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Local conservation district wins award

The East Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District was recently presented with an appreciation award from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Ecological and Water Resources for its innovation and leadership in the protection of land and water resources. Submitted photo

The East Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District has won the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Ecological and Water Resources Appreciation Award.

The award was presented during the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts annual convention in December.

The award honors a Soil and Water Conservation District that has implemented innovative conservation activities, demonstrated leadership and achieved significant results in the protection of Minnesota’s land and water resources. The East Otter Tail district was chosen from 90 such districts across the state.

The district was recognized for its many efforts and projects aimed at protecting the area’s natural resources.

The district is unique in its varied land use and assists lakeshore owners, farmers, and other residents of Otter Tail County. It has worked with landowners to provide technical assistance, cost sharing, and implementation of best management practices designed to reduce environmental impacts.

The East Otter Tail district is one of the most heavily irrigated areas of the state, and with new center pivot irrigation systems being installed every year, local soil and water conservation district staff recognized the need for education in regard to irrigation water management.

For several years, the district has employed an irrigation technician to implement an irrigation scheduler program, which accounts for rainfall, weather, and crop water use that helps farmers decide when to irrigate. The technician also makes weekly field visits to more than 90 fields to verify soil moisture. This successful program helps to avoid over irrigation, which can lead to nutrient leaching into the area’s susceptible ground water resources. In recent years, the district has hosted several irrigation clinics to provide education on water management, soil health and groundwater concerns.

An innovative program that made the East Otter Tail district standout from others is the work its staff has been doing with local corn growers on adaptive nitrogen management, a program designed to give participating producers a report on how well their crop utilized the nitrogen fertilizer that was applied. The majority of producers in the program have indicated that they will be making management changes in regards to rate, source, timing, or placement of nutrients.

The district was also given the award for its efforts in lakeshore management. It employs a full-time shoreland specialist and a half-time shoreland specialist to work with lakeshore owners on water quality concerns. Shoreland staff also worked diligently to develop the Otter Tail County Shoreline Guide to Lake Stewardship, a lakeshore management guidebook.

The programs and services offered by the district, many of which are free of charge, span across many landscape types and reach out to people from all walks of life.

The district strives to take a proactive approach to land and water quality management.