So, exactly what is conservation?

So, I get this e-mail from Tracy Haney, Tuscarawas SWCD, that says would you mind writing me an article for the Farm and Dairy (it can be anything on conservation). My first reaction is that’s a pretty big, open-ended subject, and where should I begin.

This shouldn’t be a problem, as I spent my career doing “conservation work.” I have to tell you, though, this retirement thing has been working out pretty well for me this past year. OK, back to conservation.

What is Conservation?

To protect from loss or depletion, to use carefully, avoiding waste, controlled use and systematic protection of natural resources, as forests and waterways. Thank you Mr. Webster.

I have had the privilege over the years to work with landowners who appreciate the wise use of our natural resources. Many of the conservation practices that I assisted farmers and homeowners with over the years have left a permanent impact on our environment. Seeing them blend into the landscape, we sometimes forget just exactly what is there and why the practice was installed.

My greatest joy is to take a ride on the country roads and share my stories with others about the work that has been done. Sure, there’s a lot of conservation work to do, and each generation needs to learn the best management practices of good soil stewardship. But, we must not forget what is already in the field.

Contour strips

Take, for example, contour strips — ribbons of green and gold wrapping around the hills.

Many of these contour strips have been in for generations. It’s a simple, practical conservation alternative can reduce sheet and rill erosion by half.

The waterway is a grassy green curving finger into a cropland field that allows for the controlled runoff of rainfall from a storm event. Hard to visualize how one day, a severely deep eroding gully may have been there.

Out of sight. Something you may not see but benefits soil health and plant vigor is soil drainage from subsurface drain tile. Many of these systems have been functioning well for 50-75 years, and it is easy to forget their importance.

Likewise, a well-designed pond can bring many years of use and enjoyment. Besides its recreational value a pond serves as a basin for water runoff control and is a sediment trap for upstream erosion.

A pond may also serve well as a source of water for livestock needs.

These are a few of the “old school” conservation practices that I take pride in having been a part of.

A few other conservation practices include conservation tillage, crop rotation, cover crops, rotational grazing, spring development and watering systems, nutrient management and animal waste management systems and developing wetlands.

As “conservationists”, we must be mindful of the changes in our environment and recognize the most practical solution or alternative to make an effective change.

Remember and being proud of what we have accomplished, but we need to be mindful to maintain these practices for many more years of beneficial service — and always be aware of ever-changing and evolving issues that we “conservationists” need to address, even into retirement.

(This article was written by Terry Scott on behalf of Tuscarawas Soil & Water Conservation District.)

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