Location: Central Minnesota
Client: Crow River Organization of Water
The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) charged local governments to develop one watershed plan to drive water resources planning, management, and project efforts within the watershed. The One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P) pilot project departs from traditional efforts guided by multiple plans and instead encourages local partners to work together to develop a collaborative water management plan that consistently and concurrently drives efforts in the same direction.
HEI is currently working with partners in the North Fork Crow River Watershed to help develop this groundbreaking project. Land use within the watershed is largely agricultural (nearing 70%), and many active public drainage systems direct water runoff from fields to larger area waters. Because of this large agricultural presence, the watershed was a prime candidate for watershed planning with a core focus on providing land stewardship.
To begin the process, HEI worked with the Crow River Organization of Water (CROW) to facilitate a series of stakeholder meetings with partners to develop the backbone of the plan, ensuring known issues and future goals were clearly defined. Through these conversations, it became clear that the public was very passionate about the connection between farms and water quality. The idea of land stewardship emerged as a common sense solution to bridge these concepts more clearly than they had been linked in the past.
As the project has progressed, HEI gathered watershed information, set measurable goals, and is ultimately writing a plan with targeted implementation strategies. The team is using the Prioritize, Target, and Measure Application (PTMApp) to create outputs that will help guide landowner discussions to target and place practices on the ground.
The stewardship concept addresses multiple categories, including rural, urban, and shoreland. All of these areas will benefit from land stewardship and must all be considered.
Using this new approach, HEI and CROW were able to come up with some creative new opportunities throughout plan development. We brainstormed new financial incentive programs designed to explore the profitability of farming and conservation opportunities. We recommended using field walkovers to address and assess continuous improvement in stewardship, providing practice cost-shares efficiently, and investigating private funding sources to fund on-field practices.
The plan also strives to set measurable goals, which will connect stewardship back to water quality measurable goals and possibly Field to Market’s Fieldprint Water Quality Metric. Our group also explored ways for participants to claim benefits from stewardship efforts if the desired goals are met. Because voluntary conservation takes leadership from the American Agriculture community, farmer-led councils were also explored as an opportunity to promote buy-in and accelerate conservation efforts.
The project team is currently nearing completion of the final North Fork Crow River 1W1P. The final plan will set a new standard for incorporating land stewardship into watershed planning for the state of Minnesota, with a framework that can easily be applied in other areas. The concept used has been presented to various state agencies and farmer organizations and is gaining attention for its potential to solve age-old issues and change the conversation around conservation.