Just upstream from Austin’s Todd Park, 100 acres of cropland this year will be restored permanently to native prairie and wetlands, supporting a creek targeted by the state for trout stocking in spring.
Steve and Diane Persinger on Thursday finalized with Mower Soil & Water Conservation District agreements for enrolling their 100-acre parcel – an area about the size of 76 football fields – into the federal-state MN CREP program. The Lansing Township parcel, which will remain private property, is on both sides of Wolf Creek, just upstream from where it flows into Todd Park, the largest park in Austin.
To date, Mower County now has nine MN CREP signups totaling about 460 acres of marginal cropland going into permanent restoration for prairie and wetlands. About 444 acres of that land is in the Cedar River Watershed.
MN CREP, a voluntary program focused on marginal cropland that is flood-prone or erosive, was created in 2017 to protect and restore up to 60,000 acres of marginal cropland across 54 southern and western Minnesota counties, including Mower, by using vegetative buffer strips, wetland restoration and drinking water wellhead protection.
Landowners accepted into MN CREP enroll in the federal USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for 14 to 15 years. At the same time, the land is put into a permanent conservation easement through the state’s Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM).
Mower SWCD works on MN CREP enrollments with the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) along with the Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources (BWSR).
MN CREP pays landowners $7,000 to $8,000 per acre and covers all costs for restoring the land.
Typically, MN CREP restorations involve restoring hydrology through tile breaks, tile blocks, scrapes, embankment construction and daylighting tiles, among other practices. The site is seeded with a highly diverse mixture of native grasses and forbs beneficial to wildlife and pollinator habitat. That also prevents erosion and filters surface and ground water.
In designing MN CREP projects, engineers take careful detail to ensure that landowners upstream and downstream of the restoration site have no negative effects to their drainage.
Wolf Creek, a Cedar River tributary that begins northeast of Brownsdale, is planned to get 600 rainbow trout from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ fisheries division in Waterville. DNR will stock trout on two dates this spring in the nearly 150-acre Todd Park to start a “put-and-take” fishery with a larger size of trout for anglers to catch and keep.
Todd Park has more than 8,800 feet of public shoreline and a spring-fed pond that sends cold water into Wolf Creek.
Minnesota’s 2020 trout season will run from April 18 to Sept. 15. A catch-and-release season then will run from Sept. 16 to Oct. 15, and again from Jan. 1, 2021, to the April 2021 opener.
Trout anglers need a Minnesota fishing license and trout stamp to possess trout from non-designated waters like Wolf Creek. Trout stamps are not required for children age 17 and younger and adults age 65 and older.
Mower County landowners interested in MN CREP should contact James Fett, Mower SWCD, at 507-434-2603, ext. 5, or by email at [email protected].