From the St. Peter Herald
Stakeholders and community members developed six focus areas to shape water quality efforts in the Seven Mile Creek Watershed at a visioning session on Sept. 7.
The session brought about 60 members of the public together, including stakeholders from county and state government agencies, farmers and property owners and members of other groups. The session was supported by a grant from the Bush Foundation to the 7 Mile Creek Watershed Partnership.
“Everyone is leaving tonight knowing we all want the same thing, to figure out how to improve water quality and preserve the economy of the watershed,” said Karen Galles, who works for the Nicollet County Soil and Water Conservation District and the nonprofit Great River Greening on Seven Mile Creek watershed programming. “There’s a commitment to wanting to be the model for how to make this happen.”
During the session, attendees were asked to mix up at tables and answer questions about the watershed and their goals. The central theme was: “What can we do together to sustain and advance the long-term economic and environmental health of the Seven Mile Creek watershed?”
Dave Newell, director of community-based service at Gustavus Adolphus College, moderated the discussions.
“You bring diverse perspectives together to answer this question,” he said in welcoming the group. “And we will get to steps to take to achieve what we’re asking for, which is greater economic and environmental health for the watershed.”
After talking about their personal goals for the watershed, the attendees talked about the essential pieces for environmental and economic health, followed by actions to create or build those pieces.
Groups of attendees gathered around actions they could work on or how they could support those who are invested in the work. The actions included developing farm practices, serving farmers, creating a market for crops that improve conservation, gathering data, building communication and cooperation among farmers, and developing education for other stakeholders.
Farmers in the watershed said they were encouraged by the mindset of everyone who attended.
“It’s unique,” Tom Hager said. “It’s nice to see different people working together with an open mind.”
He is the fifth generation on his farm and he looks forward to passing it on to the sixth and seventh.
“Our family loves the outdoors, hunting and fishing,” he said. “We are already trying to do the best job we can.”
Jeremy Jeske, who works on water quality research and education, said it was encouraging to see so many landowners at the session. About half of those attending were landowners.
“It was very positive and the focus was on what we can do,” he said. “They were able to keep the focus on the positive.”
Farmer Brad Wenner added, “The blame game is not going to get us anywhere.”
Jeske said, “There was a recognition in one of the groups I was in that the various groups don’t particularly know what the other groups do, so there were invitations from different groups to ‘come and tell us what you’re doing.’”
Jeske said Wenner already has water quality projects underway on his farm, which have been held up, not by Wenner, but by the rainy weather.
“A lot of people don’t know it because they can’t see it, but we are doing something,” Wenner said.
They said one thing that will help is better communication between the groups that support water quality work and a clearinghouse for information on their programs.
“There are so many different agencies and group that work on this,” Jeske said. “It’s difficult for landowners to keep it all straight.”