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Conservation plan drew on many sources
CROP Kick Valley in Fall
Crawford County, Wiscon-sin, is part of the Driftless Region of southwest Wis-consin, northeast Iowa, and southeast Minnesota. The area is blessed with a rich natural heritage, and citizens of Crawford Coun-ty have a deep history of coming together around conservation initiatives to preserve our natural herit-age.

This article is part two of a nine part series explaining the county’s Land and Water Resource Management Plan.

The Crawford County Land Conservation Department, and the auxiliary Land & Water Plan Advisory Council drew upon citizen input in developing the 2016-2025 Land and Water Resource Management Plan.

Results of the ‘public-intensive’ development process from the 2008-2010 plan, as well as input from council and committee meetings, citizen input from a recent public hearing, and information from the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture were some of the sources used to develop the committee’s currently proposed plan.

Specific issues identified by the council to be addressed in the 2016 planning process included water quality and non-point source pollution, impacts of inadequate land use planning, groundwater pollution and protection, nutrient management education and research. Other issues addressed included preservation of land for agricultural use, preservation of forestlands to maintain their economic value, and preservation of our native natural communities and wildlife habitat.

2008 citizen input

In 2008, the Crawford County UW-Extension Economic Development Agent sent a survey to 5,657 county residences, and received back 1,325 completed surveys (23 percent).

Ninety percent of the respondents agreed productive agricultural land should be used for crops and pasture, 63 percent disagreed that productive agricultural land should be put to “any use,” 49 percent disagreed that productive agricultural land should be put to residential use, and 33 percent were neutral on the subject. Additionally, 65 percent disagreed that productive agricultural land should be put to commercial use, with 23 percent neutral.

The top six reasons survey respondents identified for living in Crawford County, in descending order of importance, were natural beauty, open space, small town atmosphere, near family and friends, recreational opportunities and agriculture.

On the question of whether it is important for the county to protect the following list of resources, everything on the list received agreement from between 80 to 95 percent of respondents. Groundwater was the resource that received the highest score, while historic and cultural sites received the lowest at 80 percent.

The list of resources, in descending order, included groundwater, river and streams, air quality, forested lands, farmland, wildlife habitat, working farms, wetlands, scenic views and undeveloped hills and bluffs, open space, and historic and cultural sites.

The top five industries respondents felt should be developed in the county, receiving scores of sixty-five percent or higher, in descending order were existing businesses, farming, new businesses, value-added or organic farming, infrastructure to support agriculture, and light industry.

Census of Agriculture

From the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture for Crawford County, land and water resource management planners learned about changes in agriculture in the county from 1990 to 2012.

Numbers of small farms and very large farms remained fairly stable, with the biggest shifts coming in the mid-range farms of 10-499 acres.

By 2012 the number of 10-49 acre farms grew by 155 to a total of 235; of 50-179 acre farms, the number grew by 176 to a total of 472; and of 180-499 acre farms, the number shrunk by 152 to a total of 291.

Acres of corn for grain and silage remained fairly stable from 1990 to 2012, but the number of acres devoted to hay and soybeans showed large changes. Hay acres decreased from 57,300 in 1990 to 29,629 in 2012, while soybean acres increased from 1,400 to 15,002.

There were also dramatic reductions in the number of dairy cows, milk production, cattle and hogs in the county between 1990 and 2012. During those 22 years, annual milk production decreased by 45 percent and the number of milk cows and hogs decreased by over 50 percent. Cattle decreased by 30 percent.