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April 2019

Walk-In Access

The Walk-In Access program is an opportunity for landowners to allow their private land to be utilized for public hunting.  This program is a way for landowners to earn money, as they are compensated financially from a grant received in 2011 from the United States Department of Agriculture Voluntary Public Access Program (VPA-HIP).  In 2015, the Walk-In Access Program was awarded a three year grant of $1.67 million from the VPA-HIP.  Landowners will receive $10 per acre that is enrolled within the program.  Bonuses may be available if more than 140 acres are enrolled, if the land is located within 1/2 mile of existing state or federal hunting land, or if a multi-agreement is signed.  

This program is a cooperative effort with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the USDA Farm Service Agency. There is currently 25,335 acres (241 separate sites) in Minnesota enrolled in this program, spreading into 46 counties in Minnesota. Land eligible for the Walk-In Access program must have a minimum of 40 acres and it must be at least 500 feet from a home or livestock.  Priority is given to land enrolled in a conservation program such as CRP, RIM, WRP, or other federally funded programs.  Lands not enrolled in federal incentive programs may still be considered, however they must have high quality wildlife cover existing with future plans to maintain and enhance cover.  If the landowner wishes, cancellation of the agreement can be completed at any time.  Hunting of these lands are open to the public from September 1st to May 31st. Target practice, trapping, dog training, camping, horseback riding, or fires are not allowed on Walk-In Access land.  This program only allows foot traffic, all motorized vehicles are prohibited. Unlike private hunting leases, recreational use laws provide liability protection for Walk-In Access acres under MN State statue 604A.20 to 604A.27.  All enforcement of hunting regulations is the responsibility of local game wardens. 
The goal of the Walk-In Access program is to provide public hunting opportunities on private lands.  The program is a way to address the declining number of hunters in MN, partially due to a lack of public hunting land.   Hunters must purchase a $3.00 validation to take advantage of the Walk-In Access.  This fee is used to quantify how many hunters are using Walk-In Access land.  Enrollment for 2019 will run from April 8th through April 30th!  To find out more about the Walk-In Access program or to enroll land, please contact the Kandiyohi County SWCD at 320-235-3906 ext. 3.  

April 2019 (Article written by Brett Blocker in Lake Area Review)

County bristling with buffer strips after new law
By Brett Blocker

As farmers throughout the state prepare for the busy spring season, they do so under the regulations of a recently adopted law designed to curb the harmful effects of runoff.  As of Nov. 1, 2018, landowners and farmers are required to place buffer strips on  parcels of land containing public ditches, similar to the 2017 law requiring that they place buffer strips in parcels near public waters. While Kandiyohi County is virtually 100 percent compliant in placing buffer strips along public waters, there are still areas near public ditches in which landowners are working toward implementing  buffer strips.  Before the law was implemented, said Kandiyohi County Soil and Water Conservation District Technician Ellie Dittes, “we were at 99-percent compliance along public waters, and about 70-percent compliance with county ditches.”Regarding those ditches, she said, “the rate of compliance has been going up since [the law was implemented]. I’m estimating we’re between 75 to 90-percent compliant.” However, she notes that an exact figure has yet to be determined. “We’re in a really good place right now,” Kandiyohi County Buffer Compliance Technician Angelica Hopp said. “I hesitate to give an exact number on compliance, but we’re continuing to work with landowners to get the required buffer areas in place.”Specifically, the law requires a buffer strip averaging 50 feet in width on any parcel that includes public water and 16.5 feet in width on parcels including public ditches.

