Citron Creek as it runs through the farm of Eastman Township farmer Don Dudenbostel has been the location of an ambitious stream bank restoration project that was completed two weeks ago. The project came about from a collaboration between the landowners, Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort (TUDARE), Crawford County Land Conservation Department, and the Prairie du Chien Rod and Gun Club.
The project involved massive re-sloping of the banks of one-half mile of stream. This was to address the nine-foot vertical banks that had developed along the stretch of stream due to heavy rainfalls and sedimentation. The resulting sloping, grassed banks are designed to reconnect the stream with its floodplain, slow down and spread out the runoff from heavy rainfall events, and prevent the Dudenbostel’s topsoil from eroding.
“The primary concern that the project addresses for my family is to reduce or eliminate soil erosion on my farm,” Don Dudenbostel explained. “With all the intense rainfall events that we’ve been getting in recent years, we’ve just watched the problem get worse and worse, and we knew we wanted to do something to stop it.”
The Dudenbostel’s granted a perpetual easement for public access to the stream along the entire one-and-one quarter mile stretch of the stream as it runs through their property. The easement is held by the Prairie du Chien Rod and Gun Club, which also helped with the cost of procuring the rock needed for the project. The property is located directly across Crawford County Highway E from the Hogback State Natural Area.
Dudenbostel seemed enthusiastic about the many benefits of the project for his family, for the wildlife, and for the community.
“Of course, our family’s primary motivation for the project was to preserve the stream banks, hold our soil and protect our farm fields,” Dudenbostel said. “But now it is also a site for the public to enjoy, it is a beautiful place to fish or just take a walk, and the work that was done has brought life to the stream.”
Paul Krahn of TUDARE seemed very proud of the work that he and the Dudenbostels had achieved on Citron Creek, a Class Three trout stream. Class Three means that there is no natural production of native brook trout occurring in the stream, although Krahn pointed out that in areas upstream from the project area there is brook trout habitat.“We have seen amazing things happen to streams after we have done our projects, and we have high hopes that we will start to see more natural production in this stretch of stream and perhaps move it from Class Three to Class Two over time,” Krahn said. “Not only that, but a key part of the work we do is to create habitat not just for trout, but also for amphibians, turtles and reptiles.”
Krahn explained that many of the Driftless Area streams have lost cover in the way of woody debris and overhanging grassy banks due to the historic flooding the area has experienced in recent years.
“Stabilizing streambanks, establishing grasses, and adding more permanent wood structures as well as rock boulders add cover,” Krahn said. “All of Trout Unlimited’s projects produce not only habitat for trout, but also for non-game species such as frogs, turtles, snakes and shore birds.”
A real result of projects like these is a reduction in the amount of nutrients that are being pumped into the surface water systems downstream from these local waterways. Impacts of nutrient runoff from streams in the upper Midwest are felt all the way into the Gulf of Mexico, and everywhere in between.“Besides preventing streambank erosion and stream siltation, preventing soil loss reduces phospho-rous getting into the stream.” Krahn explained. “Each ton of soil lost con-tains about one pound of phosphorous. This project’s estimated prevented soil loss is around 1,000 tons/ year.”
Sweat equityNot only did the Dudenbostel family grant a perpetual public easement to the project. Don’s sons Ian and Evan operated the excavator and did most of the heavy work on the project themselves. Paul Krahn of TUDARE was able to share his experience in doing these kinds of projects with the two young men, who described it as a valuable learning experience.
“It was wonderful to work with Paul – he taught us how to lay rip rap,” Ian Dudenbostel said. “Throughout the whole process he was very patient and both my brother and I came out of the experience with more knowledge and skills than we had going in. We hope to continue to use both going forward in a construction business, and possibly in doing more of this kind of work.
Ian said that the best thing about the project for him was in taking care of the erosion problems on his family’s land.
“The fish habitat is a nice bonus too,” he said.
Both Ian and his father observed that the vegetation that had been planted earlier in the project with their grain drill was already growing and greening up nicely. Both men agreed that the areas along the stream bank where seed had been broadcasted could “use a little rain.”But, like almost everyone these days, they’re pretty careful about what they ask for – there’s no guarantee any more that a little rain won’t be too much rain. Nevertheless, both men seem optimistic that the measures that have been put in place will make their land more resilient, even in the face of large rainfalls.
