Taylor and I have traveled west to Wessington Springs, South Dakota. Where we’re going to talk conservation and leaving this land better than we found it.
“Conservation is just a huge part and it should be a huge part of everyone to think about. The air that we breathe, the water that we’re drinking. ,” said Lisa Sall. “There really shouldn’t be anything more important to think about than right here what we’re standing on,” said Lisa Sall.
“For our grandkids and their grandkids. We want to leave this earth a better place,” said Lisa Sall.
Lisa Sall is the District Manager for the Jerauld County Conservation District. I am a big fan of her, her team and the cause.
“My stepfather Earl always taught me you know, ‘Mike, leave the land better than you found it,’ said Lisa Sall.
“And that’s exactly what you folks do,” said Mike Huether.
Scott Kolousek is a 5th generation farmer and rancher whose family has played an important role in the conservation efforts in Jerauld County going all the way back to 1905. His dad Dick is the Chairman of the county conservation board.
“Farmers are living out here and making their living protecting the soil and building the soil and helping our wildlife. And you know, everything works together. And if you can get the whole picture working together with conservation, you’re gonna have a better product and healthier soil raising healthier crops, which raises healthier livestock. We’re just big believers in that,” said Scott Kolousek.
Big believers in the benefits of conservation to say the least.
“One thing that works good for livestock is shelter. And we like to keep our cattle spread out, so all over the farm we’ve been planting different tree belts here and there,” said Scott Kolousek.
“Since 1997, we planted 75 acres back to trees. And that is approximately 25,000 trees,” said Scott Kolousek.
There are 69 conservation districts in South Dakota. The conservation districts help address wind challenges, livestock water and protection, flooding and so much more. Soil erosion is a big issue. “It’s mainly erosion that would be the number one thing. Soil condition, where there’s a lot of talk, and promoting of planting cover crops to get our soils into better condition,” said Lisa Sall.
It’s just not trees and bushes. Grasses play a role, too. “Grasses are a huge part for, for solving that erosion problem. And so, our drill has gone out more this, this spring alone and we’ve got more planting to do this fall,” said Lisa Sall.
Retired banker and Vietnam Veteran Charlie Bergeleen has been getting his hands dirty, doing the planting, for 5 years. He is joined by two fellow retirees, Joel Sorben and Verle Hoffman.
“The A-team, Joel has been with us as long as probably about seven or eight years. He started doing it before I did. And then Verle started about three years ago. He drives a tractor and Joel and I do the planting,” said Charlie Bergeleen.
“When you get up in the morning, when you get out of bed, when you’re retired, you need to have a purpose,” said Charlie Bergeleen. “It makes a difference,” said Charlie Bergeleen.
There is plenty of opportunity and work for the high school and college kids, too. “If your kids love to be outdoors. If you want them to be nature lovers, push them to help the soil. The conservation districts do a little short gig planting trees. They’ll get a kick out of it and it’ll be a lifetime experience,” said Lisa Sall.
Conservation requires a total team effort. Pheasants Forever, Game Fish and Parks, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Soil Health Coalition, Grasslands Coalition and many more unsung heroes, like Dan Kruse of Wessington Springs who works with me, are part of an important fight that has been going on since the dirty 30’s.
“I remember my grandfather talking about this land way back when in the 30’s, when they didn’t have any trees. And, it was, it’s pretty important to try to conserve the soil, the topsoil, also some wildlife habitat. And the country just looks a lot better to have trees around,” said Charlie Bergeleen.
Financial resources are also readily available. “There’s an endless amount of help out there and usually they can find you most of the money to help pay for them too,” said Scott Kolousek.
“There’s a real benefit to working with the conservation district to get, you know, not only great quality, great service, great work, but you can get it for a pretty reasonable price,” said Mike Huether.
“Definitely. This is the cheapest way to, to plant a shelter belt, is to call your soil conservation district,” said Lisa Sall.
The conservation district near you will assist with the plans, the plants and yes, the planting. They’ll tackle the big projects like the Kolousek Family takes on each year.
“We’ve got trees that probably date back to close to 1905, you know, when they started planting them. We got; we got a long history of conservation on the farm,” said Scott Kolousek.
“And your kids, and their kids and their kids and maybe even their kids are going to enjoy the trees and the bushes that you’re planting right now,” said Mike Huether.
” Yep. That’s the plan,” said Scott Kolousek.
And remember, your local conservation district is always there for the weekend gardener, too. Just like Joyce in Wessington Springs. “It doesn’t matter if you’re on a ranch, on a farm, or if you’re a city slicker. If you want trees, if you want bushes, the conservation district is a great free resource,” said Mike Huether. “That’s right, yeah. I have a lady in town. I don’t know where she plants all of these trees, but she just loves to plant trees,” said Lisa Sall. “She’s just a nature lover and loves doing it. And I say, ‘Go for it’,” said Lisa Sall. “Joyce, I also say ‘Go for it.’ As well as KELOLAND, ‘Go for it.’ I mean, let’s leave the land better than, than we found it,” said Mike Huether. “Amen,” said Lisa Sall.
Remember, conservation district support and resources are for everyone. To find your local team in South Dakota, go to their website at S-D conservation dot org or call 800-729-4099. For our friends in Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, similar resources are available. Don’t forget everyone, the best time to plant a tree was yesterday.