Foster Creek Conservation District
Foster Creek Conservation District

VSP Producer Spotlight

Welcome to the first VSP producer spotlight. We interviewed a local operator about the ways they protect critical areas on the land. To start out this series we talked with Tim Behne, a retired cropland and rangeland producer south of Mansfield. 

What practices have you implemented (or installed) on your farm for conservation and why?

Native grass seeding in CRP

One of Tim’s most prevalent conservation practices since the mid-1980s to today, is the enrollment of his cropland into CRP1 and SAFE2. However, “most improvements have been with the [rangeland] pastures.” His inspiration to make changes came during a drought year when he compared his pasture to a conservation easement across the fence, and didn’t like the look of the family land. In 2002, while Tim was working for the Foster Creek Conservation District (FCCD), he volunteered his operation for a pilot Habitat Conservation Plan.  Former-FCCD employee Keith Gunther developed the plan, which became Tim’s primary guide for improvements. Presently, Tim is working with current FCCD employee Elizabeth Jackson to receive an incidental take permit with an updated Habitat Conservation Plan.

 

Tim’s rangeland plan began in 2006 with a fence to divide the two pastures into four units. These units shared water access to move cattle smoothly between pastures.  Then, he added a pipeline from a new well at the house to supply water to the east side of the rangeland.  Once the pastures were divided, he began a grazing plan to improve grass forage (biomass) and participated in NRCS3 programs including GRP4, EQIP5, and SGI6. “In 2007, I began monitoring my pastures, which I am continuing today.”  NRCS provided cost-share on all pasture improvements, the fence and pipeline. When fire swept the neighbor’s easement, the flames were stopped more easily in Tim’s pasture, “where the growth was less dense.” With a grazing plan, Tim found a balance between reducing fuel with grazing and sustainable pasture growth. 

 

Tim continues to improve pasture use and water access today. For example, his rangeland is enrolled in a SGI program under a Rest-Defer rotation. He will rest each pasture for one year and not graze the following year during the bunchgrasses’ critical growing period of March – July.  “This program includes adding a solar pump to [one of] the pastures for a new stock water trough scheduled for this year.” Also, you can find Tim spot spraying and releasing biological controls to reduce noxious weeds, such as, Dalmatian toadflax.

Who would you recommend contacting to start conservation practices on their land?

“FCCD and NRCS are my main contacts for these practices.”  

What is the best and worst outcome you have experienced from implementing conservation practices? 

Caddy and Bentley trot in their pasture.

“I’ve had mostly good outcomes once the [rangeland] pasture was divided; it made everything possible. Probably the worst outcome was an attempt to graze CRP during a drought year.”  By the time the cows were released on it, the grass had gone to seed and there was no green vegetation for them to eat. 

1) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP): Landowners convert highly erodible cropland to vegetative cover for 10 years; 2) State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE): Re-establish wetlands, grasses, and trees on CRP for wildlife; 3) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); 4) Grassland Reserve Program (GRP): Landowner limits cropping the land, but can graze it; 5) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): Landowner plans and implements practices to improve water, soil, plant, animal, and air on agricultural and private forest land for financial and technical assistance; 6) Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI): Landowner voluntarily develops and improves wildlife habitat on agricultural and private forest land for sage grouse.

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Foster Creek Conservation District 203 S Rainier Waterville, WA 98858 509-888-6372 © Foster Creek CD