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Root River Soil and Water Conservation District
805 State Hwy 44/76
Caledonia, MN  55921
p: (507) 724-5261 ext. 3

News & Events

AmeriCorps crews improve trout streams, gain work experience via Root River SWCD


A Rochester-based Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa crew worked on an ongoing cedar revetment project in Riceford Creek. The crew included, from left: Lakota Kirst, 23, of Osage, Iowa; Cole Wentworth, 25, of Preston, Iowa; Alexis Schwanz, 18, of Polk City, Iowa; and Andrea Dormer, 19, of Owatonna. (Photo by Ann Wessel, BWSR)

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Minnesota Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (MN CREP) Resumes enrollment

Starting June 3, landowners in 54 southern and western Minnesota counties can once again submit applications to enroll in the Minnesota Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (MN CREP), a voluntary program that pays landowners to retire marginal cropland to create permanent conservation easements to protect environmentally-sensitive land.

“Thanks to the dedication of local conservation staff who serve as the bridge between landowners and the state, MN CREP’s first enrollment period saw robust landowner interest and participation,” said BWSR Executive Director John Jaschke. “We look forward to seeing the benefits this next enrollment period will create for both agricultural producers and water quality.”

MN CREP is a state-federal program designed to improve water quality and conserve habitat. It aims to protect and restore up to 60,000 acres of marginal cropland using buffer strips, wetland restoration and drinking water wellhead area protection. Native plantings on those acres filter water, prevent erosion and provide critical habitat for grassland species including badgers, meadowlarks and monarch butterflies. Landowners have enrolled approximately 12,000 acres to date.

Enrollment was first available in May 2017. Enrollment was put on hold in late 2018 to await passage of the new federal farm bill and associated program development by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) and the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) oversee the program. Landowners simultaneously enroll land in a 14 to 15-year federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contract and a permanent Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve program conservation easement. Landowners receive payments to restore native vegetation on enrolled acres, which maximizes water quality and habitat benefits.

Landowners wanting to learn more about MN CREP can contact their local FSA/Natural Resources Conservation Service/SWCD office, 507-724-5261. To learn more, visit

Earth Team Volunteer Recognized – Caledonia Field Office

Thurman Tucker, an Earth Team Volunteer (ETV) at the Caledonia Field Office, was presented with a Certificate of Recognition, signed by Minnesota State Conservationist Troy Daniell, and a roadside emergency kit at the Annual Quail Forever Banquet that was held on March 31,2019. Over 100 attendees clapped and cheered for Thurman as Gary Larson, District Conservationist, presented him with the award. To date, Thurman has donated 2,920 hours as an Earth Team Volunteer, he was also nominated for a National Earth Team Award in 2018.

Thurman has been a key player in promoting conservation programs, getting conservation on the ground, and ensuring additional habitat for bobwhite quail is established in southeastern Minnesota. In the last year he has contacted approximately 50 Houston County landowners promoting bobwhite quail habitat opportunities. Thurman’s efforts have directly led to over 30 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) habitat applications in 2018. Thurman promoted the CP-33 practice which resulted in almost 60 Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts in Houston County cumulatively. He was instrumental in working with the NRCS Biologist, and a plethora of others, in establishing the CP-33 opportunity with CRP in many Minnesota counties.

Thurman has been collecting data and tracking sightings of bobwhite quail in Minnesota for over 30 years. In addition to working to rebuild Minnesota’s quail population, Thurman also conducts Christmas bird counts with local students and gives educational lectures. He has assisted with conservation educational field trips with local high school students from Spring Grove, Houston, Caledonia, and La Crescent schools and has had many bird posters printed for a contest with students in the SE and Metro North High School regarding bird identification.

Minnesota NRCS extends our deepest gratitude to Thurman Tucker for his many hours of volunteer service and dedication to conserving Minnesota’s natural resources.

Thurman Tucker Accepting His Awards 

Above: Thurman receiving his award! Foreground from L to R, Gary Larson, USDA NRCS District Conservationist, Caledonia Field Office; Thurman Tucker, Quail Forever; Dave Walter, District Manager, Root River SW.

