The Dirt on Conservation: Keep soil, manure, water in its place

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Land ownership, or management of land by individuals, comes with certain responsibilities. Three of these are a result of the fact that it rains.

In our part of the world, 38 inches is very common annually. Some of this rain doesn’t soak in and must go somewhere — and there’s the problem for land owners and managers. You have instantly become a responsible party.

Soil erosion

Even though soil erosion is a naturally occurring geologic process, we can accelerate the movement of topsoil during large rain events.

For some unlucky owners, whose topsoil is already gone, they are left with subsoil or parent material. This is not the best condition for growing crops.

Historically, some civilizations have come and gone due to careless treatment of their topsoil.

Soil movement can even be predicted via a convoluted formula used by USDA-NRCS to determine movement of topsoil based on rain events, slope, soil type, etc. The only problem I see with the formula is, it doesn’t predict how far soil moves. Does it move one inch, one foot, one yard, one field, one mile, one township, one county one state, who knows? If you can answer that question, USDA would like to talk with you right away.

Soil erosion events that are not geologically caused but rather are human caused is a responsibility land owners or managers need to accept as their part of land ownership. There are legalities and societal costs associated with erosion and sedimentation. Thus, everyone needs to do there part to prevent soil erosion.

Manure

Manure happens. Got livestock? Pets? You’ve could have a problem.

You are responsible for your animals on your property and what happens. Your neighbor is not required to accept or receive your manure coming off your property. Nor is your neighbor required to accept or receive runoff with manure laden nutrients in it coming off your property.

If they do receive manure polluted water, there are several governmental remedies available through a couple of agencies depending on the situation.

OEPA, Division of Surface Water, ODNR, Division of Wildlife, some health departments may stick their nose in it, or the local Soil and Water Conservation District.

In fact, there could even be civil consequences with neighbors. I know because I have been on both sides in the court room.

The Ohio legislature in 1979 deemed that manure or sediment contaminated runoff is not an acceptable agricultural best management practice (BMP). Thus, you are responsible.

Drainage

Here again, a responsibility exists for land ownership or management.

Often with flatter topography, investments of tile drainage have been made by farmers and others. The land gets sold and broken up into various lot dimensions. Houses are built, sheds, ponds, stores, parking lots appear. The old tile main that performed faithfully for 50 years across several fields to a good outlet is now owned by several different people.

The next thing you know, one of those owners wants to re-establish good drainage and the neighbors either don’t know what you are talking about or refuse to allow access to maintain it.

The responsibility is still there to allow adequate drainage. Some cooperation here can go a long way in the neighborhood.

Besides, all the neighbors have been enjoying the older tile main functioning for everybody every day anyway. Where do they think their water goes now when it rains?

Soil erosion, manure management and drainage, as reviewed here, are just some of the land ownership or management issues. But they clearly require a responsible owner.

Most people take it seriously, otherwise we would have a real mess on our hands.
I personally want to thank those of you who do take ownership seriously. To those who don’t, remember someone might be watching.

(Jeff is the District Manager for the Medina SWCD since 2006. Before that he was an area representative with the ODNR Division of Soil and Water Conservation through out northeast Ohio for most of his career. He worked closely with district boards of supervisors and staffs on programs and capacity building.)

About the Author

Jeff is the District Manager for the Medina SWCD since 2006. Before that he was an area representative with the ODNR Division of Soil and Water Conservation through out Northeast Ohio for most of his career. He worked closely with District Boards of Supervisors and staffs on programs and capacity building. More Stories by Jeff Van Loon

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