Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Conservation Day Camp Experiences - Day 2

 A group of "coal miners" hard at work, digging coal from the sand pit.  What is it about digging in sand that is so much fun?  I think they'd do this all day if we left them to it.   Most the kids are wearing their cmp T-shirts, which read "Fueling Your Imagination" which is the theme of the camp this year.
Besides the coal mining, this session also had the kids panning for gold.  Another fun activity - who wouldn't want to play in a wading pool filled with water on a hot summer morning?  Orme Hardware was so generous to allow us to borrow a gold prospecting kit they have for sale in the store on 11th Street.  
Our prospectors were able to trade in their "gold" for candy at the company store. 

Waiting to play the lifesized monopoly game.   We have the "banker" with money in hand; in the center is one of the "high rollers" with the dice, and one of the game pieces, a coal miner, in the hard hat.  Besides the coal miner game piece, we also had a  natural gas flame and an oil tycoon.  With a roll of the dice, players answered questions about coal, oil, and natural gas, or true/false questions about saving energy.  Correct answers earned them giant "dollars", which could be traded in for candy or trinkets at the end of the game.

Roy Landstrom, retired US Fish and Wildlife Service, teaches pellet gun safety to a group of youngsters.  They enjoyed trying their hand at target shooting while learning how to safely handle their guns.  

In the afternoon, Dave Adair came and told the story of the life of a coal miner at the beginning of the 20th century.  Dave has done this on the Byesville train for several years.  The kids are fascinated with his stories and mining gear that he uses to bring the stories to life. 

Guernsey Muskingum Electric employee Tim Fisher brought his electric safely display and explained to the kids about how to be safe around electricity.  With the recent storms foremost in their minds, they were especially attentive, and asked lots of questions. As usual, the cooking hotdog showing what would happen if electricity would pass through a human body made a big impression. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Conservation Day Camp experiences - Day One

Dee Carter, retired science teacher from New Concord, has been teaching at our camp for many years.  She is an inspiring teacher, and the kids LOVE her.  This year, her topic was reclaiming after strip mining.  Here, the kids are learning about how the laws that govern mining have improved over the years.  

This is an example of the "strip mine" model each child made.  First, they put layers of materials representing different layers; clay, then coal, then gravel, sand, and finally topsoil into their bowl.  Then they "mined" their coal layer, taking care to remove each layer and set it aside separately.  Then they replace their "land" as they had found it, finishing off with features such as a "pond", and seeding with grass, and adding leaves to represent trees and other vegetation.   At each step of their mining and reclamation, their work was "inspected" to make certain they were following the rules and regulations governing the mining operation.

Here, Myron Dellinger is discussing the geology of Guernsey county with the students, helping them to understand the underground rock and mineral formations that provide us with the rich deposits of coal, oil, and natural gas.  Each child went home with a rock & mineral sample collection if their very own. 
Myron is a master gardener and naturalist, and was our 2011 Cooperator of the Year award recipient. 

Making a scrap book to fill with pictures and stories of their camp experience.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Conservation Campers

Our 2012 campers, wearing their camp T-shirts with the theme,
Fueling Your Imagination.
Watch for more photos and explainations of the classes next week!

Your Backyard Woods - the water cycle

Trees and other vegetation play a key role in the cycling of water from ocean to land and back to ocean. Rainfall entering the soil fills the soil spaces at the surface. Gravity pulls the water deeper into the soil. Most of the water remains in spaces attached to soil particles and humus. Trees and other vegetation remove most of the stored water, creating space in the soil for more rainfall. The water rises as sap through the trunk and branches to the leaves, where most of the water is transferred to the air. For the Continental United States on average, vegetation (mostly trees) returns about 60 percent of the water entering the soil back to the air. If you add evaporation from leaves and other surfaces, a total of about 70 percent of the precipitation that falls on your backyard woods is returned to the air. Only 30 percent of the rain or snow arrives at a stream.

Removing trees from your woods increases the amount of water in the soil, and the amount of water moving to a stream. Less trees results in less water removed from the soil. More than 50 percent of the trees need to be removed from your woods before an increase can be measured. Tree removals can be caused by fires, storms, insect and disease outbreaks, or tree harvests. Most of the streamflow increase occurs during the growing season when streamflows are normally low. The path water takes through your backyard woods remains the same. Water still enters the soil because the roots and litter layer are still present. As new trees grow back, your backyard woods gradually returns to its normal water removal rates.

