Preserving a legacy
By LARRY KERSHNER
Farm News news editor
CLARE – Tim Lentsch drives a reporter around his family’s farm in this rural Webster County community and points out the efforts that he ahs made to control erosion and help keep nearby Lizard Creek running clear. He sees it as part of his family’s legacy to do what it can to help keep it that way.
The north branch of Lizard Creek, to be exact, borders the Lentsch farm on the west and south as it meanders its way to empty into the Des Moines River in Fort Dodge.
“In the past 20 years, it has been running clear,” said Lentsch, an agent for Farm Bureau property and casualty and insurance in Fort Dodge. He credits the efforts of farmers throughout the watershed with the clearing of the tributary including filter strips, grassed waterways and conservation tillage practices.
But even though Iowa producers have been adjusting their farming techniques to work more lightly on the land, Lentsch said one can still see some black snow drifts during the winter, where soil has been eroded by North Iowa’s seemingly constant wind.
After educating himself about the upcoming Nov. 2 vote on the Iowa Land and Water Legacy Amendment, Lentsch said he sees the ballot as a potential for the state to establish partnerships with land owners and land managers to encourage even more conservation efforts.
Over the years, Lentsch has taken about 50 acres out of production and converted them into filter strips bordering Lizard Creek, and a 13-acre grassland through the conservation reserve program.
Looking over a CRP-converted field, which used to be row-cropped, Lentsch pointed to higher ground bordering his farm on the north and explained that heavy rains channeled runoff across the parcel, cutting a deep gouge and often washed out that section of 175th Street.
He said the county frequently had to rebuild the gravel road after such gully-washers. Now, the road is safe as the CRP field, now in its fourth year, slows the runoff so the tile system can handle the flow.
Lentsch points to a few areas that he still wants to convert to filter strips to control erosion this fall, even though there will be no federal cost-share program to assist the work. Another bottom land parcel directly along the creek was cleared by Lentsch’s grandfather years ago. It is now a filter strip and Lentsch is considering planting trees there, keeping it out of crop production permanently.
“The Lizard has always been important to our family,” Lentsch said, adding that his family wants to do what it can to help keep it in good condition. On Sept. 24, the Lentsch family signed over a parcel of land to Webster County Conservation to use as a canoe access into the Lizard.
When asked what impact he saw on his overall crop production with 50 acres no longer designated for row crops, Lentsch said he still has 170 tillable acres and with the advancement of seed genetics and higher per acre population, his yields have not suffered compared to his pre-CRP years.
With his conservation tillage methods, Lentsch said he requires less equipment. “We chose to make ground payments than machine payments,” Lentsch said. “We leave the (corn) stalks standing and we save the expense of running up and down the field.
“We’re happy with the results.”
His grassed waterways are enrolled into the federal conservation stewardship program which requires a series of improvement during each of the next three years.
“This November Iowans have a chance to clean up our water, protect our soil, enhance our natural resources by voting yes,” said Matt O’Connor, Iowa Pheasants Forever State Conservation director and Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy co-chair. “This is an initiative we can all get behind.”
The ballot initiative would protect future funds for Iowa water, land and wildlife conservation efforts, O’Connor said, if a simple majority of the state’s voters check “yes” on Nov. 2.
The first question listed on the back of ballots asks voters to adopt the Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy’s constitutional amendment, which creates a dedicated trust fund called Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation. The money would pay for protection and improvement of Iowa’s
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