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Recent entries

Malone turkey

Conservation Corner

Deer & Turkey Classic

Sat, March 26, 2011

I spent Friday evening at the Deer and Turkey Classic.  It was an enjoyable evening, despite getting there late.  Better late than never.  I bought a two day pass so I can go back.  However today is the wife’s 29th birthday.    So trying to juggle that with the Show.  This is the first Classic I have been to.  Never bothered to travel to Bloomington for those over there.  A event really worth the price to get in. 

I lost track of how many gun raffles I entered starting at the Pheasants Forever booth.  This is where fellow IL River Valley Chapter members and I discussed our recent food plot seed distribution and plans for more.  Nick Ripley,  president and Ken Daniels treasurer were in attendance helping man the booth.  PF has two of their Farm Bill Biologists Brandon Beltz and Brady Wooten manning the booth and offering habitat planning advice to landowners.  For landowners wanting to improve their properties this is a good way to start out.  No financial cost for planning advice from them.

The checkbook kept coming out as I joined National Rifle Association and recieved a T shirt for joining.  Then I gave a gal an email address and recieved a nice NRA bag to carry all the goodies in.  That was handy.  Then over to the Illinois State Rifle Association Booth where I also signed up for membership. 

Chase Burns signed me up for a workshop down in Astoria in July with Dr. Grant Woods.  Nate Herman has talked about this on his blog.  Sure sounds interesting and so out came the checkbook again.  West Central Illinois Quality Deer Management is having a Forestry day later details not available at the moment. 

A lot of nice deer heads were there along with a trailer that had a live grizzly, black bear, gray wolf,  and mountain lion in heat pacing and squealing for attention.  It only cost a buck to see the animals.  Well Worth it.  However Kole was not with me.  I did not get enough time to see the free agent thing. 

There is some interesting booths that are black curtains and have security guards standing outside.  Girls standing outside the booth too.  Signs say Adults only.  ????  However there is other signs not too visible saying it has to do with tobacco.   

This Classic is going on today and sunday til 4.  Make sure you take the time to go see this event. 



Drainage water management

Thu, March 24, 2011

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers technical and financial assistance for Drainage Water Management (DWM). Installation and implementation of DWM begins with a DWM Conservation Plan. Your plan can be prepared by local NRCS Field Office staff, private Technical Service Providers or a professional drainage contractor. NRCS program incentives can make managing farm tile drainage systems more productive and more profitable.

What is DWM?

DWM is the process of managing the timing and the amount of water discharged from agricultural drainage systems. DWM is based on the premise that the same drainage intensity is not required at all times during the year. With DWM, both water quality improvement and production benefits are possible. Water quality benefits are derived by minimizing unnecessary tile drainage, reducing the amount of nitrate that leaves farm fields. DWM systems can also retain water in fields that could be used for crop production later in the season.  Or for “time share wetlands from the November to late February time frame for waterfowl use where the sites are applicable that water can be brought to the surface.  Each site is different.

Get a Plan!

To successfully retrofit a DWM system on existing agricultural tile drainage systems, it is essential to have a plan of action—a DWM Plan. Also when applying for NRCS programs or financial assistance, producers are more likely to be funded if they have a DWM plan. When successful a DWM plan can help landowners:

• Protect & improve water quality

• Potentially enhance crop production from more available soil-water & nutrients

• Reduce organic matter oxidation to retain soil productivity & minimize atmospheric carbon release

• Reduce wind erosion & loss of valuable soil

• Enable seasonal shallow flooding for wildlife habitat

Where does DWM work?

• The flatter the topography, the better

• The more intensive the tile system, the better

• To be cost-effective, fields should be 20 acres or more in size

What’s In a DWM Plan?

