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Hanlontown farm demonstrates practices that reduce flooding, increase water quality and add value for farmers

Trees Forever, DNR Forestry and partners promote federal grant programs

Hanlontown, IA (May 21, 2014) ? Landowners in north-central Iowa can now see a newly planted riparian buffer project and set up an appointment with a district forester to discuss developing a conservation project on their property. Over 5,000 tree seedlings were recently planted along Willow Creek at the Jamie and Angie Sorenson Farm on County road S-28/ Wheelerwood Road, NE of Hanlontown. The farm is just north of Highway 9, and easy to view from the road. Trees include a mix of floodplain species such as sycamore, swamp white oak, and river birch, and upland species such as red, bur, and white oak, white pine and Norway spruce. Trees Forever and Iowa DNR Forestry staff recently hosted a tree-planting demonstration and field day on the site.

With flooding becoming a more common occurrence, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is offering financial incentives to implement practices that protect the land and improve water quality. Riparian buffer is the term used for trees planted along a stream. In most areas of Iowa, the natural buffers of grasses and trees that would filter the water have been removed to create more cropland.

Farming next to the stream results in a direct route for soil, nutrients, and herbicides to reach the stream. Water sources in the ground can be destroyed in a very short time, but may take hundreds or thousands of years to restore. Riparian buffers put the natural vegetation back in place to filter out the soil, nutrients, and herbicides. Planting trees also improves wildlife cover and the natural beauty of Iowa, and can qualify landowners for property tax exemptions after the CRP contract expires.

North-central Iowa residents can learn from the Sorenson Farm planting as an example of conservation practices that landowners can install through the CRP. With the help of a federal grant, local agencies have been given the opportunity to further promote CRP in a targeted watershed, the Upper Cedar River, where water quality and flooding have become a major concern in recent years.

Iowa is the big winner in this program, but landowners can also increase income from their land by planting riparian buffers. The Riparian Buffer Program, or CP22 Practice, is a continuous signup program to establish cover on some of our most fragile areas. You can walk into the NRCS and FSA offices anytime and apply, and the NRCS office will determine what land is eligible. If you have pasture land or crop land that has a creek running through it, you will likely have land that qualifies.

The CP22 practice involves planting trees on an area up to 180 ft. wide on both sides of the stream. The program will pay 50% of the costs of planting trees, and if funding is available, landowners are eligible for an additional 40% cost-share bringing the total to 90%. The average cost of tree planting is $600 to $700 per acre. Landowners are required to maintain the trees, which involves spraying herbicides for weed control and mowing, until the trees are established. As with most CRP practices, the Riparian Buffer program pays an annual rental payment to the landowner. Today?s rental rates average $80/acre on marginal pastureland, which is comparable to the average cattle grazing lease. Cropland rental rates can often be much higher.

Anyone interested in learning more about riparian buffers and how to implement this or another conservation practice can contact DNR District Foresters Greg Heidebrink or Jason Walker at 641-228-6611 to set up an appointment. Landowners can also visit their local NRCS or FSA office.

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Trees Forever is a nonprofit organization based in Marion, IA committed to planting trees, encouraging community involvement and stewardship, and caring for the environment. Programs focus on improving air and water quality, increasing wildlife habitat, providing substantial energy savings and beautifying our landscape. For more information visit or call 800-369-1269.

Jeff Jensen
Greg Heidebrink


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District Forester Greg Heidebrink discusses planting of a riparian buffer project at a recent field day
Sorenson Field Day 5-6-14 District Forrester Greg Heiderbrink and field day attendees



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