Washburn County Lakes and Rivers Association (WCLRA), Washburn County Land & Water Conservation and the UW-Madison Division of Extension Washburn County are longtime partners on land and water quality efforts. Given urgent matters such as addressing aquatic invasive species and the need to make farming more sustainable, these groups and others are finding partnerships beneficial.
With about 250 new Washburn County shoreland owners annually in recent years, the WCLRA and UW Extension Washburn County decided to share information about being a good steward and protecting the very thing that attracted new owners to the area — lakes and rivers. Each new owner received information with 10 simple things to do to protect water quality and to improve shoreland.
Examples of simple things include using zero phosphorus fertilizer — or none — and limiting use of toxic products such as pesticides and properly disposing of these unwanted products. New owners also were offered a free first-year membership in WCLRA, which provides similar information and resources.
Reaching water enthusiasts
A second collaboration project of the three groups targeted water enthusiasts through resorts and bait shops in Washburn County. Information packets and a poster were provided to these businesses to raise awareness with their customers.
Topics include aquatic invasive species (AIS) such as erosion milfoil, curly leaf pondweed, purple loosestrife and zebra mussels, as well as proper cleaning of boats and use and disposal of live bait. Several resort owners reported the information was well received, especially by out-of-state customers and others unfamiliar with northern Wisconsin water regulations and AIS.
Healthy farming practices
A new initiative, the Shell Lake-Yellow River Farmer-led Watershed Council, consists of a group of farmers who are passionate about improving soil health and water quality. Council participants want to learn, use and share conservation practices such as no-till, cover crops, rotational grazing, nutrient management and erosion control.
One of their goals is to determine how practices will work locally, given the short growing season and various soil types. The council is supported by UW-Madison Extension Washburn County, Burnett and Washburn County Land & Water Conservation, Northwest Wisconsin Graziers Network, USDA-NRCS and the Wisconsin DNR.
Recently their first event addressed soil health training for farmers and professionals who work with them. A UW Extension specialist explained, demonstrated and provided participants a toolkit to test their soil quality or health. Another activity involved a soil pit demonstration where soil experts explained soil layers, texture and soil quality changes from crop system management activities. A Burnett County Land & Water Conservation planner described how excessive trips across soil can cause soil compaction, which results in more rainwater runoff.
The Council’s next event, Crop Farming in the 21st Century, will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26. This event is open to the public and will discuss using cover crops to protect both the soil and water quality, crop farming practices and the latest farm technology, as well as time to meet and greet neighbors. For more information, visit washburn.extension.wisc.edu or wclra.org.