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Cokato farmers awarded ‘2010 Outstanding Conservationists’
Dec. 27, 2010
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By Kristen Miller
News Editor

COKATO, MN – Steve and Ramona Strolberg of Cokato were recently honored by Wright County Soil and Water Conservation District as Wright County 2010 Outstanding Conservationists in their efforts to preserve wetlands.

This past year, the Strolbergs became involved in a wetland banking project through the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).

The project included selling 140 acres of wetland banking easements for development projects throughout Wright County and surrounding counties.

Wetland banking replaces wetlands drained or filled for agriculture or urban development.

The Wetland Conservation Act requires replacement for wetlands that are impacted through such development including road projects, explained Colleen Allen, wetland specialist with the Wright County Soil and Water Conservation District out of Buffalo.

The Strolbergs farm roughly 1,500 acres of land on Wright County Road 100, just north of the Dassel-Cokato High School. This land has been in the family for more than 100 years, Steve said.

With the land rather hilly and highly erodible, the Strolbergs have had difficulties utilizing this section of the land, and experienced wash-out of the crops.

Tired of losing money on this portion of land through crop failure, Steve decided to do some research and look into another option for it.

That’s when he found the BWSR project to be the most beneficial; both for him as a land owner and as a conservationist.

Steve submitted bids to BWSR for the land on how much the project would cost the state, and he obtained a contract. This is an award in itself since there were other property owners in the area trying to get the contract, Allen explained.

“It’s a very good sight for this type of project,” she said, explaining Strolbergs’ land is a series of small basins surrounded by upland habitat.

Through this project, 10 wetland basins have been restored on the site, along with buffers of native prairie vegetation. This will be used as credit for future development projects.

As part of this, the Strolbergs receive compensation for the easements, but the land must remain wetland.

The Strolbergs were nominated for Wright County’s 2010 Outstanding Conservationists by Allen after working with them on the wetland banking project.

Each year, counties select someone “who are good stewards of the land,” Allen said, and the person(s) selected are then recognized at the annual convention of the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. The Strolbergs were honored this year at the convention Dec. 7 in St. Paul.

The award is something that the Strolbergs were not anticipating, but it is an honor, Steve said. Especially for the fact that his father, Clayton, received this award in 1993, in his involvement with the Conservation Reserve Program. This is a similar program in which a farmer sets aside agricultural land for wildlife habitat for a period of time.

Conservation is a long-standing family tradition for the Strolbergs that began in the early- to mid-1980s with the early concept of no-till farming.

Since the Strolberg land was prone to erosion and washouts, Steve and Clayton experimented with reduced tillage, which left much of the plant still in the field.

This not only reduced soil erosion, but it also saved fuel with the plow, making it more efficient overall.

The Strolbergs continue that practice with 600 acres in no-till corn and beans.

To learn more about wetland banking, contact Allen with Wright County Soil and Water at (763) 682-1970 or visit www.wrightswcd.org.

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