In 2017, the first steps were taken to form a “Watershed Neighbors Group” to identify common conservation concerns and interests. We started by inviting folks with running water that drains into the West Fork between Bloomingdale and Liberty to a potluck gathering. Attendees voted on the top three conservation topics to focus on; flooding/erosion control, forest management, and bird/ non-game habitat.
In 2018, the West Fork Watershed Neighbors Council held three committee meetings and one large potluck and beer gathering with guest speakers. Over 600 landowners, those whose properties drain into the West Fork between Bloomingdale and Liberty, were invited to participate, and were surveyed for their interests in conservation topics.
Over 65 people responded to the survey. 22 of them requested and received property site visits from professionals to advise them on their greatest concerns. Over 75 folks came to the September gathering and heard two professional presentations, one on birds and one on invasive plants. It was a great time to socialize, meet new neighbors, share food, and drink some good beer.
Craig Thompson, WI DNR, presents on birds to residents of the West Fork Watershed Neighbors Council at the September 9, 2018 gathering.
A small subgroup of the West Fork Watershed Neighbors undertook a fledgling effort last summer to cooperatively manage a herd of sheep and goats for brush and invasive plant control within the watershed. Half the grazing period was spent on private property in the West Fork watershed and half on county property, also primarily in the West Fork. It was these “goat co-op” animals that were grazing on Jersey Valley at the time of the dam breach flooding last September. Fortunately, they had been moved off to the side and to higher ground at the time.
We expected a learning curve and we got it. We now know efficiencies must improve: paddock sizes must be larger, trailer moves reduced, and perhaps a membership fee instated in order to develop a sustainable goat co-op effort. This coming season we hope to graze contiguous properties along stream banks and to prioritize properties with county fishing easements and brush issues.
West Fork Watershed Neighbors Council goat coop provided several lessons. Here, the sheep and goats graze on private property.
The West Fork Watershed Neighbors Council was of great help to my wife and myself with our recent stream bank restoration project. In the last several years flooding had caused severe bank erosion on our creek and we knew we needed to act to prevent further loss. It seemed like a daunting task and we weren’t sure where to start. We needed help and guidance so we decided to attend a meeting of the Council.
Within a week we were assisted in getting someone with the right expertise to come for a site visit on our farm. We got the advice and help we needed to plan a strategy as well as a referral for a contractor who could do the work. The job is now complete and we couldn’t be more pleased with the result.
We found the West Fork Watershed Neighbors Council to also be a great resource for other property management issues as well, like wildlife habitat and invasive plant management for instance. The Council brought in professionals with expertise in these fields to give presentations and answer questions from the group. As a result of the new information we learned we realized we could establish a small wetland on our property in conjunction with our creek restoration project, something we are most excited about.
The council is a great hub for information and ideas and we would encourage anyone in the watershed to come to a meeting and check out this great resource. We are most appreciative of the help we got from the West Fork Watershed Neighbors Council. If you are in need of ideas or help with property management issues or care about the watershed resource this is a good group to get involved with.