As we head into the holiday season, I’d like to highlight the Twelve Gifts of Conservation that we get when we conserve natural resources. Each breath of air, sip of water and bite of food you will ever take exists because of natural resources and how we protect them.
Conservation secures our food supply by providing nutrient-rich soils to nourish the foods we eat. Landowners across the nation also implement conservation practices to reduce pollutants in an effort to keep our water clean. Innovative growing systems, such as high tunnels, can extend growing seasons providing healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the year.
Healthy soil is the foundation of agriculture. Farmers across the nation see improvement to their soil’s physical and biological properties through the use of cover crops. In addition to supplying nutrients, suppressing weeds, preventing erosion and improving the availability of water in the soil, utilizing cover crops can have an impact on your bottom line. Healthy soils are also resilient after natural disasters.
Agricultural working lands can provide great habitat for wildlife. Partnering with landowners is critical to protecting wildlife, while also keeping working lands working for the millions of people in the United States and around the world that depend on U.S. agriculture.
Plants offer a natural solution for addressing many conservation challenges. From wildfire restoration and invasive species control to forage production, wildlife habitat, erosion prevention, nutrient filtering, stream bank protection, and sources of biofuels, plants are a sustainable resource that help protect and heal our landscapes. Well-managed grazing systems improve the health and vigor of plants.
Conservation rewards the people who practice it. The USDA offers voluntary programs to landowners and agricultural producers to provide financial and technical assistance to help manage natural resources in a sustainable manner and improve their operations while also impacting their profitability.
Conservation is not only beneficial to your financial heath, but to your mental and spiritual health as well. Conservation restores balance to natural systems. By using soil health principles and systems that include no-till, cover cropping and diverse rotations, more farmers are increasing their soil’s organic matter and improving microbial activity. As a result, farmers are sequestering more carbon, increasing water infiltration, improving wildlife and pollinator habitat while harvesting better profits and often better yields.
Overgrown forests pose a wildfire risk. Through timber stand improvement, trees are thinned out allowing forests to thrive and protect the public from the risk of fire. Conservation practices protect our landscapes while also providing valuable protection to our homes and communities with flood protection. This includes maintaining aging infrastructure including dams and levees. USDA works with local partners to safeguard those who depend upon these structures.
Conservation also creates unique opportunities for recreation. From introducing plants that attract pollinators like butterflies and bees, to creating wildlife habitat for woodland creatures, conservation provides benefits to those who cherish the outdoors. Additionally, healthy landscapes need healthy wetlands. While providing habitat, they also filter the air and water. Wetlands clean and recharge our groundwater.
Conservation cleans and renews our air. Conservation programs give landowners the tools and resources to protect environmentally sensitive land and restore grasslands and forests, which leads to cleaner water and air, healthier soil and enhanced wildlife habitat.
One of our precious resources is water. Soil quality is a key water quality determinant because soils regulate and partition water flow and buffer against human use and environmental changes. NRCS provides targeted funding for financial and technical assistance in small watersheds most in need and where farmers can use conservation practices to make a difference.
Technology helps farmers who irrigate to use a smaller pump while controlling the frequency and voltage and allowing multiple systems to run off a single pump. This innovation decreases both energy and water use.
When properly tended, nature is the ultimate renewable resource. Were the world not continuously renewed, it would soon be consumed and barren. Conservation is the gift that keeps giving.
Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County Land & Water Conservation Department. For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at .