Conservation Efforts

By Caroline van Schaik, Driftless Region coordinator

Streamside training to learn how to do basic water monitoring is scheduled for Saturday, May 20, 2023, at St. Mary’s University in Winona. Photo by Caroline van Schaik

But first!


Top of page for deadlines, with details below. Read on for how to act on your priorities:

➢ Ap. 11 at 7 p.m. – “Local Heroes in Howard County” focus in on a couple of can-do conservationists who hustle in honor of soil cover and water quality. See below to register for this month’s “Thinking Like a Watershed” webinar series.

➢ Ap. 26, 2023 at 7 p.m. – UMRI presentation, Wabasha, MN. Contract for details.

➢ May 20, 2023 – Save Our Streams (SOS) streamside training. See below for how to save your spot.

➢ May 22, 2023 – Water forum in Winona County with a get-real look at karst, health, recreation, and, yes, land use. See below for a few details and check back for more next month.

➢ We need 10,000 farmers and landowners to tell us stuff about crops and livestock. See below for survey details and how to take it yourself.



“Thinking” about mighty conservation acres in Iowa, Ap. 11 at 7 p.m.


Our Ap. 11, 2023 “Thinking Like a Watershed” focus is on an energetic pair of conservationists who hustle in honor of soil cover and water quality and in so doing, put the lie to much of Iowa’s landscape. They have some pretty good stories to tell about how, plus serious data showing some seriously positive conservation on more than half their county’s tillable acres. Register here for a look at the numbers two years after we first hosted them.

“Thinking” March recording


The recording to the March program is available now:  “Crops + Livestock…a Match Made in Heaven”: Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Denise Schwab and Caroline van Schaik – Mar 12, 2023

How re-integrating livestock and cropping systems is a marriage for soil health, climate change, and happy farmers – no blind date needed.


“Thinking” February recording


The recording to February’s program is available now: “The Green Amendment Movement as a Path to Environmental Health”: Thinking Like a Watershed with Maya K. van Rossum – Feb. 14, 2023 

How the Green Amendment movement is incorporating constitutional rights at the state level to codify a healthy environment, with Maya van Rossum, Founder, Green Amendment for the Generations.


If you are a farmer or landowner, use the QR code or the link to take this survey yourself and then pass it on. We want answers from 10,000 farmers and non-operating landowners on their specific challenges to integrating crops and livestock. What do they see as the benefits? Is this “marriage” already ongoing on their farm? How does it work, why doesn’t it, and what else should we know?


10,000 farmers/landowners


UMRI is part of a multi-state effort to talk forthrightly about cropland, livestock, and the matchmaking that would put soil and farmers alike in a healthier state. That in turn helps public waters, habitat, rural economy, roads, and wildlife be more resilient against weather, climate, and global everything. If the integration of crops and livestock brings benefits, we also acknowledge the challenges. We’ve spent months and many difficult conversations assembling questions whose answers we hope provide direction to more useful technical help, workshops, research, financial options etc. This is a 10-15 exercise, not your ordinary questionnaire, and yes, that WQR code works. The survey is also here.

Please contact Caroline van Schaik for help in disseminating it to your constituents. We’d be more than appreciative to have your help, and in fact, we have some grant dollars to help you do so.

“Match Made in Heaven” is a partnership between crop and livestock associations, universities, public agencies, and soil/water groups. The results will guide development of resources to benefit farmers, landowners, and the public at large who bear the consequences of farming beyond the farm gate. For more details on the initiative, please see Green Lands Blue Waters/Midwest Perennial Forage Working Group



Streamside training May 20


UMRI in the Driftless region of Minnesota will host a Save Our Streams (SOS) training workshop on May 20, 2023 at St. Mary’s University in Winona with certified trainer, Dr. Jenny Biederman. Please contact Caroline van Schaik to save your spot. It’s going to be a good day (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) of indoor and streamside training that will get you most of the way to SOS certification. The only prerequisite is enthusiasm! Really!

In the meantime, you can do some on-line winter homework by way of preparation at Save Our Streams. The SOS program, begun 51 years ago, is a national effort by the Izaak Walton League to engage volunteers across the country in collecting data according to standard protocols. Data are uploaded to a searchable hub and are used at the federal level to inform water policy and practice. In-person training had been suspended due to Covid; a grant from the IWLA Endowment Board allows us to reconsider this option.



Water Forum in Winona May 22


Water contamination in karst and corn country is not new and it has additional twists in Winona County because of Driftless geology. Come learn why the Jordan aquifer west of St. Charles gives up different quality water than when heading east, and most important, why the health consequences need attention. UMRI is a planning partner with the League of Women Voters, Minnesota Well Owners Organization, the Will Dilg IWLA chapter, Land Stewardship Project, and The Coalition for Clean Water in Winona County. Save this date; contact Caroline van Schaik for details.