Residential-based technical assistance
Pest & Weed Management
Pests are organisms that are capable of harming humans, animals, plants or the environment. Pests include a variety of organisms ranging from microbes to plants to animals. Weeds and invasive plants cause harm by competing with native plants. Invasive plant species grow and reproduce rapidly, causing major changes in vegetative cover wherever they become established. Left unchecked, invasives can overtake desirable plants and significantly degrade grasslands, wetlands and woodlands.
A fourfold approach is used to manage most pests:
- Prevention: Prevention begins with excluding new invasive species from Minnesota. Education is critical to prevention; this includes educating the public on risks of transporting pests in firewood.
- Early Detection: Detection surveys help find pests before they become established.
- Rapid Response: If an invasive pest is detected it is critical to quickly determine the extent of the infestation and contain it to limit the spread.
- Integrated Pest Mangement: Established plant pests result in significant economic and environmental damage each year in agronomic and horticultural crops as well as in natural and recreational areas. Losses occur from pest damage as well as from costs associated with actions taken to mitigate that damage. Integrated Pest Management is a balanced approach to pest management which incorporates the many aspects of plant health care/crop protection in ways that lessen harmful environmental impacts and protect human health by providing effective management tools for producers, land managers, governmental agencies, schools, communities and home owners.
- Dutch Elm Disease
- Oak Wilt
- Emerald Ash Borer
- Gypsy Moth
- Multicolored Asian lady beetles
- Common Buckthorn
- Curly-leaf Pondweed
- Eurasian Watermilfoil
- Purple Loosestrife
- Reed Canary Grass
- Spotted Knapweed
- Asian Carp
- Zebra Mussel
Windbreaks & Shelterbelts
Field windbreaks are linear plantings of trees/shrubs designed to reduce wind speed in open fields, preventing soil erosion and protecting properties from wind damage. Windbreaks are typically planted in multiple rows perpendicular to prevailing winds. On the downwind side of a well-established windbreak, wind is generally slowed for a distance of 10 times the height of the trees. Old windbreaks may need renovation to function properly, including removal and replacement of selected trees/shrubs.
Shelterbelts are windbreaks designed to protect households and animals from wind and blowing snow. They can also be used to protect wildlife wintering areas. One or more rows of trees/shrubs are planted around the north and west sides of the area to be protected, surrounding it partly (often in an L-shape) or more completely, like a squarish belt. Shelterbelts protect households and animals from blowing wind and also save energy.
Living snow fences, a type of windbreak, are trees/shrubs planted strategically along roads to trap snow and keep it from blowing and drifting on roads or driveways. Old living snow fences may need renovation, including removal and replacement of selected trees/shrubs, to continue working properly.
The Native Buffer Program is a voluntary program that encourages the creation of high quality shoreland and streambank buffers that protect water quality within the Little Rock Lake Watershed. A shoreland buffer is a naturally vegetated plot of land, located between the water's edge (lake, stream or wetland) and the land uphill. A shoreland buffer can be composed of a mix of native aquatic plants, grasses, wildflowers and/or shrubs and trees. Basically, it is undisturbed land at your shoreline; this means that your lakeshore would not be mowed or manicured into a sand beach.
Shoreland buffers provide benefits to people, the environment, wildlife, and aquatic life. Restored vegetation at the lake's edge restores the function of the ecosystem which originally protected the lake before it was altered by humans. Some of the benefits of a buffer include: filtering of pollutants such as sediment and phosphorous out of runoff from uphill land uses, prevent shoreline erosion by holding soil in place (native plants have deep root systems), provide habitat for wildlife, deter geese from congregating on the lakeshore, and they allow for more leisure time to relax and enjoy the nature of life at the lakeshore.
The Benton SWCD currently has funding available to assist Little Rock Lake (and watershed) residents with buffer design and cost-share of up to 75% of the total project cost. However, the funding is limited and available on a first come-first serve basis.
Native Buffer Program contracts are for 15 years from the date the agreement is signed. Planting must be done with local ecotype seed with a goal of 25 species per site. For buffer cost-share very minimal grading is allowed.
All projects are approved for cost-share by the Benton SWCD Board of Supervisors and cost-share reimbursements are provided after the project is complete.
A rain garden is a colorful, perennial planting designed to capture and use rain water that may otherwise run off the land. It is a garden in a shallow depression, and can be large or small. A rain garden should not be mistaken for a wetland as they do not hold water for more than a few hours, or a day at most. This prevents them from becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Benefits of rain gardens include:
- They capture and filter runoff from roofs, lawns, and driveways that may overload storm sewers and pollute streams and rivers.
- They reduce the need for supplemental waterings for your yard, which can become expensive.
- They grow healthy plants using high quality water in the form of rain.
- They provide a good mix of plants that change color, structure, shape, and form throughout the season.
- They provide habitat for butterflies, bees, birds, and other wildlife.
Well sealing is permanently closing a well that is no longer used or is deemed unsafe. State law requires abandoned wells in Minnesota to be sealed. Well sealing involves clearing debris from the well and filling it with grout. This must be done by a licensed contractor.
An unused well can act as a drain, allowing surface runoff, polluted water and improperly disposed-of solid or other waste to contaminate groundwater. Therefore, sealing abandoned wells protects groundwater quality.
