Coon Creek Community Watershed Council Inc.
Remembering Ernest Haugen
We owe a debt of gratitude, likely beyond our current understanding, to Ernest Haugen, a lifetime resident of the Coon Creek Watershed, for inspiring the title of this report. The Haugen family farm on South Ridge, near Coon Valley, Wisconsin, was one of the first farms in the area to implement soil conservation practices as part of the Coon Creek Watershed Project begun in
1933. Ernest and his brother Joseph maintained those conservation practices throughout their lives and the original terraces are still visible and in use today. All during hislife, Ernest was a strong and vocal advocate of conservation. When he was 13 years old, a teacher in school asked about the conservation practices and what the farmers were trying to accomplish. Ernest’s answer was simple. He said, “We make running water walk.” We are deeply thankful to Ernest for his lifetime of environmental stewardship and for his plain and profound answer that heartens and encourages us in our task today.
When the first Europeans arrived in the Coon Creek Watershed, they found a beautiful and bountiful land. We acknowledge this area as the ancestral homeland of the Ho-Chunk Nation. It is to them we give our respect, thanks and gratitude for our place here today. The harmony in which they live with nature is why the Northern Europeans immigrants found such rich soils, clear streams, and abundant wildlife.
As the Coon Creek community well knows, forestry and agricultural conservation practices play an important role in reducing soil erosion, increasing water infiltration, and mitigating flooding. The Coon Creek Watershed is the home of the Nation’s first large-scale conservation demonstration in the 1930’s, which changed agricultural practices throughout the Nation and created the path to a healthier environment. This happened through the collaboration of local entrepreneurial farmers and community members, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Soil Erosion Service (now NRCS), and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
In 2021, members of our community met in the shadow of the (CCC) camp at the site of the nation’s first large-scale conservation demonstration and formed our watershed council, the Coon Creek Community Watershed Council, Inc. (CCCWC). This is a grassroots, producer and community led organization involving farmers and producers, landowners and business owners and numerous others encompassing a wide range of occupations and professions, many of whom are descendants of the immigrants and entrepreneurial farmers and businesspeople of those earlier days in the Coon Creek Watershed. The CCCWC was created in response to the recent, unprecedented, catastrophic and increasingly frequent and severe flooding in Wisconsin’s Driftless Region. The name of this council honors the historical legacy of conservation leadership in the Coon Creek Watershed and pays tribute to the Civilian Conservation Corps by embedding the acronym, CCC, in the name to remember those who came to the aid of the watershed community. The word “community” conveys a sense of community, a core value of this Council.
We are a volunteer nonprofit organization. Our mission is to continue the historic legacy of conservation leadership through improving and restoring our soil, water, and air as stewards of the Coon Creek Watershed. This work is accomplished through community conversation, promotion of on the ground conservation practices designed to increase water infiltration and reduce soil erosion, and through member and community education on conservation and regenerative practices as well as leadership development. We are engaging in community-led voluntary conservation using solid planning and research-based strategies to achieve our goals. Fostering and nurturing relationships is critical to the success of this organization. Our work as a Council to do all we can to infiltrate water, mitigate flooding, and reduce soil erosion depends on the relationships we can build.
John Bollinger (former SCS Farm Planner); H.H. Bennett (former Chief, SCS; Marv Schweers (former State Conservationist Wisconsin); an Herb Flueck (former State Conservationist, Minn.) standing beside roadside marker commemorating the establishment of the Nation’s First Watershed Project at Coon Valley, Wis. WI-28-9 July 1955 Photo E. Cole