As a conservation biologist who has had most of my conservation training abroad, I have been both very proud and very disappointed in my home, the Midwest.
The various initiatives under the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, have done so much good in the way of sustainable land management and native habitat conservation throughout the Midwestern states. However, even with these incentives, landowners are still often torn between conservation and profitable unsustainability (such as food-based biofuels). If we were to give landowners economically viable options to adopt clean energy solutions instead – green energy farms (such as wind or solar), used together with CRP – we could completely "re-green" the Midwest. This would cause a chain-reaction of benefits, including better soil and water quality, erosion control, boosting natural pollination and more.
It's an incredible investment, sure, but the ecosystem services benefits would outweigh the costs and secure the Midwest's future as the sustainable "Heart of America."
A. L. Hood