Spring 2016: Cultivating Conservation

What does the word “conservation” mean to you?  For me it conjures up the idea of protecting and restoring our natural areas, farmland and even urban yards.  It speaks to the idea of sustainability and passing along to future generations.  Healthy soil and water are some of the results of employing conservation practices on the land and will be areas of focus for this column.  How do we create these results?  This is a big topic and there is much going on in Minnesota and other places.  Some things that are “trending” right now are buffers, sustainable and organic farming, nitrogen pollution of our waters both above and below ground, soil health and cover crops, to name a few.  Over the course of these newsletters we’ll explore different topics and provide resources to learn more.

For today, one important concept that everyone should know is: What is a Watershed?  In simple terms a watershed is the area of land that drains to a body of water.  They come in all sizes, shapes and scales.  In southern Minnesota we are part of the Mississippi River watershed, which gets broken into major watersheds such as the Root River, Cannon River, Greater Blue Earth River, etc. Those get divided further into the more local stream and lake watersheds. You might also hear a watershed referred to as a catchment.  The piece to remember is that all the water that falls during rain or snow in those watersheds makes its way to either groundwater aquifers often used for drinking water, surface water (streams, rivers, lakes), is taken up by plants or evaporates.  What you do on the land has an effect on the water.  To learn more about what a watershed is here is a link to a short video by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.  

If you have specific questions or issues you’d like to learn more about email me at beth@rtcinfo.org and we’ll work it into future editions.