Spring Tree Sale!

Tree Seedlings

The Root River SWCD is in the midst of their annual tree sale.  Trees are made available for conservation purposes which include enhancing wildlife habitat, perpetual windbreaks and can effectively address water quality issues.   Displacement of permanent vegetation such as trees and shrubs along with grasses by annual crops can increase the amount of runoff into streams, as well as the speed at which those waters are delivered.  Keeping trees on the landscape helps reduce sediment delivery and pollutants from being delivered to surface water.   Trees also provide a significant amount of wildlife habitat and esthetics improvement to our communities.

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NACD Announces 2018 Photo Contest Winners
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Save the Date!
March 23, 2019
Soil Health Clinic
Brownsville Community Center


Liz Stahl - University of MN Extension Educator in Agronomy.
Liz will discuss herbicide timing while integrating cover crops into a row crop system.

A question and answer session will follow: Find out how cover crops can fit into your current
program to benefit soil health.

Also hear about various conservation programs and planning from local SWCD and Pheasants Forever conservation staff.

World Soi Day

Mark your calendars for December 5th and take a few moments to consider all the benefits of healthy soil and its impacts on the world.  We all know the role that soil plays in the production of food, at least on an elementary level, but do we know about other potential benefits of healthy soil and how it can impact our world in a positive manner?
Did you know that the organic portion of soil can play a role in the climate change equation?  Soil organic matter (SOM) is an important component in the carbon cycle.  In simple terms, increasing SOM can have a direct benefit in reducing atmospheric carbon by sequestering that carbon within the soil and holding it there.  On a farm scale, any practice that can increase the organic matter content of soil from a depleted level will sequester carbon into the soil that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere.  Practices such as no-till and cover crops as well as livestock integration are excellent practices with which to increase a soil’s organic matter content. 
For those interested, programs are available through Root River SWCD and NRCS to producers who convert from conventional practices such as moldboard plowing and corn/soybean rotations to practices such as no-till and/or cover crops.  In addition, there are programs that provide technical and financial assistance to producers who transition to integrating grazing livestock onto the landscape through a managed grazing system. 
Many local producers are already implementing practices that are elevating their soil organic matter.  These producers are seeing the benefits of healthy soil on their fields. Water infiltration into their soils has improved.  They also have better nutrient cycling and less compaction issues during wet field operations.  In addition, through increased organic matter within their soils, these producers are doing their part to reduce atmospheric carbon and its effect on the climate change equation.
For more information on soil health, call Bob Scanlan, Root River SWCD at 724-5261 ext.3. 

Living Soil: A Documentary for All of Us. Our soils support 95 percent of all food production, and by 2060, our soils will be asked to give us as much food as we have consumed in the last 500 years.                         

Living Soil Film from Soil Health Institute on Vimeo.

Conservation Highlights Newsletter - Fall 2018

Two Houston County residents place in national photo contest

Excellent photography, as we know, can communicate volumes. Two Houston County individuals recently participated in the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) & NACD Auxiliary Photo Contest. The annual contest is open to all amateur photographers residing in the U.S. or its territories. Each contestant is given the opportunity to enter up to five photos per year that fall within one of four categories: Conservation Practices, Close-up Conservation, Conservation in Action, or Agriculture and Conservation Across America.

Joni Mehus of rural Spring Grove, MN submitted an entry in the adult division of the Ag/Conservation Across America category. Karalee Christensen, an 8th grader, from rural Houston, MN submitted her photo in the youth division of the Conservation in Action category.

Joni and Karalee’s photos were judged on technical merit (sharpness/clarity, properly exposed, and whether the photo is well-framed) and composition (imagination and creativity).

Cash prizes were awarded to the top two winners of each category and age division. Karalee Christensen, daughter of Al & Karen Christensen, placed second in the youth division of the Conservation in Action category. Joni Mehus placed second in the adult division of the Ag/Conservation Across America category.

Joni Mehus, Spring Grove, MN 2nd Place Adult Division, Ag/Conservation Across America category.


 Karaleen Christensen, Houston, MN 2nd Place Youth Division, Conservation in Action.

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