A properly prepared DWM Plan ensures factors of landscape, soils, slope, and current drainage systems are taken into consideration and incorporated into the function of your DWM System. The following information is needed to develop a DWM plan:

• Farm & field identification

• Tile map

• Field maps with field boundaries marked

• Soil map

• Landowner goals & objectives • detailed topographic map

An essential component of the DWM plan is a determination of the area of the field impacted by each water level control structure (zone of influence). The DWM Plan will clearly identify critical dates and target water level elevation levels needed to accomplish management goals and objectives. Details of Operation and Maintenance include:

• Target water elevations PRIOR to tillage, planting or harvest operations. Manage water levels that permits trafficable conditions to perform needed field work.

• Target water elevations AFTER seasonal field work. Manage water levels that permit infiltration of rainfall and bring water to crop root zones. Water level targets vary with crop, growth stage, and soil type.

• Target water level prior to and during HARVEST.

• Target water level is near the soil surface or to a prescribed level during the FALLOW period.

The benefits of Drainage water management are not only for water quality and reduction of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico but also for wildlife habitat.  Imagine if you can seasonally flood a minimum of 6” of water in the fall after crop harvest for waterfowl.  This would be a wonderful time share “wetland” that would allow one to have hunting opportunities or just enjoyment of viewing wildlife. 

NRCS is offering an incentive payment of $32.10 per acre of cropland affected that is managed for Drainage water management, not to exceed $6,000 for a one time payment.  In addition NRCS is offering an incentive of $1400 for development of a Drainage Water Management plan.  In addition if water control structures are needed cost share is available. 

Is YOUR land suitable for a DWM System?

Visit your county NRCS office for a field evaluation!



New wetland attacts whoopers

Sun, March 20, 2011

Who would believe that within a year of restoring a floodplain, an endangered species could find a newly restored wetland along an Illinois River? But more important, it is a breeding pair of whooping cranes. These cranes are considered one of the most endangered wetland dependant species in North America. To have a pair stop along their migration, well, “it was spectacular,” said Dave Hiatt, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) wildlife biologist.

Immediately after its restoration, the floodplain in Lawrence County began storing rainwater and floodwaters, creating an oasis for migrating and regional wildlife. The area provided food and shelter for birds and mammals all winter. “To see an endangered species return to former migration patterns so soon is remarkable,” said Bill Gradle, NRCS State Conservationist. “This is a real testament to what these restored floodplains have to offer.”

The land resides in the historical Purgatory Swamp which lies between the Wabash and Embarras Rivers. Over time it has been drained and farmed. “When I first saw this land I thought it was fantastic for restoration,” said landowner Ray McCormick. “It was a restoration just waiting to happen.” It didn’t take long for the 330 acre site to respond. As soon as the restoration work was completed, the rains came and it began ponding water. After the winter thaw, the river swelled and created a nice wet area that apparently was attractive for the pair of whooping cranes. The cranes had previously been banded as 2009 No.4 Female and 2004 No. 16 Male, according to a source from the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Wildlife Management Area.

Another important feature of this floodplain is its location. Hiatt says, “This particular floodplain easement is located within a contiguous area of 453 acres of floodplains along the Embarras River.” It is becoming evident, contiguous wetlands like these offer significant benefits for wildlife. Additional benefits include flood prevention downstream and water quality protection.

The floodplain restoration was one of 11 restorations in Illinois funded through the Administration’s 2010 America’s Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act). The NRCS used Recovery Act funding to offer landowners the opportunity to apply through the Emergency Watershed Protection - Floodplain Easement Program (EWP-FPE). The goal was to take cropland in flood prone areas out of production and restore the land back to original conditions.

Though restoring a floodplain is not a quick process, it is obvious some benefits are visible almost immediately. Not only have the whooping cranes arrived, but the landowner has noticed a large increase of ducks and other waterfowl.  “This is a great program,” said McCormick, “I encourage birdwatchers to come out and enjoy. I believe the public has the right see these areas. USDA wetland programs are just what the whoopers ordered.”

To learn more about NRCS programs and services go to

by Jody Christiansen, USDA-NRCS Public Affairs Specialist