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60 years of conservation, 10 years of food, fun

Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District honors Lyle Spiesschaert


NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: JOHN MYERS - Zach Wrublewski, 4, of Forest Grove (left) works on making a fish-print t-shirt with help from his mom and his brother James, 5, at the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District tour and BBQ.More than 130 people gathered last Saturday at Lyle Spiesschaert’s farm north of Forest Grove for the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District’s Conservation Tour and BBQ.

“That was bigger than usual,” said Jennifer Nelson, outreach program manager for the TSWCD, which is celebrating its 60th birthday this year.

It was also the 10th anniversary of the organization’s annual conservation tour and BBQ (catered this year by Hillsboro’s Reedville Cafe), which sets up at different sites each year but started right here at Spiesschaert’s farm a decade ago.

Spiesschaert, whose family has farmed that property for nearly 100 years, received the Cal Krahmer award for a lifetime of commitment to conservation in Washington County — or, in Spiesschaert’s words, “doing what we should do.”

Back in 2007, Spiesschaert joined the Enhanced Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (ECREP), which offers financial incentives to farmers willing to create riparian zones along waterways by adding plants that will shade the water.

In Spiesschaert’s case, the water is Council Creek, which runs into Dairy Creek and, eventually, the Tualatin River.

Federal law requires Clean Water Services (Washington County’s water management agency) to keep local waterways cool enough to protect salmon habitat. Instead of spending millions of dollars on a cooling plant, CWS chose to partner with landowners to shade streambeds at a fraction of the cost, Restoration Program Technician Briita Orwick explained during a tour of Spiesschaert’s property.

Roughly 70 Washington County landowners have used the program, allowing TSWCD to plant and manage streamside buffer zones ranging from 35 feet to 180 feet in width.NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: JOHN MYERS - Lillian Jamieson, 2, of Mountaindale, is excited about sitting in the mouth of Claudia Chinook, a giant mobile salmon whose hollow inside features a display on the salmon life cycle.

Spiesschaert also worked with the Natural Resource Conservation Service to create habitat for bees, butterflies and other pollinators, and has participated in its Conservation Stewardship Program. He also practices careful management of irrigation and pesticides, uses a no-till soil approach to reduce erosion and has installed GPS monitoring on his tractor in order to avoid applying herbicides where they’re not needed.

Guests enjoyed a free BBQ lunch at the event.

Lyle Spiesschaert accepted an award for his conservation efforts.

Tractor tours of the farm were a highlight.

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