Last Friday I had the opportunity to attend the 4th Wisconsin River Water Quality Improvement Symposium at UW-Stevens Point. I didn’t realize how much land the Wisconsin River drains – 20% of the state. We heard about some great ongoing efforts in the watershed and it appears that significant improvements have been made, especially when looking at the before and after pictures provided by some of the speakers, but just like here in Iowa, there is more work to be done. One of the nifty things presented on Friday was a flyover of the watershed.
The reason I made the four trip to the symposium was to present Iowa’s farmer-led approach to water quality improvement. It is always fun to bring the story to a new group and get some feedback from the audience. The questions never get easier. A couple of previous visits to Wisconsin resulted in a demonstration project supported by the Wisconsin DNR, and led by UW Extension and the county soil and water districts in west-central Wisconsin. Four developing farmer-led watershed councils are learning how to organize and are now searching for their first significant funding streams. Project coordinator, Julia Olmstead, presented their work at the Green Lands Blue Waters Conference last fall in Minneapolis. Her presentation can be found here: http://greenlandsbluewaters.net/2013-presentations .
Next month Jeff Pape, Hewitt Creek watershed chairman, and I are making a trip to the Red Cedar Conference at UW-Stoudt to talk more about the farmer-led approach. I’m looking forward to more great discussion about the importance of engaging farmers in watershed improvement projects.