factors influence conservation practice adoption and rebuilding soil health throughout the Midwest.


Brief Overview of What We’re Doing

To assess conservation adoption in Illinois and identify key factors that lead to higher adoption rates, Delta Institute and the Environmental Working Group partnered to identify conservation hotspots. We utilized publicly available data to identify where conservation practices are being adopted. Where we had datasets that covered extended time ranges, we also assessed the longevity of conservation behavior. Additionally, an interactive map was created to facilitate further exploration of the data. The results of the analysis suggest that future strategies which seek to more effectively deploy financial and technical support to increase conservation adoption should be modified to focus on local conditions and concerns, avoiding a state-wide or uniform program design that fails to consider local factors.

Project Materials and Resources

The additional resources below contain key resources related to the hotspot analysis:

Conservation Hotspot Analysis

In partnership with Environmental Working Group, Delta Institute identified conservation hotspots in Illinois, areas that show high uptake of specific conservation activities and factors that might influence farmers’ conservation behavior. The resources provided below describe our methods, findings, and recommendations to more effectively deploy financial and technical support to increase conservation adoption statewide. Explore the interactive map below to see detailed results.

Hotspot Analysis Report | Click to Expand
A report that describes our methods, hotspot analysis findings, and recommendations for implementation.
Interactive Hotspot Map | Click to Expand


Delta Institute is grateful to the Walton Family Foundation for generously supporting these efforts, and to the many practitioners and organizations collaborating with us to assess, explore, and provide market-based recommendations to expand conservation on working lands throughout Illinois.

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