Soil & Water district manager previews year for Clay board

Clay County Commission

Dan Haglund

The Clay County Soil and Water Conservation district manager gave his annual year in preview for the Clay County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday in Moorhead.
Kevin Kassenborg began by touting the Tree Program, for which he says his department is most well-known. The long-term effects of strategic tree rows has proven to preserve a great amount of topsoil during windy summer days. The planted windbreaks also greatly help with livestock and feedlot protection.
“Last year we had another successful year,” said Kassenborg. “(We planted) over 15,500 trees to 31 different landowners, and over 120 hand-plant jobs that we did for those individuals.”
He said his crew installed more than 12 miles of matting, which is black fabric laid down around new plants to protect from weed encroachment, but also allows moisture to penetrate for root germination.
“It’s good to have young legs in the office (for this job),” Kassenborg quipped, looking toward two new hires Alyssa Schill and Kyle Little he brought with to introduce to the board.
Kassenborg said thus far this year his department has already taken orders for 9,300 trees, 20 machine-planting jobs and another 12 miles of matting.
Another area the Soil and Water crew participates in is the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). It is a combination of federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land the state’s Reinvest in Minnesota Reserve (RIM) program, which is a critical component of the state’s efforts to improve water quality by reducing soil erosion, and phosphorus and nitrogen loading, and improving wildlife habitat and flood attenuation on private lands.
Kassenborg said last year two contracts were completed in the county for a little over 315 acres. For this year, he said they have one project in the works so far of 207 acres. There are other potential projects on the horizon as well, he said.
Kassenborg’s group also participates in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Walk-in Access (WIA) program. This program allows public hunting on private lands. Landowners enroll parcels and they receive a per-acre payment.
“It’s a good opportunity for individuals who have land that is enrolled in the CREP program that is a permanent easement,” Kassenborg said. “If you’re a hunter and you don’t mind having others participate or hunt on your property, it’s a good way to take some state funding from the DNR and put that toward your property taxes.”
He said his department presently has nine contracts from last year for 1,893 acres, and this year four contracts re-enrolled and there are already nine contracts for the same acreage.
Soil and Water also participates in the County Ag Inspector program, which provides annual training for township board officials and study guides for applicator licenses. This program works with the state’s Noxious Weed Law affects growing plants. Some plants are noxious because they can harm people, animals, the food we eat, and nature. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture, county, city, and township officials inspect land and ask owners to control and eradicate noxious weeds that are present in order to keep them from spreading and harming neighboring lands. Landowners that refuse to comply with an official inspectors notice to control noxious weeds are in violation of the Noxious Weed Law and are subject to having the county contract the work to be performed, with all costs being added to their property taxes, or a summons to district court.
Kassenborg said last year there were instances of poisonous hemlock, and previously there were wild parsnips showing up.
He also touched on the county Feedlot Program, which presently numbers 77 feedlots, of which 7 percent receive compliance checks; as well as the No-Till Drill program, which rents drills for planting native grasses or plants. Last year, 28 landowners rented drills encompassing 1,673 acres.
Commissioner Frank Gross, Dist. 2, inquired whether farmers initiate the watershed projects or does Kassenborg’s department. Kassenborg said both have happened.
“Some of these problem sites have been known for years,” said Kassenborg, “Now with the additional funding, a lot of these projects are very expensive, so a 90-percent cost=sharing is the best game I know in town. If we can leverage federal funds on top of state funds, it definitely makes our dollar go a lot further.”

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