Last week Troy Bishopp wrote about some of his frustrations with riparian grazing management, wondering, “Can We Just Do The Right Thing?” Well, here’s an example of a ranch in South Dakota that has worked hard on providing the folks downstream with plenty of good clean water.
Chad Schooley of Schooley Ranch in Castlewood, South Dakota is proud to say that they have some of the cleanest water in the state and you can see why in this 2:13 minute video. Chad has been working to protect water quality for himself and his neighbors by converting some of his tillable ground to grassland, using cover crops, and planting grasses and trees to create wider buffer strips in his riparian low grounds and streams that empty into the Big Sioux river.
You Can Be Like Chad!
Chad’s success is due in part to the conservation planning assistance he’s received from Jim Dylla at the local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office. Chad approached Jim and the NRCS for help converting cropland to rotationally grazed pastures. They met, talked about Chad’s goals and looked at his resources and opportunities for change. Then Jim provided a number of alternatives so that Chad could choose what worked best for his operation.
With his completed conservation plan in place, Chad was able to apply for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding. EQIP is a partnership between the NRCS and producers to fund projects that lead to cleaner water and air, healthier soil and better wildlife habitat, all while improving agricultural operations. In this case EQIP helped cover costs for fencing, cross fencing water development and tree planting.
Conservation planning assistance is available to all farmers and ranchers in the U.S. All you have to do is ask at your local NRCS office. They’ll probably ask you to complete a Conservation Planning Workbook similar to this example from Montana, that includes a series of check boxes and questions to help you think about your resource concerns and to give staff an idea of where you’re interested in assistance. After meeting with you, and bringing in ideas from outside extension staff and other experts, they’ll give you a variety of suggestions for things you can do to reach your goals. You choose what to do based on your operation’s needs. NRCS staff can then help you apply for EQIP assistance if it is available.