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Families committed to conservation

By Jean Caspers-Simmet
simmet@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 07/24/2013 4:26 PM

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CHARLES CITY, Iowa — The Conservation Buffer Field Day at the Jung and Savage farms northeast of Charles City last week was a celebration of wetland restoration and a testament to their ongoing commitment to conservation.

Trees Forever organized the field day.

Trees Foreveer CEO Shannon Ramsay said it's easy to get discouraged when dealing with the paperwork associated with conservation practices.

"But you come to a farm like this, and it makes it all worth it," Ramsay said. "Everyone here has serious commitment to conservation."

Ramsay said supporters need to redouble their efforts. Just in the Upper Cedar River Watershed there are 467 riparian forest buffer contracts coming up for sign up in the next two years.

"That's a huge amount of conservation that we have to work hard to maintain," she said.

High corn and soybean prices are putting pressure on forests, Ramsay said, pointing to a U.S. Forest Service analysis that documents a loss of Iowa forest lands in the last couple of years for the first time since 1974.

Many Iowans like the Jungs and Savages have worked hard for many years to create wetlands and grass and tree buffers that protect soil and water quality. Trees Forever offers cost-share and a lot of assistance in combination with conservation and forestry partners.

"Our members tell us they do this work because they care about the future," Ramsay said.

Jay Mar, state conservationist with the Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service, said there is a four-generation legacy of conservation among the Jung, Savage and Hughes families.

Wetlands like those on the Savage farm once could be found all over Iowa, but by the 1980s the state had lost more than 95 percent of the wetlands.

Nearly 20 years ago, the NRCS began helping landowners bring back wetlands through a variety of USDA easement programs. Since then Iowa landowners have enrolled 165,000 acres into permanent easements to protect and restore wetlands. Iowa ranks 10th nationally in acres enrolled in WRP.

"Since 1994, USDA has invested more than $300 million in Iowa through a variety of programs including the Wetlands Reserve Program, Emergency Wetlands Reserve Program and Emergency Watershed Protection Program-Flood Plain Easements," Mar said.

He thanked the Jungs, Savages and the Floyd Soil and Water Conservation District for their efforts.

"It's so refreshing to find four generations so focused on conservation," Mar said.

Gordon Jung, his son Justin and wife, Jan, and their sons Walker and Jay, Jay's wife, Marlowe, and their son, Bennett, and Justin and Jan's nephew, Mike Jung, his wife, Claire, and their son, Weston, have planted and cared for thousands of trees along the Little Cedar River.

Mike said his grandparents, Tom and Unis Hughes, bought their 280-acre farm in the 1940s and at one time it was all in row crop and pasture. Mike's grandmother sold Jan and Justin 80 acres where they planted their trees.

Mike said they see ducks, geese, swans, pheasants, turkeys, deer and coyotes as a result of the habitat created by the trees, wetlands and native grasses.

"They are all very conservation minded, and they love to hunt," Jan Jung said of her family..

To learn more about Trees Forever conservation buffer cost-share go to www.treesforever.org or call 1-800-369-1269. To find out more about the Wetland Reserve Program contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District.