Stewardship

It’s what we practice and share to protect our area’s land and water.

Youth Activities

Because it’s never too early to create a love of nature.

Water Quality Research

Measuring the effectiveness of stewardship practices.

Connecting with nature.

Low-impact recreation supports our region’s economy and health.

T-shirt with image of Kickapoo watershed on the frontConnect to Protect Your Watershed!

Take a look at our new Valley Stewardship Network T-shirts!

We’re encouraging everyone to get to know their own watershed and all the plants and animals that are a part of it.

We have T-shirts for the Kickapoo, Bad Axe, Tainter Creek, Coon Creek, and West Fork of the Kickapoo watersheds.

Visit us at the Viroqua Farmers Market on Rock St. (behind the library) on August 22nd.  We’ll also have VSN beer glasses and bumper stickers available.

Don’t know which watershed you’re in?  Try finding yourself on this map, or contact us at info@valleystewardshipnetwork.org.

Farmer Council In Driftless Region Protecting Watershed, Sharing New Practices | Wisconsin Public Radio

Valley Stewardship Network’s (VSN’s) Regenerative Agriculture Outreach Coordinator, Dani Heisler-Wodill, joined local farmer Berent Froiland on air during Wisconsin Public Radio’s Central Time, Monday, August 3rd.  They talked with host Rob Ferrett about the Tainter Creek Farmer-Led Watershed Council and it’s mission.  

The group was founded in 2016.  A severe rain event in which the area was pounded by 10″ of rain in just a few hours helped bring Tainter Creek farmers together to look for solutions for protecting their land and water.  VSN, the Land & Water Conservation Department, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service joined together to help the group get started.  

The meetings started with just a few members, but the group has over 50 members now.  Lately, the meetings have been held outside on various members’ farms.  They enjoy learning different techniques and sharing food and comraderie.  New types of cover crops, managed grazing techinques, and the additions of prairie strips are discussed.

Click here for the full interview.

 

Chimney Swifts Roost in Historical Society Chimney in Viroqua.

We are fortunate in Viroqua to have a large colony of chimney swifts at the Vernon County Historical Society museum on Main Street, downtown, from May until early September.  On a summer day, you can hear the hundreds of birds chittering over downtown Viroqua, looking like little cigars with wings.  During the daytime, many people think they are bats because their wings beat so fast.  Their mouths have a huge gape, and they fly with their mouth open gathering insects –  up to 10,000 insects a day!  Here we have over 500 birds who use this chimney as their summer nesting location, so 500 birds x 10,000 insects a day x 120 days is over 600 million insects eaten!  At the end of summer they will migrate to South America, and we won’t see them again until next spring.  Swifts are a threatened species in Wisconsin, and the Swift Working Group from the Wisconsin DNR is working to repair chimneys for people who will allow the swifts to continue to nest in them.  Videos below show swifts in action through a spotting scope!

First Video Below:  Shows a realtime shot of the swifts circling the chimney as they dive in a few at the time.  

Second Video Below:  This one is in slow-motion.  At 20 seconds in you will start to see the birds fold up their wings and drop down into the chimney.  Amazing!  They roost holding onto the bricks inside the chimney.

The conservation goats and sheep have completed their work at Hubbard Hills.

The conservation goats and sheep have been hard at work clearing away invasive plant species at the Hubbard Hills in Viroqua.  The project benefits the Vernon Trials bike paths in the area.

Conservation goats and sheep in action by Dave Krier

Conservation Goats and Sheep Reporting for Duty to Clear Out Invasive Plants!

There will be conservation goats and sheep at Hubbard Hills in Viroqua, WI. The goats and sheep are going to clear an area of invasive plants in preparation for prairie planting.  Goats prefer wild parsnip, buckthorn, honeysuckle, and garlic mustard – four invasive plants. They will be there for about three weeks helping control invasive species.

Thinking of You – from VSN

Dear VSN Members,

I hope you are well and safe at home. As we manage these challenging times together with grit and grace, the amazing resiliency and self-sufficiency of our region’s communities and ecosystems are being highlighted. At Valley Stewardship Network, we cannot help but feel grateful seeing that spring is emerging, reminding us to be hopeful. Comfort and respite are available to us all by connecting with nature’s renewal.

The VSN staff is working from home, and we are available every day by email. Our staff is creative, self-directed, and adept at adjusting to working online. We are updating resource guides, creating GIS maps, developing whole farm stewardship and cover crop plans, developing outreach activities, and planning research studies.

Connect with Us to Share Signs of Spring

Although our Conservation on Tap programs and Water Action Volunteer activities are on pause, we are encouraging everyone to seek “Signs of Spring” with us. Try some of the following:

  • Citizen-science observations from your windows
  • Walks in your yard
  • Hikes through your property
  • Strolls down country roads
  • Nature photography
  • Keeping a journal
  • Explorations that allow proper social distancing

We encourage you to record and share your spring findings. What birds are you seeing? What plants are sprouting?

Share your findings with us via Instagram, Facebook, or email:

  • Follow us or tag us at @valleystewardshipnetwork on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Use #VSNsharingsignsofspring on Instagram.
  • Email us at info@valleystewardshipnetwork.org to share your findings or for help identifying birds, plants, and more!

Let’s all connect with nature and share our experiences in online community during this unique, emerging springtime. Through email and by sharing on social media, VSN will be sending out creative ways for people of all ages to enjoy, observe, and explore nature while remaining safe and healthy.

We encourage everyone to stay home, stay well, and stay connected with nature as we navigate this uncharted territory as a community. We at Valley Stewardship Network are looking forward to getting together with our community when it is once again safe to do so.  In the meantime, I want to share my favorite Wendell Berry poem with you all.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

© Wendell Berry. This poem is excerpted from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry

Shelly Gradwell-Brenneman, Director, Valley Stewardship Network – On behalf of the entire Board and Staff of Valley Stewardship Network

               

                                                   Canada Goose nest
                 Photo by VSN member Harry Peterson

                 

                         Photo by Shelly Gradwell-Brenneman

Explore your watershed

 For maps of specific land parcels, contact us about custom GIS mapping services.