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Nobles County Soil and Watershed District working hard to protect our natural resources

WORTHINGTON -- This is the second in a three-part series about the organizations that work to protect our natural resources.

Last week, I highlighted the Okabena-Ocheda watershed district. This week I am going to share with you the ins and outs of the Nobles County Soil and Watershed District, and next week, we will visit with the Nobles County Environmental Services agency.

I had the opportunity to visit with Ed Lenz, who is the Technical Coordinator of the Soil and Water Conservation District. There is one other full-time employee and two part-time employees that work for the district as well.

These employees take their marching orders from the 5-member soil and water conservation board. These board members are elected officials and serve 4-year rotating terms. They reside in different parts of the county to provide the best possible representation. These individuals volunteer for the most part, but do receive reimbursement for mileage and per diem for meeting days.

The office of the Soil and Water Conservation District is located on north Mcmillan in the Ag Service Center, and they share office space with the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

The Heron Lake Watershed District also has an employee that works out of this location, as well.

The primary goal of the soil and water conservation district, as its name implies, is to implement programs that help farmers and other county residents to participate in a variety of projects designed to protect valuable top soil and water resources.

A partial list of those activities would include: water and sediment control structures, like terraces, grassed waterways, and clean water diversions. The district works hand-in-hand with NRCS on these projects from start to finish. This means that these individuals go out and prospect for those projects that can provide the most benefit to the resource. When a project has been identified they then participate in the planning, engineering, constructing and implementing of the project with the necessary follow-up in later years.

The list goes on as this department is also responsible for well over 90 percent of all the tree plantings that happens every year within the district. These plantings include: field wind breaks, living snow fences, farmstead shelter belts, and other wildlife related tree projects. In 2007 that amounted to over 15,000 trees in the ground for the benefit of top-soil protection. There are a high percentage of eligible projects that many land owners don't realize they qualify for.

I can tell you from personal experience that depending on which program is available for your planting that in many cases tress can be planted at almost a zero net cost to the program participant.

Why wouldn't everyone want to at least check this out?

It would take pages and pages of type to tell you in greater detail all of the other things that the soil and water conservation district does, but one of the other very important functions that is accomplished, as a result of their efforts, is the implementation of many Conservation Reserve Programs.

These programs idle sensitive crop land for periods as short 10 years to as long as forever (perpetual). These programs include: stream buffer strips, critical area plantings, well head protection areas, wetland restorations and the Reinvest in Minnesota. They are also the folks that deal with most of the feed lot cost share programs.

I would have a very hard time deciding which of the Soil and Water Conservation District activities would be the most important, as they all provide critical aspects in achieving the goals set forth in protecting soil and water.

I asked Ed Lenz what it is that makes him want to get up in the morning and work as a soil and water conservationist?

His response was that it gives him an opportunity to utilize his farming back ground, education, and his personal wild-life interests to assist farmers and land owners in the county to protect the limited resources that still remain in the district. As is almost always the case, the district also partners with many other public and private entities to attain maximum outcome for their efforts.

It is my sincere hope that this office is successful in its objectives. Once the soil and water is degraded it is not easily restored. Consider getting to know these folks. They can help you in so many ways.