Changing a woodland to a crop field, pasture, residential, or urban use has a different outcome on the amount of water reaching a stream. Changing the use of the land removes the trees, litter layer, compacts the soil, and in some cases covers the soil with surfaces that prevent water from entering it. Water moves over the surface and more water reaches the stream at a faster rate. Greater streamflow throughout the year increases streambank erosion. Streambank erosion reduces fish habitat and decreases water quality. Increased streamflow continues until the land use is changed back to woodland.

Water Management Practices
A few simple practices can help your backyard woods produce clean water.
• Keep the woods you have and plant more trees in old fields and other open land.
• Plan road and trail locations to reduce the area they cover. Avoid wet soils, and keep them away from streams if possible.
• If you must drive off a road and trail into your woods, do it when the ground is frozen or during dry periods.
• Plan stream crossings to eliminate soil movement into the stream or channel.
• Cover roads and trails with woodchips or gravel, especially on steep sections and on approaches to stream crossings to reduce soil movement.
• Be sure that water flowing off roads and trails enters your woods rather than going into a stream or a ditch that flows into a stream.
• Keep livestock out of your woods, confine them to trails and control the surface runoff, or manage the trees and grass as a system that maintains water movement into and through the soil.
• Maintain a minimum 35 to100-foot wide woody riparian area next to any water on your property.

In the Forest
The greatest threat to water quality in the United States is nonpoint source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution includes soil, nutrients, animal waste, pesticides, and other substances from many places over the landscape. Soil is the principal nonpoint pollutant from forests. Nationwide, only 3 to 9 percent of the total nonpoint pollution comes from forest management practices such as road construction, timber harvesting, planting site preparation, and fireline clearing. Even though forest land is not a major pollution source, pollution from forest land practices should be controlled because forested areas have high quality water and small changes in this quality can have an impact. Best Management Practices (BMPs) have been developed and adopted by the Forest Service, State forestry agencies, and the forest industry. These BMP’s are very similar to the practices recommended for your backyard woods.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Your Backyard Woods - Riparian Areas

The riparian area is the transition between water and the land at the edge of streams, rivers, lakes, springs, and wetlands. It is the zone of soil and vegetation that feeds the stream energy in the form of leaf litter and dissolved nutrients, and houses soil organisms at densities and diversities nearly 3 times those found in soil farther away from the water. A riparian area dominated by trees is especially important on small streams where intense interaction between land and water ecosystems occurs. These small streams comprise nearly three-quarters of the total stream miles in the United States.

Wooded riparian areas are important because they do the following:
• Leaves and other debris fall into streams and provide food for insects, amphibians, crustaceans and small fish, all critical to the stream food chain.
• Wooded riparian areas provide diverse habitats for birds and other wildlife.
• Fallen trees (large woody debris) create pools and shelter for fish and preserve stream habitat.
• Fertilizers and other pollutants in water coming from other land uses (crop fields, lawns, etc.) sink into the soil, where tree roots and bacteria remove them before they reach the stream.
• The leafy canopy provides shade that cools the water enabling it to hold more oxygen, which helps fish and other organisms grow.
• Overland flow from other land uses (crop fields, roads, etc.) slows down, spreads out, and sinks into the ground, depositing the soil it carries on the surface.
• Tree roots stabilize stream banks and reduce bank erosion.
• Riparian areas are travel corridors for wildlife between wooded patches.

The riparian area is an extremely important ecosystem in your backyard woods. Different parts of the riparian area have different functions and require different management practices. Trees next to the water help maintain lower water temperature, provide leaves and debris to the water, and keep banks stable. Trees next to the water are usually not removed. Eventually, these trees will fall into the stream and improve fish habitat.

Trees farther away from the bank provide filtration, deposition, and plant nutrient uptake that removes sediment, nutrients, and toxic substances from water moving through the riparian area soil. Periodic removal of trees is acceptable in this area because it removes nutrients stored in tree stems and branches, and it increases nutrient uptake by younger, more vigorously growing trees.
A third zone to your riparian area may be needed if a crop field, pasture, or similar land use is adjacent to the trees. A grass zone can make the tree zones more efficient by changing channel flow into sheet flow. The high number of grass stems slows down and spreads out overland flow better than the litter layer under the trees.

