Farm Horizons, August 2012

State funding for protecting water and wildlife

By Kristen Miller, Enterprise Dispatch Editor

Minnesota landowners willing to designate land to protect the state’s precious resources is what the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources hopes to find for the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Riparian Buffer Easement program.

With 823,000 acres of Minnesota conservation lands enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) expiring in the next five years, there is a $10-million initiative to protect some of that land by creating permanent easements.

Dave and Jeanette Stottrup did exactly that with 40 of the 162 acres of CRP land on their rural Litchfield property.

The Stottrups were the first to enroll in the RIM Riparian Buffer Easement program, which is funded by both the Outdoor Heritage Fund and the Clean Water Fund from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

As a longtime farmer and educator who has since retired, Dave knows what a precious resource water is – particularly this summer with the lack of rainfall – and is doing what he can to protect it.

Before the Stottrups bought the land, it was “all under plow” with no trees or ponds on the property.

With CRP land expiring this year, the Stottrups wanted to continue protecting the water and wildlife that surrounds them, including Battle Creek, which runs through their backyard.

“This is one program to express those expiring acres,” said Jennifer Maleitzke from Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

By enrolling in the RIM Riparian Buffer Easement program, the Stottrups have created a permanent easement that is not binding, even if the land is sold. Basically, the program pays the landowner for the acreage as if the land is being retired, Maleitzke explained.

This brings comfort to Stottrup, who, at age 70, is looking to protect the land even after he is gone. This will ensure that future landowners can’t till up the land for crop production, unlike CRP land, which is only under 10- to 15-year contracts.

It takes a special person, like Stottrup, who has a passion for protecting natural resources and wildlife, to make this lasting decision.

There also is the monetary benefit, said Joe Norman, district technician for Meeker County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Landowners who sign up for the program will receive a one-time payment from the State of Minnesota once the easement closes. The rates are competitive to what crop land is going for, Norman said, and is approximately 125 percent of the assessed value. The land also remains on the tax roll for the county.

Stottrup enrolled 400 feet into the program – 200 feet on both sides of the creek are now buffers.

The buffer strips actually provide multiple benefits by creating a wildlife habitat and nesting area for animals, song birds, and water fowl; and also acts as a filter for run-off before it reaches the streams and waterways. Drainage ditches and wetlands do not apply.

“Farm the best and buffer the rest,” was how Tabor Hoek of MN Board of Soil and Water Resources put it, encouraging land-owners to consider this program.

“We can’t have clean water in this state without buffers,” he said.

For more information and to see if your property qualifies, stop in or call your local Soil and Water Conservation District Office.

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