Greenspace: Rasmussen’s involvement is a watershed event for Fillmore

December 23, 2018
Donna Rasmussen, Fillmore Soil and Water Conservation District administrator, is presented the 2018 Outstanding Soil and Water Conservation District Employee award by John Jaschke, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources executive director, on Dec. 10.

Watersheds are complex systems. A change in precipitation, snowmelt, runoff or the soil’s water storage capacity can affect the shape, sediment, vegetation, water quality, nutrient processing and biodiversity of a waterway.

That can affect the waterway it flows into and the waterways that flow into it. Working to monitor and improve soil and water is equally complicated.

That’s why Donna Rasmussen, administrator for the Fillmore Soil and Water Conservation District, has branched out her involvement to other organizations.

Rasmussen was recently recognized by the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts at the group’s annual convention in Minneapolis.

Rasmussen has been administrator for Fillmore SWCD since 2008. In addition to those duties and managing a staff of eight there, she also serves as chairwoman of the regional Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota.

“It’s not something you do alone,” Rasmussen said. “I’ve leaned on other people and co-workers through the years.”

She helped found Friends of the Root River. She also coordinated efforts for the Root River One Watershed One Plan partnership, which developed a watershed management plan in 2016 and is now a state-backed pilot project for watershed-based management programming.

Rasmussen said she spearheaded the friends group in part because it was the only area river that didn’t have such a volunteer advocacy group.

To anyone who doesn’t work with waterway and watershed management, the extra involvement might look like a lot of unrelated tasks to take on. Well, these are a lot of tasks, but they aren’t unrelated. Anyone involved in watershed work understands that different watersheds interact with each other and aren’t confined to political boundaries.

“You take the opportunities as they come along,” Rasmussen said. “You do end up being involved in a lot of things but they interconnect.”

That interconnection helps the different groups coordinate and share resources and information.

“By doing that, sometimes people come to you with funding or opportunities,” Rasmussen said.

The Root River One Watershed One Plan partnership pilot project looks at the Root river watershed as a whole and not divided along political boundaries.

“Working on a watershed scale is much more scientifically sound,” she said. “It’s just a more logical approach to water management.”

The group’s work will help develop best practices for water management efforts that can reach across those barriers.

Rasmussen compared it to taking a shortcut while cross-country skiing.

“You’re breaking trail, so it’s not always the easiest but it can get you ahead,” she said.

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