The width of your riparian area will vary by its primary function.
• Wildlife habitat will need a minimum width range between 30 and 300 feet.
• Sediment removal needs a minimum width range between 50 and 150 feet.
• Nutrient removal needs a minimum width range between 35 and 125 feet.
• Water temperature cooling needs a minimum width range between 10 and 60 feet.
• Bank stabilization needs a minimum width range between 10 and 30 feet.
For all purpose use, a minimum width range between 35 and 100 feet is recommended. The wider widths provide the best results. Steep slopes will require wider widths to trap sediment and remove nutrients.  Riparian areas are vital for water quality, fish, and wildlife. If you are fortunate to have water in your backyard woods, restoring or maintaining riparian areas are critical activities.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Conservation Camp!

Don't forget - conservation camp is this week, on Wednesday and Thursday.  On Wednesday, the kids will break into 4 groups, and will be led through a series of 45 minute classes.  They'll learn about reclaiming strip mined ground; the geology under Guernsey county that has provided our gas, oil and coal reserves; play a lifesized game of Energy Monopoly; learn about all the products made from oil they use in their daily lives; and make a fun craft to take home.

On Thursday, they will dig for coal and pan for gold; take a nature hike through Moore Woods; learn how to shoot a pellet gun safely; hear the story of coal mining in the last century; and learn about being safe around electricity. 

They will take home a camp T-shirt, a mineral sample kit, and a packet of games, activities, and information sheets. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Your Backyard Woods - Avoiding Soil Compaction

Soil compaction reduces water infiltration by reducing the number and size of soil spaces. Driving vehicles in your woods compacts the soil. Compaction can occur by driving one pickup truck of firewood over the ground under your trees. As the number of pickup passes increase, over the same area, the compaction becomes severe and can take many years to recover. Wet soils are more susceptible to compaction than dry soils, and clay and loam soils are more susceptible than sandy soils.

Uncontrolled livestock access can cause more serious compaction than periodic vehicle use because it covers a greater portion of your woods and for a longer period of time. Water infiltration rate is lowered in compacted areas and surface runoff will occur. The distance the water travels overland depends on the extent of the compacted area. If the overland flow reaches an area with no compaction, the water will infiltrate. Soil erosion is scattered across the grazed area, but normally does not leave your land except when livestock trails end at gullies and streams.

Uncontrolled livestock access can cause serious impact to some woods, altering water movement. Compacted soils hinder root growth and reduce tree health. The majority of tree root systems are within 3 feet of the soil surface and most of the fine roots are within 8 inches of the surface. Long-term uncontrolled livestock access damages these roots, killing young trees first, but eventually killing all the trees, converting your woods to an open pasture. Infiltration rates are reduced and overland flow rates increase in the overgrazed pasture.

Roads and trails that cross a stream or even a channel that only contains water periodically are primary entry points for soil into streams. The bare compacted soil in the road, trail, or road ditch is like a channel carrying water and its load of soil into a stream. The solution for this problem is to remove the water from the road or trail before it layer where it can slow down, spread out, and sink into the ground, depositing its soil onto the litter layer.

Many states have developed practices that will help you control road and trail overland flow, and build a gully or stream crossing. They are called Best Management Practices(BMPs)  for Water Quality, and information on how to install them can be found at our Soil and Water Conservation District office.
Controlled livestock access is the best way to solve compaction and litter layer problems caused by livestock. Methods vary by location and tree type. In some tree types, it is best to eliminate access. In other tree types, trees and grass can be produced on the same area in a managed system.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Your Backyard Woods - Reducing runoff & erosion

Soil particles carried off your property by overland flow and deposited in a channel is the primary pollutant that your woodland can produce. Many woodland activities have the potential to cause soil erosion. Your goal is to keep eroded soil on your land, and not let it reach a road ditch, gully, or stream. Once the water reaches one of these channels, it will eventually be carried to a lake, reservoir, or the ocean where it will be deposited. Along the way it can harm stream fish habitat, fill stream channels, and increase water treatment costs.

Water is a product of your backyard woods and everything you do or do not do in your woods can impact it. Backyard woods management practices, such as protecting your property from wildfire, keeping your woods healthy, attracting wildlife, helping your preferred trees grow, planting trees, harvesting wood and special forest products, building and maintaining roads and trails, providing access to livestock, and doing nothing in your woods are some of the practices that can impact water production. Each practice can have either a negative or positive impact on water depending on how it is used or not used. 

Potential practice impacts on water quality are:
• Wildfires burn the litter layer and can increase erosion.
• A healthy woods produces more leaf litter, which protects the soil from rainfall impact.
• Helping preferred trees grow produces more litter on the ground and reduces fire risk.
• Large numbers of wildlife (deer, as an example) can impact tree growth, which reduces the litter layer.
• Planting trees expands your woods, and more acres of woods produce more clean water.
• Harvesting products may require machinery in your woods that can compact soil and remove litter layer.
• Constructing and maintaining roads and trails remove litter layer and compact the soil.
• Unrestricted livestock access compacts the soil and removes vegetation.
• Doing nothing may increase fire risk and reduce tree health.

