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Conservation plan ready for comments

Conservation plan ready for comments Conservation plan ready for comments

The Marathon County Environmental Resources Committee agreed last week Tuesday to take public comment on a draft 2021-2030 Land and Water Resources Management (LWRM) plan at its next two regular meetings on Dec. 1 and Jan. 5, 2021.

The plan, which plays out overarching goals for county conservation efforts, is required by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and Department of Natural Resources for annual staff and cost-share funding.

Committee members Sara Guild and chairman Jacob Langenhahn congratulated Conservation, Planning and Zoning staff on producing an aesthetically pleasing document, but refrained from commenting in detail on the plan’s specifi c objectives.

In discussion, Paul Daigle, county and and water program director and author of the plan, said this was the first LWRM plan that would be benchmarked to state performance standards results.

These are some of the benchmarks referenced by the plan:

_ County farmland and pasture meeting tolerable soil erosion has declined from 87 to 78 percent from 2010 to 2019. County average soil erosion has increased from 1.6 tons per acre per year to 2.6 tons.

_ The percent of farmland covered under Nutrient Management Plans has increased from 2010 to 2019, from 131,000, 45 percent of ag land, to 169,000 acres, 57 percent.

_ The percent of cropland and pasture land meeting losing less than six pounds of phosphorus each year increased from 45 percent in 2010 to 57 percent in 2019.

_ The percentage of farm operations that keep a minimum five foot tillage setback has increased from 2020 to 2019 from 45 to 57 percent.

The plan notes that the significant increase in soil erosion has taken place as the county’s agricultural business has dramatically changed. From 1987 to 2017, the plan reports a loss of 27 percent of farm operations. The number of dairy operations has declined 68 percent, says the plan, and dairy forage production has been replaced by cash grain such as soybeans and corn.

Strategies to try and meet state performance standards are listed by the plan:

_ Complete an inventory of cropland gullies by 2023.

_ Increase land under Nutrient Management Plans from 57 to 80 percent by 2020.

_ Increase the level of organic matter on agricultural lands from 3.3 to 3.5 percent.

_ Increase agricultural acres under reduced till and no-till from 27 percent to 40 percent by 2030.

_ Increase agricultural acres in perennial forage (hay or pasture) from 41 percent to 46 percent by 2030.

_ Limit conversion of prime farmland to non-farm uses to 150 acres per year.

_ Establish 25,000 lineal feet of 35 foot tillage buffers on waterways.

_ Get 80 percent of county ag land in compliance with state performance standards by 2030.

_ Have all agricultural lands lose no more than 2.5 pounds of phosphorus per


_ Select two additional watersheds in the Wisconsin River and Upper Fox Wolf River basins for a nine-element conservation effort, similar to what has been attempted with the Fenwood Creek subwatershed.

The plan advocates a five-pronged approach to improving soil health as a prime strategy for achieving conservation. These strategies are:

_ Keeping plant residues on the soil surface.

_ Limiting the disturbance of the soil.

_ Increase plant diversity through the use of cool and warm season grasses and broadleaf plants.

_ Keep plants growing in the soil with cover crops.

_ Integrate livestock and animal manure.

The public can read the full plan by going to the CPZ website. The site includes the plan, a PowerPoint summary of the plan and a video on soil health.

To comment on the plan, members of the public can either send Daigle written comments or provide verbal comments during the ERC’s future virtual meetings.