initiative to promote stream health and sustainable agriculture. Merkel’s water project is typical of the program’s approach in that it empowers landowners to drive the restoration process through projects that benefit both conservation and their bottom line.
“I love the Partnership,” said Kenda Flores, an aquatic habitat specialist with the Department of Conservation.
Flores already had a reputation for helping farmers build reinforced stream crossings, giving them a reliable place to move livestock and equipment. In exchange, landowners agreed to build fences that keep cattle away from the stream, and to plant grasses and trees along the bank. The measures improved water quality and allowed the banks to heal. The crossings were a big hit.
“When I started putting in stream crossings, my reputation really soared in Crawford County,” Flores said. “That got us miles and miles of riparian corridor.”
Flores and fellow Department biologist Rob Pulliam had long worked together to help landowners offset the costs of projects that benefited waterways. When the Fishers and Farmers money became available in 2008, it meant they could pay for a larger share of water system and crossing projects because it wasn’t expressly a state or federal program.
Non-federal and non-state grants have more flexibility than government programs, which often include stipulations about how much each party can spend. Fishers and Farmers is funded by grants from several organizations including the Audubon Society and the Missouri Agribusiness Association, as well as state and federal partners like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation.
“Historically, we offered 75 percent cost-share to do these kinds of projects under other programs and partnerships,” Pulliam said.
Despite what they saw as obvious advantages in water systems and crossings, Flores and Pulliam had difficulty convincing landowners to take part. After helping Merkel install his water system, they asked what he thought it would take to get others involved and he said it came down to money.
“We suggested upping the cost share to 90 percent,” Merkel said. “That helped. Everybody needed water because everybody was doing rotational grazing.”
Rotational grazing created an opportunity for cooperation. Farmers like it because it helped them maximize their grazing space. But if they didn’t have distributed water sources, the path to the creek was always under stress and couldn’t be used for grazing. Distributed water sources kept livestock out of the creek, allowing farmers