Litter layer removal begins the erosion process. As raindrops fall on unprotected soil, soil particles are loosened and fill soil spaces on the surface, reducing infiltration. The water collects on the soil surface and begins flowing over the surface in a sheet. As the rain continues, sheet flow increases and forms tiny channels and these combine to form larger channels. Given enough slope and bare soil, water will reach a road ditch, gully, or a stream.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Your Backyard Woods - Provide a living filter

Water is one of the most important products your backyard woods produces. Even if a stream doesn’t flow through your woods, some of the rain and snow that falls on your land will reach a stream sooner or later. The path water takes through your woods determines how fast it moves, how much of it is available to the trees and other vegetation, and how clean it is when it reaches a stream.
Rain and melting snow can flow over the soil surface or through the soil. Overland flow travels fast and can carry soil with it. Water moving through the soil moves slower and does not transport soil. The structure of the soil determines the path water takes through your woods.

Woodland Soils
The soil beneath your feet is more than a place for the growth of plants and a provider of physical support, moisture, and nutrients. The soil is a dynamic system that serves as home for countless organisms, a disposal area for nature’s “wastes,” a filter of toxic substances, and a store-house for nutrients. The soil is a product of its environment, but its quality is a function of trees that grow in it.
Woodlands customarily occupy a site for many years, sending a portion of their roots deep into the subsoil. During this period considerable amounts of organic material are returned to the soil in the form of leaves, branches, and decaying roots. This organic material has a profound influence on the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the soil.

The layer of organic material on the soil surface (litter layer) is incorporated into the top layer of the soil by soil animals, such as worms and millipedes. The mixing of organic material with the soil particles creates structure in the soil. Soil structure is the arrangement of individual soil particles into aggregates or clumps.
The soil clumps increase the size and the amount of spaces in the soil. The soil spaces contain both air and water. The amount of water or air depends on the length of time since the last rain or snow melt. Soil spaces improve water and air movement into and through the soil and increase the amount of water and air the soil can hold. The amount of soil spaces, in most woodland soils, varies from 30 to 65 percent of the soil volume. Soils supporting a variety of tree species have a higher percentage of soil spaces than soils supporting a single tree species.

The movement of water into the soil is called infiltration. When the rainfall intensity exceeds the infiltration capacity, water will run over the soil surface. By virtue of the sponge-like action of the litter layer and the high infiltration rate of the soil below, overland flow is extremely rare in your backyard woods.
The litter layer in your woods is especially important in maintaining rapid infiltration rates. This layer not only absorbs several times its own weight of water, but it breaks the impact of raindrops, which would otherwise loosen soil particles and clog soil spaces and reduce infiltration rates.
Woodland soils also have a high percentage of larger channels through which water can move rapidly. Most of these channels develop from decayed roots or from burrows and tunnels made by insects, worms, or other animals.

The presence of stones increases the infiltration rate. The differences in expansion and contraction between stone and the soil result in channels and large spaces. However, stones reduce the water storage capacity of the soil.
If snow covers the soil before prolonged freezing temperatures, it protects the soil from freezing, thus favoring continued infiltration during the spring. But if the soil freezes before snow cover, a snowfall covering the frozen soil will delay thawing in the spring, reduce soil infiltration, and increase overland flow.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

4R Tomorrow FAQs

Q1: What is 4R Tomorrow?

4R Tomorrow is a program created by the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (OFSWCD), with the support of the Ohio Soybean Council, to educate and promote wise nutrient management to conserve water quality and soil health using the 4R nutrient stewardship principals and conservation practices.
Whether we are farmers, teachers, parents, children, construction workers, wastewater plant operators, business owners, or government officials—we all play a part in the water quality and natural resource protection, and we all have the ability and the responsibility to conserve and improve Ohio’s natural resources for generations to come.
Through the 4R Tomorrow program, we hope to bring together all stakeholders of natural resource issues—especially water quality— and illustrate how we all can be a part of the solution and contribute to a better tomorrow for Ohio’s citizens and natural resources.

Q2: What are the 4R Principles?

