PICKWICK, Minn. — It was a working vacation Monday for Tim Walz, who spent his afternoon in khaki-colored fishing clothing, a fishing net strapped to his back and a reel in one hand at Pickwick Creek on the farm of Bruce and Jan Harem.
The House of Representatives is out of session for a district work week, and the Democrat was visiting Pickwick Creek to talk conservation and the farm bill.
“We’re gonna mark up a farm bill the first week of June,” Walz told representatives from Trout Unlimited, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Harems. “I want to make sure I can make a case for it (conservation funding). People need to see the tangible benefits of conservation projects like this.”
Minnesota Trout Unlimited last year finished a project to rebuild 1.4 miles of Pickwick Creek. It started with working out a conservation easement with the Harems and another farm family, said the group’s executive director, John Lenczewski.
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Next was reshaping the landscape. Before the restoration work, topsoil smothered the rocks of the creek, Lenczewski said. The restoration project removed the “legacy sediments,” improving the water’s access to the floodplain and lowering the banks of the stream.
Because of the restoration project, Lenczewski said, 1,700 tons of topsoil will no longer be going downstream. “We are keeping our topsoil here and not in the Mississippi River,” Lenczewski said.
“People don’t believe me when I tell them Minnesota’s biggest export is topsoil,” Walz said.
While the Pickwick project didn’t use funds from the farm bill’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program, similar restoration projects Trout Unlimited worked on in Minnesota have, Lenczewski said.
The Pickwick project was originally going to be half as long, but increased funding sources allowed the scope to expand.
“We would like to see no cuts to conservation programs in the farm bill,” Lenczewski said. “There is a continuous sustained economic benefit to having these streams here.”
After some quick tips and instruction from local trout guide Mark Riesetter, Walz and his deputy chief of staff Elizabeth Glidden tried their hand at fishing in the creek.
While neither Walz nor Glidden caught any trout, Walz had one on the line and lost it while reeling it in.
But catching fish might not have been the first thing on his mind.
“This might be the best day of being in Congress ever,” Walz said when he first arrived on the farm. “This is as far from D.C. as you can get. We didn’t have to twist any arms to get people to come out here.”