SPARTA - On Friday, May 3, an all-star cast assembled at the offices of the Monroe County Land Conservation Department in Sparta to discuss pressing conservation issues facing Monroe, Vernon and Crawford counties.
Monroe County Conservationist Bob Micheel and the chair of his Land Conservation Committee Nodji VanWychen; Vernon County Conservationist Ben Wojahn; and Crawford County Conservationist Dave Troester came to the meeting prepared to discuss their department’s needs for increased support from federal and state funding agencies for their ‘boots-in-the-field’ work with installation of conservation practices.
“We wanted to gather county conservation staff in the same room with our state and federal legislators to discuss the critical underfunding land conservation departments have suffered under in recent years,” Micheel said. “Our departments are the ones on the front line of conservation in our counties, and we have a huge role to play in helping to reduce flooding, and protecting ground and surface water.”
On hand to listen were Karrie Jackelen from U.S. Representative Ron Kind’s office; State Representative Loren Oldenburg; and State Senator Jennifer Shilling. Also present were DATCP Secretary Brad Pfaff and State Land+Water Executive Director Matt Krueger.
The group listened to presentations from the county conservationists, discussing their funding and staffing needs, and discussed the flooding, breached flood control dams, and surface and groundwater quality issues the area is facing. In addition, Micheel took the group on a tour of the City of Sparta ‘phosphorous trading credits’ projects with streambank restoration in the city.
The conservationists talked about the issues facing their counties around the issues of:
• changing land use
• loss of agricultural lands to development and mining
• increased soil erosion
• more runoff from increasingly intense rainfall events
• violations of the NR151 manure management rule
• growth in prevalence of chronic wasting disease
• invasive species control
• private well water testing
• septic code system compliance initiatives
Vernon County Conservationist Ben Wojahn reported in an interview with the Independent Scout that “all of the elected officials in the room were very supportive of ensuring that the county land departments received the additional resources and cost share that they need.”Crawford County Conservationist Dave Troester reported to the Independent Scout that “it was a very good discussion of the big picture issues facing counties with changes in weather, flooding and water quality.”