By GILLIAN POMPLUN | Crawford County Independent

About 30 members of the Coon Creek Community Watershed Council traveled to the Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center for the group’s June meeting. 

The meeting was the first since the group officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization and was facilitated by president Nancy Wedwick.


Lori Dobczak, executive director of Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center in rural Coon Valley, discussed the Center’s stewardship education initiatives, the history of flooding on the property, and why it might make sense for the Center to partner with the watershed council on education initiatives. Dobczak is standing on a foot bridge over the creek that runs through the property that has been washed out repeatedly in flooding events in recent years. (Crawford Independent photo)

The group agreed to open a bank account at the River Bank in Coon Valley now that they have its tax ID number available. Authorized signers on the checking account will be president Nancy Wedwick and Secretary Maggie Traastad. Either of the two will be able to sign checks written by Treasurer Debbie Andre as authorized by the group.

Use of the Ho-Chunk funds granted to the group by the Vernon County Board was discussed. The $40,000 in funds are to be used to pay for consulting services and funding for practices that may be delayed due to slow funding decision turn-around times. It was clarified that the funds are intended to be spent on projects in Vernon County.

The group heard a “Marc’s History Moment” presentation from watershed council historian Marc Moilien. He shared materials and documents commemorating the 50th anniversary celebration of the original Coon Creek Watershed Project.

Promotions/outreach

Jim Munsch reported to the group on activities of the Promotions and Outreach Committee. Munsch said that plans are moving forward for a July 6 meeting at the farm of Alan Seelow on the topic of small-dam maintenance, a pasture walk on Aug. 3 on Munsch’s farm, a ‘Park Party’ on Sept. 7 to commemorate the group’s one-year anniversary, and a pasture walk on the Jim Leum farm on Sept. 13.

“I travel back and forth to Madison, working on developing grazing spreadsheet tools with staff at UW-Madison, and I can tell you that there are all kinds of experts champing at the bit to come and talk to our group,” Munsch said. “Some ideas for future presentations I have include soil carbon sequestration and how to make money off it, prairie strips, the Dairy Heifer Compass tool just released, and funding and technical support options from Sand County Foundation through the USDA-NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).”

The Sand County Foundation has been funded $1,500,000 through USDA-NRCS for a ‘Grasslands and Oak Savannas for Water and Wildlife’ initiative aimed at the Driftless Area in the Mississippi River Basin. The project will increase terrestrial habitat to benefit grassland birds and pollinators, reduce nutrient and sediment loss from vulnerable lands, improve the economic well-being for farmers and rural communities, and extend NRCS resources to historically underserved producers. 

This project will focus exclusively on perennial solutions and include transitioning sensitive cropland to permanent and productive vegetation, restore degraded grasslands and oak savannas, support prescribed grazing systems, promote agroforestry and control of invasive species.

Partnerships

Caroline Gottschalk-Druschke and Anna Andrzejewski of the UW-Madison ‘Greener Pastures’ group once again attended the meeting to survey interest of group members on collaborating on a watershed history project. The group agreed that the two should officially partner with them to undertake the project.

Next, Lori Dubczak, Director of Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center, provided the group with an overview of the efforts of Norskedalen’s Stewardship program, Thrunegaarden property, and how a collaboration with the watershed council could be beneficial for both organizations.  

“I joined Norskedalen in 2016, and since then, we’ve experienced four floods in five years,” Dubczak said. “There is no question that our problems with water start on the hills above us, and so collaborating with the work of your watershed council seems like a perfect fit for us and our stewardship education program.”

Examples of stewardship education activities undertaken by the Center include flip-up sustainability signs on a walking tour of the property, and myriad other things that are woven into every interaction with the public.

Other education resources offered by the Center include ‘Letters from Anne,’ which are a series of letters written by Anne, a daughter of the Norwegian settlers of the property to her relatives back home in Norway. Anne’s letters provide a fascinating glimpse into the lives of early settlers in the region. The Center also hosts hundreds of children from area schools each year, offering them a variety of nature education experiences.

“If you’re looking for ideas of what to do at the Thrunegaarden heritage demonstration farm site, I think partnering with our council and Marc Moilien on a history of the Coon Valley conservation movement would be a great fit,” Jim Munsch observed.