The 4R principles are a comprehensive, innovative and science-based nutrient management approach that enhances environmental protection and improves sustainability. The 4R concept is to implement the four “rights”: 1) right fertilizer source, at the 2) right rate, at the 3) right time, with the 4) right placement.
While the 4R philosophy was originally developed for the agricultural sector, OFSWCD’s 4R Tomorrow program expands these concepts even further—beyond the farm and into every Ohioan’s backyard, workplace, and community. The 4R Tomorrow program is about more than fertilizer or agriculture; it’s about improving the quality of life for all Ohioans, now and in the future. And you can help by applying the principles in your own back yard.

Q3. Why is the 4R Tomorrow Program important?

In Ohio, the water quality and phosphorus issue is at the front of everyone’s mind. Water quality affects the quality of life of Ohio citizens, ecosystems and wildlife. One big example of the water quality issues we are dealing with right now are the algae blooms in lakes across the state, which are caused by excess nutrients that have gotten into the water supply.
As part of the 4R Tomorrow Program, Ohio’s farmers are stepping up and working with county soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) to reduce nutrient runoff from their fields. Yet, agriculture is not the only source for phosphorus in the affected lakes and ponds. Homeowners and businesses that use and apply fertilizer, chemicals, and other nutrients to their lawns or landscaping are contributors as well — along with other natural causes. If we truly want to protect and improve water quality in the state of Ohio, it’s going to take everyone working together and doing their part—no matter how small it might seem.
Q4. How can I protect the water quality of Ohio’s lakes, rivers, and streams?

You can play a role in protecting water quality and Ohio’s natural resources through what we call backyard conservation and 4R nutrient stewardship. Conservation goes hand-in-hand with good lawn care practices that protect and improve water quality. By using proper fertilizing and mowing practices, we all can enjoy healthy lawns and conserve our natural resources for future generations.
Examples of these practices include:

1) Always choose a fertilizer that is phosphorus-free, unless a soil test shows a need for this nutrient.
2) Feed your lawn in the spring and fall when the grass is actively growing.
3) Set your mower at the highest setting. Taller grass is stronger grass. It builds deeper roots that enables

the plant to find water and nutrients and better withstand periods of heat and drought.
4)  Use a mulching mower, so that grass clippings and leaves can be returned to the soil where they will break down and add natural nutrients and organic matter to the soil.
5)  Sweep leaves, grass clippings, and fertilizer that land on driveways and sidewalks back onto the grass to help keep nutrients out of waterways.

For more information on backyard conservation and how you can protect Ohio’s natural resources by implementing conservation practices in your own backyard, go to www.4RTomorrow.org or contact our office.
Q5. Does the grass and landscaping in my backyard and community really have that big of impact on Ohio’s natural resources?

In a word, yes! The millions of grass plants in your lawn help clean the air, trap dirt, and remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The grass roots and soil microbes act as a natural water filter to capture and break down pollutants. Not to mention that in urban areas, grass and plant life helps absorb heat and lower the air temperature that is intensified by hard metal, concrete and glass surfaces.
Grass, trees, and plants in your lawn and community landscaping also keeps the soil in place, preventing erosion and absorbing water. Healthy grass can absorb most of the runoff from roofs, patios, driveways, sidewalks, and streets that would otherwise go directly into storm sewers, lakes, and streams. “There are millions of yards across the state of Ohio. Each one makes a difference.”

Q6. What is the “4R Tomorrow Team”?

The 4R Tomorrow Team is an opportunity for you to be a proactive part of the solution. As a member of the 4R Tomorrow Team, you will pledge (“I Resolve”) to reduce the amount of phosphorus you apply to your yard, as well as implement 4R nutrient management and backyard conservation practices to 1) prevent nutrients from washing into Ohio’s waterways, 2) manage your water resources, and 3) improve the overall health of your lawn. As an official 4R Tomorrow Team member, you will receive a 4R Tomorrow Team membership card, tips and educational information about 4R nutrient management and backyard conservation, and updates on the Team’s progress. A 4R Tomorrow Membership sign may be added too!

Q7. How will I benefit from participating in the pledge -- “I Resolve” Campaign?

By participating in the “I Resolve” campaign and reducing the amount of fertilizer and nutrients that can end up in Ohio’s lakes, streams and rivers, you will not only end up with a healthier lawn, but you will also be contributing to a better quality of life for all Ohioans for generations to come.

Q8. How can I participate?

Contact your local SWCD or go to www.4RTomorrow.org to sign up for the program. Then make your pledge to reduce your phosphorus. Why not start today! The local SWCD delivers program assistance in an effort to develop locally driven solutions to natural resource concerns, especially in areas of soil erosion prevention and water management.

