Conservation Efforts

By Caroline van Schaik, Driftless Region coordinator

The words it takes to explain regenerative grazing as an answer to so much that ails us, plus Salt Watch and stream monitoring promos.

Grazing to help repair agriculture…

And not just agriculture. Washed out roads, good soil in the wrong place, chemicals in your well water, and yes, farmers having a hard time staying put, too. These are some of the topics we took on in an article that was just approved for the January issue of the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. The effort – to make a case for regenerative agriculture – was led by partners at the Wallace Center at Winrock International, which is a member of the Midwest Perennial Forage Working Group of Green Lands Blue Waters..  UMRI is an active member of the coalition, which last month designed and published an infographic on some of these same topics.  This poster is aimed especially at township and county commissioners who must make careful decisions on how best to spend taxpayer dollars.  Road and culvert blowouts, fierce storms, and bare farm fields demand increasing, and increasingly expensive, mitigation based on land management practices that could be altered for a much better end. Saving money is a good thing; saving soil is a pretty good end, too. The UMRI’s Driftless Region coordinator, Caroline van Schaik, contributed to the one-page poster and is a named author for the JSWC piece.

“Severe storms don’t have to take out our roads and culverts. This infographic is available for sharing widely with county and township officials, Extension educators, and other agriculture agents who face erosion issues in need of fixing or better, preventing”

It’s salt season and a good time to study those bugs

Citizen science does not rest, even when streams are frozen. If you feel an urge to lend a hand now, the IWLA’s national Save Our Streams team offers a very-wintry option of monitoring road salt. It ends up in our streams, and so very much comes to bear on what we find when the ice thaws. Here’s how they explain it:

“Salt on roads and sidewalks helps us travel safely in the winter. But when it’s used in excessive amounts, the salt winds up in nearby streams, creating conditions that freshwater critters can’t survive. Plus, the salt can end up back in our drinking water systems, where it corrodes pipes and can pose a health threat for people who need low-sodium diets.”

For your own salt watch test kit and all the how-tos

Also on-going – in fact for the better for it being winter – is on-line training to become a certified Save Our Stream monitor. We have an intrepid group of stream team members in the Driftless region of southeast Minnesota, but you don’t need to know us to conduct SOS monitoring right where you are. Because of Covid-19, the national folks have put most of their training workshops into accessible on-line sessions. These used to be covered via in-person workshops and they will be, again! But for now, you can study your way through about two-thirds of what you need to know to do your own monitoring. The final bit needs to be in person, and we in southeast Minnesota will host that workshop as soon as we can in 2021. Getting yourself trained up to that point is the point of the on-line option. Here is what you need to know to get going.