The Squaw Creek and its tributaries cross portions of Hamilton, Boone and Story counties, serving as an important resource for many rural and urban communities in the area. Representatives from these towns and counties regularly meet to guide water quality improvement efforts and visit sites that have good and bad implications for the watershed.

With the guidance of Prairie Rivers of Iowa, a watershed management authority board was created in 2015 to engage, educate and encourage all citizens to improve the health, stewardship and resiliency of the watershed. The word ‘authority’ in the group’s title may be misleading, however, because they act as more of an alliance of communities and counties coming together to support each other in their efforts in water quality improvement.

July’s quarterly meeting offered a glimpse at an uncommon site in Hamilton County – a dairy cow herd. Kevin and Ranae Dietzel operate their dairy herd business, Lost Lake Farms, using an intensive rotational grazing management style, which is an excellent example of practices that build soil health and minimize their impact on adjacent water bodies.

The Dietzel’s management style is designed as daily or twice-daily movement of fencing through paddocks of perennial and annual grasses. This helps the cattle have a great food source without trampling the area too much, which would cause soil compaction and domination of less-desirable plant species. Kevin and Ranae use the milk produced from their cattle to make cheese, which they sell on their website and at local farmers’ markets.

“It is always a great opportunity to visit with our local producers who are using the practices that we are promoting,” explains Rick Sanders, board member and chair of the Story County Board of Supervisors.

The group observed Ranae moving the 20-cow herd to another section of sudangrass, while Kevin explained the operation and the importance of conservation in a farming operation. They use no-till, extended crop rotation, no synthetic fertilizer (their cattle do the fertilizing), and use perennial plants with long roots on a lot of their acres.

Bringing the group together to not only communicate and collaborate on their community’s work in watersheds, but to actually view the kinds of things that are going on in the watershed, is essential for great leaders focused on better soil health and water quality for their citizens. “Lost Lake is demonstrating that rotational grazing can benefit our livestock, our soil and our water,” explained Sanders.

Squaw Creek Watershed Management Authority Board — The Squaw Creek Watershed Management Authority Board is comprised of a representative from the cities, counties, and soil & water conservation districts in the Squaw Creek Watershed. They are representatives from the cities of Stanhope, Stratford, Gilbert, and Ames; the county board of supervisors from Boone and Story County; and the soil and water conservation districts in Hamilton, Boone, and Story County. Their mission is to engage, educate and encourage all citizens to improve the health, stewardship and resiliency of our watershed.