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Manure on the mind

Here in Wisconsin, manure is never far from our minds as we work to improve local water quality. A recent Isthmus interview with retiring University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Limnology director Steve Carpenter reminded all of us of the scale of the phosphorus problem facing our lakes. We often are asked what Clean Lakes Alliance is doing to tackle these issues locally.

In a community like Dane County — with both a large urban and thriving agricultural population — we greatly value the need to partner with farmers on solutions that will really work.

Farmer-led solutions

Manure management was one of the first issues that prompted us to help found the farmer-led Yahara Pride Farms conservation board several years ago. Today, they’re recognized statewide for their leadership in conservation issues. We continue to provide funding support to cost-share practices and innovative approaches to manure management – about $20,000 just this year.

Tackling phosphorus at the source

Clean Lakes Alliance recently made a voluntary $100,000 annual commitment to the Yahara Watershed Improvement Network’s (WINs) watershed adaptive management project, where all sources of phosphorus work together to tackle pollution upstream. This year, Clean Lakes Alliance funds helped buy vertical manure injection equipment and extend leases for buffer strips on farmland.

We continue to partner with the farm community to identify and pilot new strategies for protecting soil and water. We received $60,000 in grant funding for a two-year UW-Madison study that is looking into the water quality impacts of composting dairy manure. Our recent farm tour in Waunakee showcased this unique manure management approach, drawing over 120 attendees.

Looking to the future

Farmland and manure management represents a key focus area in our recently adopted Plan 2020: A Clear Path Forward, Clean Lakes Alliance’s four-year operating strategy. Our work on this issue remains guided by the Clean Lakes Alliance-commissioned Yahara CLEAN Strategic Action Plan for Phosphorus Reduction (2012). We continue to report progress in the State of the Lakes Annual Report.

Most recently, Clean Lakes Alliance supported the Dane County Board’s creation of a Healthy Farms Healthy Lakes Task Force. We are a member of this important advisory body which held its first meeting in earl August. The task force is charged with coming up with recommendations on local manure management policy within the next 12 months. We are optimistic that our community can find solutions that lead to healthy lakes and healthy farms.

How you can help

Consider donating to Conserve an Acre to support conservation practices on the ground on local farmland. Just $50 can cost-share cover crops or buffer strips on one acre of land and divert one pound of phosphorus from our lakes. A pound of phosphorus can fuel 500 pounds of algae, so every dollar counts.

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