Q9. Who can I contact for more information on how to implement the 4R nutrient management principles in my backyard or business?

Our local SWCD has a wealth of information and resources to share with you. In addition, you can find more about the 4R Tomorrow Program, the 4R nutrient management principles, backyard conservation practices, and additional resources at http://www.4rtomorrow.org/.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why plant a cover crop?

When nature is left unattended, it knows what it is doing.  The ground is absolutely covered with plants.  Those plants cover, protect and hold the soil in place keeping it from the forces of erosion.  Animals feed off of those plants and deposit their droppings on the soil.  When the plants die, they feed the life in the soil.  Cover cropping, also know as green manure cropping, follows the same principle. Some of the primary benefits from cover crops include:
  1. Soil quality improvements--Soil tilth is improved whenever a plant establishes roots and grows into compacted areas. Water infiltration is improved as well. When a field lays fallow for a period of time, the surface tends to seal and water will run off. Cover crops protect the soil surface and reduce sealing. Also, beneficial organisms in the soil, such as earthworms, thrive when fresh plant material is decomposing. Organic matter levels tend to improve with the addition of cover crops.
  2. Erosion control--Cover crops reduce wind and water erosion on all types of soils. By having the soil held in place by cover crops during the fall, winter, and early spring, loss of soil from erosion is greatly reduced.
  3. Fertility improvements--Legumes can add substantial amounts of available nitrogen to the soil. Non-legumes can be used to take up excess nitrogen from previous crops and recycle the nitrogen as well as available phosphorus and potassium to the following crop. This is very important after manure application, because cover crops can reduce leaching of nutrients.
  4. Suppress weeds--A dense stand of winter rye or other cover crop can suppress weeds by soil shading. Allelochemicals from cover crops suppress the growth of other plants.
  5. Insect control--Beneficial insects, such as lady beetles or ground beetles, may be encouraged by planting cover crops.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Promoting Conservation Every Day

Conservation practices in the United States have helped us achieve an historic standard of living. We enjoy a wide variety of fresh, healthy food. Drinking water supplies are clean and mainly free from disease. Lakes, rivers, and streams are much cleaner than 30 years ago. Air quality has greatly improved in the last fifty years.  Conservation of natural resources has helped create an amazing way of life for Americans.
We still face many challenges today, but the lessons of the past show us that people working together can solve almost any problem. 

Every person can help conserve natural resources in their daily life. Start by learning about air, water, soil, plant, and wildlife resources around you. Conserve energy, recycle, don’t litter or dump household chemicals.  The district can help you in this learning process.   We offer a variety of workshops and programs that are both interesting and educational.  So far this year, we've offered a workshop on successful seedings, a maple syrup clinic, wildflower walk, a nature hike on the Great Guernsey  Trail, 2 hydroponics workshops, and a pond clinic.   Later this year, a coyote clinic, a conservation day camp, a teacher's workshop, a timber harvest tour and a fall color walk are planned, along with ongoing educational programs with local schools. 

Please plan to join us for these events, and learn how you can do your part to use our natural resources wisely.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Protecting our Living Soil

While most of us seldom think about our relationship with the soil, we all depend on soil for our daily survival. In generation after generation, it is important to bring attention back to the central theme – the living soil sustains all life on earth. Without the soil, nothing lives. Our conservation district works to protect healthy soils that in turn support a healthy environment, and healthy environments support healthy life.

Modern farmers and ranchers who practice soil conservation are doing their part to keep the living soil alive. Lessons from the past, such as the catastrophic “Dust Bowl” of the 1930s, have shown what can happen when the topsoil is not protected from wind and water erosion. Today, private land managers employ a host of conservation practices, such as minimum tillage, to protect the topsoil that feeds the nation.

Soil health becomes more important when you learn that millions of beneficial organisms are going through their daily routine of eating, breathing, living, and dying in the soil. One cup of fertile soil may contain as many bacteria as there are people on Earth. In one acre—an area about the size of a football field—there may be a ton or more of microscopic bacteria. That’s equal to the weight of two full-grown cows!

We eat the food, drink the water, breath the air, and enjoy the views, but only a few of us walk the fields and forests on a regular basis and understand what those lands need from us in order to sustain the living soil. However, the district can suggest three things each of us can do in our own backyards to be better stewards of our soil resources:
• Protect the soil from wind or water erosion by keeping healthy plants growing on the surface.

• Restore and maintain organic matter in the soil, such as grass clippings or tree leaves (compost).

• Protect soil life by using the least amounts and least toxic materials to control pest problems.