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Malone turkey

Conservation Corner

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


Turkey Poachers Caught!

Fri, February 18, 2011

IDNR Conservation Police Help Kansas Authorities Catch Turkey Poachers From Illinois

Effingham County Men Plead Guilty in Kansas Turkey Poaching Case

SPRINGFIELD, IL – A joint investigation between the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has resulted in the prosecution of 11 Effingham County, Illinois men for violating multiple Kansas game laws.
“This is a prime example of multiple agencies working together to protect wildlife and I would like to commend everyone involved in this case,” IDNR Conservation Police Chief Rafael Gutierrez.

Information gathered by investigators revealed that a group of hunters have been traveling to Kansas to turkey hunt for several years. Among other game law violations, the group has been taking over the limit of turkeys. Illinois Conservation Police and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service interviewed the group of men in May of 2009 and seized eight whole turkeys, more than 20 sets of spurs, 24 beards, 19 packages of turkey meat, and five unused turkey permits.
Below is a list of the defendants and their crimes. In parenthesis is the county in which they were prosecuted.

Ronald Esker (Geary County, Kansas) - misrepresentation to purchase a resident turkey permit, hunting turkeys without a valid license and taking turkeys without a valid permit. He was fined $586 and lost his hunting privileges in Kansas and Illinois for two years.

Shawn Lewis (Clay County, Kansas) - taking of turkeys without a valid permit. He was fined $636 and lost his hunting privileges in Kansas and Illinois for one year.

Scott Huelsing (Osage County, Kansas) - unlawful possession of wild turkeys, failure to tag wild turkeys and hunting from a motor vehicle.

Vincent Huelsing (Osage County, Kansas) - two counts of failure to tag wild turkeys.

Paul Althoff (Osage County, Kansas) - failure to tag wild turkeys and hunting turkeys without a valid permit.

James Dust (Osage County, Kansas) - two counts of taking wild turkeys without a valid permit.

Tom Edwards (Osage County, Kansas) - failure to tag wild turkeys and taking of wild turkey without a valid permit.

Jason Dust (Osage County, Kansas) - two counts of taking wild turkeys without a valid permit.

Justin Dust (Osage County, Kansas) - taking wild turkeys without a valid permit.

Frank Lee (Osage County, Kansas) - taking a hen turkey and hunting wild turkeys without a valid permit.

Dennis Heuerman (Osage County, Kansas) - failure to tag wild turkeys and taking of wild turkeys without a valid permit.

Each individual charged in Osage County, Kansas entered a diversion agreement and paid a fine of $493.50.

Anyone with information regarding illegal hunting activity is urged to contact your local conservation officer or the IDNR TIP hotline at (877) 236-7529.