Dudenbostel said that his family had been interested in doing a project for some years now, but it had taken about four years of planning, conversations and fundraising for it all to come together.
“We knew we wanted to do it,” Dudenbostel said. “But it wasn’t until we started talking with Duke Welter of TUDARE that we were able to start to see how it might be economically viable.”
A major part of the funding came from a $9 million dollar, multi-year grant that TUDARE’s Jeff Hastings had secured from NRCS’ Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The group has used these funds to do projects all over the Driftless Area in recent years, and $90,000 of the approximately $150,000 cost of the project came from this source.
Other projects that have been funded from this source in recent years include restoration work on Tainter Creek on the Rayner property in Star Valley, and work on Weister Creek in the upper Kickapoo River Valley on the Kickapoo Valley Reserve property.
The National Fish Habitat Partnership, started about 12 years ago, and has been a vehicle that has allowed groups such as TUDARE to access and leverage federal dollars for projects. TUDARE was actually the group’s first pilot partnership, and has become an example for other groups that have formed across America. The partnership draws in funding from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Fish & Wildlife Association.
The National Fish Habitat Parnerhsip contributed $40,000 to the project.
The Crawford County Land Conservation Department was able to contribute half of their 2019/2020 Fish & Wildlife Habitat Project – County Conservation Aids funding to the project. This amounted to $2,902, and has helped the Prairie Rod & Gun Club to secure some of the needed materials for the project.In addition, Coulee Region Trout Unlimited, Cabelas and some of Trout Unlimited’s chapters in the Chicago area contributed funding to make the project possible.
The Dudenbostel family was honored at the Crawford County Conservation Awards Ceremony, held Wednesday, August 19, at LaRiviere Park in Prairie du Chien, as ‘Conservation Farm Family of the Year.’ The ceremony typically is held each year at the Crawford County Fair, which was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In presenting the award, County Conservationist Dave Troester made the following remarks:
“The Crawford County Land Conservation Committee annually selects one farm family to highlight for the successful, conservation-minded operation they run within the county. To be selected as the Farm Family of the Year requires having balance between having a successful operation and putting forth extra effort to protect the environment. This year’s winner is Dudenbostel Family Farms, consisting of parents Don and Kim, and sons Ian and his wife Hannah, and Evan and his wife Mishaela.”
“Don and Kim started farming with his parents, Gerd and Dixie Dudenbostel back in 1988. Their farm along County Road E in Seneca Township was already laid out in contour strips and they made sure to keep their grassed waterways. A major change came about in 1990, when they began practicing no-till and experimenting with cover crops.”“Wanting to do something to better their pasture and improve their herd, the Dudenbostels began rotational grazing in 1998. They used NRC EQIP funding to cover some of the costs of building paddocks. The rolling topography of the farm was ideal for laying out the paddocks and watering systems.”
“Kim and Don raised five children on their farm in Citron Valley- Amanda, Ian, Evan, Olivia, and Damian. All of the children helped on the farm growing up until they moved on to different career paths. Ian and Evan chose to come back to the farm in 2013. With the additional full-time help, the Dudenbostels were able to ramp up and expand their grazing operation and implement some additional conservation practices. “
“Over the last several years, they have built a new cattle lane and installed 2,100 feet of underground and 9,000 feet of aboveground waterlines. Just in the last few weeks, they completed a major streambank restoration project on Citron Creek. Don told me they were very grateful for the cost-share funding they received from NRCS, Trout Unlimited, the Prairie Rod and Gun Club, and from the Land Conservation Department. This project was recently highlighted in the Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scoutnewspaper.”
“Aside from the conservation work on their farm, both Don and Kim have been strong advocates of agriculture. Kim served as a FSA advisor from 2000-2009, and Don was on the FSA Board from 2010-2019. As a member of the FSA Board, Don was also appointed to serve as its representative on the Crawford County Land Conservation Committee from 2017-2019.”
“Don told me recently that he credits his father for instilling in him the desire to be a progressive farmer. He said he blazed the trail on their farm with innovative practices. Though Don says that not all of his father’s ideas worked out, they did learn from their mistakes. He is very proud of their use of no-till and cover crops for over 30 years. Don and Kim told me they were confident that their conservation efforts will preserve the land so it is better for the next generation on their farm.”“For their dedication to conservation farming, the Crawford County Land Conservation Committee is proud to present the 2020 Farm Family of the Year Award to Dudenbostel Family Farms.”