Valley Stewardship Network receives funding for prairie conservation

In the Kickapoo watershed, Fishers and Farmers Partnership is working with Valley Stewardship Network on constructing farmer-led demonstration sites similar to the STRIPS (Science-Based Trials of Row Crops Integrated with Prairie Strips) model in Iowa.

This conservation practice was developed by Iowa State University, the USDA, and Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge staff near Prairie City, Iowa. The Iowa STRIPS Team recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary of planting the first STRIPS on the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.

According to a press release prepared by VSN, “STRIPS is an easily-integrated and low-cost management option that, when 10 percent of fields are planted in STRIPS, the fields are reported to reduce sediment transport by 90–95 percent, reduce phosphorous transport by 90 percent, reduce nitrogen transport by 85 percent, and reduce annual surface water flow by 40 percent.”

This new VSN project addresses the need to control streambank erosion to improve fish habitat as well as improve floodplain connectivity, soil health, wildlife, pollinators and biodiversity, according to the press release.

An overview of the STRIPS program recently was featured on Wisconsin Public Radio and can be heard at www.wpr.org/node/117870.

Valley Stewardship Network is working with Fishers and Farmers, the Sand County Foundation, the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program, the Pasture Project and the Wallace Center at Winrock International, along with local farmers and landowners, to establish prairie strips and similar prairie plantings adjacent to crop fields in the Kickapoo and surrounding watersheds.

The new Fishers and Farmers funding significantly increases the amount of prairie seed and management-cost support available to local farmers to establish prairie conservation strips on farms. Those interested in participating in this project may contact John Delaney or Shelly Gradwell-Brenneman at VSN (608) 637-3615.

Valley Stewardship Network is celebrating 17 years of land and water stewardship in the Kickapoo Valley and adjacent watersheds. Known for its water-quality programs, VSN also offers outreach and education programs to help farmers, landowners, residents and visitors understand and support local ecology. For more information, go to www.valleystewardshipnetwork.org.

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