On this Earth Day, do you know your local soil and water conservation district?

Earth Day, a day proposed to honor our planet and raise awareness about environmental issues, is April 22 this year. It’s been celebrated every April since 1970. On that first Earth Day, the Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District was already 26 years old.  

Since being organized in 1944 in the wake of the Dust Bowl, we’ve been working with landowners and members of the community to manage and conserve soil and water resources across the county. Whether you’ve attended one of our landscaping for clean water workshops, received incentives from us for a conservation project — or never heard of us before — the Soil and Water Conservation District is working for clean waters and healthy soil in Dakota County, on Earth Day and every day. 

Soil and Water Conservation Districts are local units of government that carry out natural resource management programs at the local level. We are one of SWCDs across the state of Minnesota — and nearly 3,000 across the nation – that provide a neighborly presence to help preserve and protect the natural resources that we all love. We facilitate voluntary, incentive-driven initiatives to conserve land, water, prairies, woods, and wildlife, working with landowners every step of the way.

We’re grateful for the amazing natural resources and varied lands we get to work with across the county.  In Dakota County, our projects can range from a 200 square-foot raingarden in someone’s backyard to projects several acres in size. 

In one recent project, we worked with the Mount Calvary Lutheran Church to construct a large, beautiful raingarden on their property. Dakota SWCD provided funds and assistance for the project, which now captures almost a pound of phosphorus and over 200,000 gallons of water annually. The water is used by the raingarden’s native plants and helps recharge local aquifers, rather than washing into the Minnesota River, carrying pollutants. We have more funding incentives available in 2018 for projects that provide cleaner water within our local watersheds, including additional projects with congregations.  

In another recent project, we worked with a Dakota County farmer who was experiencing erosion and runoff in his cultivated field. We provided financial incentives and technical assistance, helping him install a 1,260 foot grassed waterway and plant native grass filter strips along the existing drainage ditch. Over 300 tons of soil and sediment and over 160 pounds of phosphorus were prevented from running off into Trout Brook last year. We also have more available cost-share incentives for agricultural landowners in 2018.

Each of the 89 SWCDs in Minnesota operates at the direction of locally elected board supervisors. This local perspective allows SWCDs to manage the resources and serve the needs of the citizens in their own district, while also forming partnerships with public and private, local, state and federal entities. Our work results in cleaner water, healthier wildlife habitat, better soil, and a collaborative relationship with the community a great thing to celebrate this Earth Day.  

Interested in adding a beautiful raingarden or native garden in your yard to prevent erosion, promote clean water, and attract pollinators? Own property with an eroding shoreline? Have a field where runoff is causing issues? To learn more about how your SWCD can help you, visit at dakotaswcd.org. Together, we can be partners in conserving our land and water resources.


Laura Zanmiller, Chair Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District

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