Eurasian water milfoil

Washburn County Lakes and Rivers Association (WCLRA), Washburn County Land & Water Conservation, and the University of Wisconsin-Extension Washburn County (UWEXWC) 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.

Several joint projects provide education

With about 250 new Washburn County shoreland owners annually in recent years, the WCLRA and UWECWC decided to share information about being a good steward and protecting the very item 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 those unwanted products.

New owners were also offered a free first-year membership in WCLRA, which provides similar information and resources.

Reaching water enthusiasts about water quality

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 those businesses to raise awareness with their customers. Topics covered aquatic invasive species (AIS) such as Eurasian 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.

Supporting 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 UWECWC, Burnett and Washburn County Land & Water Conservation, Northwest Wisconsin Graziers Network, USDA-NRCS, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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,” is on September 26 at 5:30 to 7 p.m. 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 meet and greet time. For details: washburn.extension.wisc.edu or wclra.org.

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