Since its initial passing, the requirement has been a source of contention among some farm and landowners as many are required to install and maintain the buffer strips at their own expense and were not or have not been compensated for acres taken out of production.However, others support the law, viewing it is a necessary measure to minimize damage to the environment.Fourth-generation New London farmer Phil Hatlestad is one such supporter. Hatlestad began installing buffer strips on his corn and soybean farm roughly 17 years ago, long before the law was enacted. Of the 900 acres of land he and his family own, Hatlestad has designated 180 acres as CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) land, and the equivalent of 40 acres as buffer strips along public water ways and public ditches. For his conservation-focused farming techniques – also including no-till and minimum tilling soy and corn practices – Hatlestad received Kandiyohi County Soil & Water District’s 2013 Outstanding Conservationist Award.  Though he notes there can be an economic cost to farmers being forced to give up portions of their land to meet the law’s requirements, buffer strips, he said, are a means by which he can reduce his environmental footprint. “It’s almost an obligation that you don’t allow unnecessary pollution to come off your land; whether or not it’s a monetary benefit that might be pushing it. It’s more of a quality of life issue.”Although it can take years to begin seeing benefits of buffer strips in newly seeded areas, immediate results, he said, include a boost to local wildlife.“We’re starting to see a lot more pheasants, for one thing, and just wildlife in general. In our case, the buffer strips are in areas that used to be wetlands. [...] And with the CRP areas that have been seeded with switch grass, we’re noticing the birds are really seeming to like those.” Unlike the buffer strip law, CRP land is a voluntary decision allowing landowners to essentially “rent” a portion of their land to be devoted toward wildlife conservation and native prairie grasses.  While both CRP land and buffer strips are designed to improve the quality of the environment, buffer strips primarily function as a means to filter water and maintain soil quality. 

Composed of perennial vegetation, buffer strips are a swath of natural grasses and foliage that filter nitrates, phosphorous and sediments from water runoff before trickling into ditches, streams and rivers.  According to Hopp, the strips also reduce erosion and curb detrimental soils and pollutants from traveling downstream. “An additional benefit is that the side slopes of the ditches will remain intact once they have vegetation,” she said. That, hopefully, will reduce the need for ditches having to be cleaned of soil and soil erosion less frequently in the future.“Another thing I’ve tried to express too, is that we, in Minnesota, are now demonstrating that we are doing something to correct our own issues and hopefully states downstream will recognize that.”

Peg Furshong, Director of Minnesota environmental organization Clean Up the River Environment (CURE) also stresses the importance of water health and the effects of downstream contamination. Rather than try to rid farmland of water, she said, efforts should be made to conserve and maintain the quality of our water.“In the end, regardless of what we do, mother nature always wins,” she said. “There’s going to be a time, regardless of whether you’re living in the metro, or a rural area, in California or New Mexico, that we’re going to be paying higher costs for water, and it’s going to be a rude awakening. We shouldn’t be so quick to get water off the land, and should think of capturing and saving it.”  However, Furshong, as well as buffer compliance technician Angelica Hopp agree that farmers receive a disproportionate amount of blame in areas with poor water quality and, rather, maintaining a healthy environment requires a collective effort from communities as a whole.“It’s easy to point the finger,” she said, “but there’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of shared responsibility.”
“I feel like farmers are not given the credit for the good things they do, and many things end up being blamed on them,” said Hopp. “We all have a hand in the environment and we can work to make things better.”

May 2018


The Kandiyohi Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is looking for someone who is interested in a Supervisor Position on our board. This position is open to a person who is located in one of the following townships: Burbank, Roseville, New London, Irving, and Harrison (district 2). Candidates are elected county wide, but must reside in district two.

Individuals concerned about water quality and soil erosion in Kandiyohi should consider filing by June 5 to run for the position of Supervisor of the Kandiyohi Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).

Supervisors play an important role in how our community deals with a variety of resource management issues, including wetlands, water quality, and soil erosion. Serving as a supervisor is a terrific opportunity for people who want a voice in how we manage our environment.

SWCDs are special purpose units of government that manage and direct conservation programs. An elected board of Supervisors governs each of the Minnesota’s 88 SWCDs. Supervisors serve four year terms.

Supervisors meet monthly to discuss the business of the SWCD, including state grant allocations to landowners, district conservation priorities, coordination with other local units of government and state agencies, and legislature priorities. Supervisors do not receive a salary, although they do receive compensation for attending meetings and are reimbursed for expenses.