Old unused wells can be hard to find. They may be buried under soil or covered by buildings. Sometimes the only evidence is a depression or an old well casing close to a house or outbuilding. Hand-dug wells can be safety hazards for children, adults, and animals to fall into as well. Visit the Minnesota Department of Health's website for tips on finding abandoned well sites on rural land.
State Cost-Share offers 50% cost-share rates to seal unused wells in Benton County, up to $1,000. Please contact our office if you would like more information.
- Minnesota Department of Agriculture: Well Sealing
- Minnesota Department of Health: County Well Index
- Minnesota Department of Health: Well Sealing
The Benton Soil & Water Conservation District has various cost-share programs available for landowners to repair/replace failing septic systems. The purposes of these programs are to promote public health and welfare by preventing, reducing, and eliminating water pollution.
For a brochure on all the available programs for failing septic systems, click here.
Clean Water Fund Cost-Share Grants
- SWCD Local Capacity Services Clean Water Fund Grant
- Little Rock Lake Watershed Clean Water Fund Grant
These funds are available to landowners who have their septic systems inspected by a licensed private inspector and the system has been deemed to be an Imminent Threat to Public Health and Safety, and a Notice of Noncompliance has been issued.
Landowners could be eligible to be reimbursed up to 50% of the installation costs to repair/replace a failing septic system, which are paid after completion. Landowners are responsible for any inspection and design fees, along with any permit costs.
At a minimum, a system that is an Imminent Threat to Public Health and Safety is a system with a discharge of sewage or sewage effluent to the ground surface, drainage systems, ditches, storm water drains, or direct to surface water; systems that cause a reoccurring sewage backup into a dwelling or other establishment; systems with electrical hazards; or sewage tanks with unsecured, damaged, or weak maintenance hole covers.
For more information on the programs above, click here.
Benton County Low-Income SSTS Upgrade Clean Water Fund Grant
Benton SWCD is administering this Clean Water Fund grant on behalf of Benton County. This program is available for Benton County residences who have a homesteaded, single-family home who meet the income criteria and other programs eligibility requirements.
Provides cost-share for failing septic systems that have been inspected by a licensed private inspector and the system has been deemed to be 1) Imminent Threat to Public Health and Safety OR Failing to Protect Groundwater, and 2) Notice of Noncompliance has been issued.
Combined household gross annual income must qualify under the USDA Rural Development Low Income Guidelines (INCOME TABLE is on application). There are two cost-share rates available and are depended on combined household gross annual income. Cost-share rates are 1) up to 75% not to exceed $10,000 OR 2) up to 50% not to exceed $6,500. Cost-share rates depend on which income table the household is eligible for. See Application for all the program criteria and eligibility requirements.
For more information & program application, click here.
Habitat restoration and management preserves natural upland or wetland ecosystems and the plants and animals that thrive there. It typically involves permanent, perennial grass/shrub/tree plantings suitable for desired wildlife. Long-term management is needed to maintain the desired habitat and keep out invasive species. Common elements of habitat restoration in Minnesota include wildlife travel corridors, wildlife habitat buffers, wildlife food plots, wildlife brush piles, bird nesting structures and forest openings.
Wildlife habitat corridors connect isolated patches of habitat. They can be man-made ribbons of habitat or formed around natural features such as streams. Trees/shrubs with a high density of stems are ideal for wildlife corridors. Corridors must be wide enough to provide cover for larger wildlife and allow them to move freely. Riparian buffers and filter strips being established for water quality purposes can be designed to double as wildlife corridors.
Wildlife food plots are small tracts of crops left unharvested to provide food and cover for a variety of wildlife. They are particularly important as a dependable source of winter food. Many conservation programs encourage wildlife food plots although food plot acreage is usually ineligible for cost share or rental payments.
Wildlife brush piles provide shelter for small mammals such as red fox woodchucks, weasels, skunks and chipmunks as well as garter snakes, salamanders and more, including numerous bird species. Good sites for wildlife brush piles are along forest roads and edges, in woodland openings, at field edges and corners, and beside streams and wetlands.
Controlled burning is the intentional periodic use of fire to manage perennial vegetation. It is one of several types of disturbance (such as mowing, clipping or grazing grassland) that invigorate plant roots, improving the health of the stand as new vegetation emerges. Trained professionals burn specific areas of vegetation to meet various management goals such as maintaining a desired ecosystem, controlling invasive species and improving wildlife habitat.
Wetland Restoration re-establishes or repairs the hydrology, plant communities and soils of a former or degraded wetland that has been drained, farmed or otherwise modified since European settlement. The goal is to closely approximate the original wetland’s natural hydrologic regime and vegetation, resulting in multiple environmental benefits.
Restoring wetland hydrology typically involves breaking drainage tile lines, building a dike or embankment to retain water and/or installing adjustable outlets to regulate water levels. Restored wetland plants usually include a mix of native water-loving grasses, sedges, rushes and forbs (broad-leaved flowering plants) in the basin or ponded area and a mix of native grasses and forbs in upland buffers around the basin.
Restored prairie pothole wetlands provide breeding grounds for ducks, geese and other migratory waterfowl whose habitat has been greatly reduced.
Constructed wetlands, sometimes called treatment wetlands, are man-made systems engineered to approximate the water-cleansing process of natural wetlands. Constructed wetlands can also provide habitat for some waterfowl, other birds, amphibians and invertebrates.