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Viroqua, WI – Fishers and Farmers Partnership is working with Valley Stewardship Network (VSN) on constructing  farmer-led demonstration sites in the Kickapoo Watershed, similar to the STRIPS (Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips) model in Iowa. This conservation practice was developed by Iowa State University, USDA, and Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge Staff near Prairie City, IA.  The Iowa  STRIPS Team recently celebrated their 10-year anniversary of planting the first STRIPS on the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.

What are STRIPS?

STRIPS are an easily-integrated and low-cost management option that, when 10% of fields are planted in STRIPS, the fields are reported to: reduce sediment transport by 90-95%; reduce phosphorous transport by 90%; reduce nitrogen transport by 85% and reduce annual surface water flow by 40%. This conservation practice has been shown to outperform others used to reduce sediment such as perennial grass buffers, contours, and terraces.  This new VSN project cost-effectively addresses the need to control streambank erosion in order to improve fish habitat as well as improves floodplain connectivity, soil health, wildlife, pollinators and biodiversity. More information about STRIPS can be found at:  A Landowner’s Guide to Prairie Conservation Strips  An excellent overview of the STRIPS program was featured recently on Wisconsin Public Radio and can be heard at:  https://www.wpr.org/node/1178701

The tallgrass prairie is a grassland ecosystem composed of a diverse assemblage of grasses, flowers, and animals. The characteristic feature of the tallgrass prairie is its abundant array of grasses and flowers, with some that can grow over six feet tall with dense roots that can reach over 15 feet below the soil surface. This abundant forage sustained the large plant eating animals like buffalo and elk prior to European settlement, and the dense roots provided the rich soils that made the Midwest ideal for cultivation. The tallgrass prairie once extended north to south from Canada into Texas, and east to west from Indiana to eastern Nebraska. Much of SW Wisconsin was historically prairie and savannah. Today in Wisconsin, less than 0.1% of the tallgrass prairie remains intact. Integrating tallgrass prairie back into our agricultural ecosystems has great potential for supporting birds, pollinators, and other wildlife, as well as improving water quality.

Partners Working Together

Valley Stewardship Network is currently working with Fishers and Farmers, Sand County Foundation, North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program, The Pasture Project and the Wallace Center at Winrock International, along with local farmers and landowners to establish prairie strips and similar prairie plantings adjacent to crop fields in the Kickapoo and surrounding watersheds. The new Fishers and Farmers Funding significantly increases the amount of prairie seed and management cost support available to local farmers in order to establish prairie conservation strips on farms.  Please contact John Delaney or Shelly Gradwell-Brenneman at VSN (608) 637-3615 if you are interested in participating in this project.

In communities across the Upper Mississippi River Basin, Fishers & Farmers Partnership believes neighbors influence neighbors and healthy fish, streams, and farms can be the norm. To achieve this goal, our partnership supports farmers and other watershed leaders with clear information, programs, technical assistance and seed funding to connect people, encourage shared work, strengthen local leaders, and develop more water quality and fish habitat projects on the ground.

Valley Stewardship Network is celebrating 17 years of land and water stewardship in the Kickapoo Valley and adjacent watersheds. Best known for its water quality programs, VSN also offers outreach and education programs to help farmers, landowners, residents and visitors understand and support our local ecology for the health of our communities. More at www.valleystewardshipnetwork.org

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