Those interested in running for this Supervisorial position should file at the County Auditor’s office from May 22 through June 5, 2018. Additional information about the SWCD can be found online at or by calling the office at 320-235-3906 ext 3.

February 2018

North Fork Crow River One Watershed, One Plan

The North Fork Crow River Water Planning Partnership, on behalf of the members, is pleased to present the North Fork Crow River One Watershed, One Plan for 60 day review.  Plans developed throughOne Watershed, One Plan will build off existing local water management plans and priorities, existing and new studies and data, Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) and other related plans from state agencies.

There will be a meeting open to the public for comments on Thursday, March 15, 2018 from 5 p.m. - 6 p.m. at the Middle Fork Crow Watershed District office.

Draft Plan



Landowners have new options to meet Buffer Law Requirements

Funds available to soil and water conservation districts for implementation of buffer law.

New funding is now available to support landowners in meeting the requirements of Minnesota’s buffer law. The buffer cost-share program funds were approved at the June meeting of the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR). These Clean Water Funds, passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Dayton at the end of the 2017 legislative session, provide important support to the Governor’s Buffer Initiative.

The Kandiyohi Soil and Water Conservation District has been granted $50,000 to help landowners implement buffer strips on parcels of land that need to be compliant with the buffer law. The cost share will cover up to 75% of the cost; this includes purchasing seed, site prep and seeding. If you are interested in signing up, please get a hold of the Kandiyohi SWCD office as soon as possible.

The 2017 legislation also recognizes that some landowners may have hardships (such as weather) in meeting the public waters deadline. The added language allows for an eight-month extension for implementation when a landowner or authorized agent has filed a riparian protection “compliance plan” with their local SWCD by November 1, 2017. Compliance waivers offer a buffer deadline extension until July 1, 2018.

The state buffer law requires a buffer on public waters by November 1, 2017 and a buffer on public drainage ditches by November 1, 2018.

For more information on the buffer law, including the cost-share program, contact the Kandiyohi soil and water conservation district at 320-235-3906 ext. 3 or visit the BWSR webpage at 


MN CREP sign-up kicks off May 15, 2017

A Milestone for Conservation in Minnesota

St. Paul, Minn. - Landowners have a new option to protect their environmentally sensitive cropland with the introduction of the Minnesota Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (MN CREP). The kick-off for the MN CREP continuous sign-up begins May 15, 2017. MN CREP is a voluntary state-federal program designed to improve water quality and habitat conservation. It will protect and restore up to 60,000 acres of marginal cropland across 54 southern and western Minnesota counties, using buffer strips, wetland restoration and drinking water wellhead protection.

Native plantings on those acres will filter water, prevent erosion and provide critical habitat for countless grassland species including badgers, meadowlarks and monarch butterflies.

"This is a milestone in conservation for Minnesota," according to John Jaschke, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR). "It targets the most critical acres and will provide water quality and habitat benefits for generations." The program is funded with approximately $350 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and $150 million needed from state sources including: Clean Water Fund, Outdoor Heritage Fund, Capital Investment (bonding), and the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. MN CREP is administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and BWSR, but involves numerous partners including Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Health and Pollution Control Agency as well as local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) staff. MN CREP is also supported by a coalition of more than 70 state and national organizations and groups.

"Minnesota is at a crossroads in conservation," said Jaschke. "The state is facing serious water quality challenges and we’re losing hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland through expiring CRP. MN CREP isn’t the whole answer, but it plays an important role in addressing both of these issues."

Landowners who are accepted in MN CREP will enroll in the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for 14-15 years. At the same time, the land will be put into a permanent conservation easement through the state’s Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) easement program. Private ownership continues and the land is permanently restored and enhanced for water quality and habitat benefits.

"This program helps producers with the land that needs protecting so they can farm their best, most productive acres," explained Michelle Page, Minnesota Acting State Executive Director for the USDA Farm Service Agency. "We encourage people to take advantage of this opportunity."


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