District Technician, Renville Soil and Water Conservation District
This long-time district technician of Renville Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has an amazing passion for the Minnesota River. Tom attributes the river for saving his life. In the 1980s after moving to Olivia from the northern lakes region he looked around and announced to his wife don’t plan on staying long. As a dedicated hunter and fisherman Kalahar didn’t see a lot to offer for any sort of outdoor activities in Renville County, one of the most intensively cropped areas in Minnesota. Fortunately, for the conservation movement, Tom fell in love with what the Minnesota River and surrounding landscape had to offer.
In the thirty plus years of working for the Renville SWCD, Tom Kalahar played an instrumental role in enrolling thousands of acres of critical sensitive land from cropland into temporary and permanent easements. Today, more Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program or CREP acres are enrolled in Renville County than any other county in the Minnesota River Basin. In this role Tom has also helped install hundreds of Best Management Practices (BMPs) on the ground. A graduate of the University of Minnesota Crookston, Tom’s major responsibilities involve easement programs and conducting feedlot inspections. Tom also strives to introduce children of all ages to the wonders of the natural environment and leading paddling trips on the Minnesota River.
Over the last few years Tom has been working with other SWCDs in the Upper Minnesota River Watershed to protect and preserve unique and threatened rock outcrops in the basin. Three grants from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Found resulted in the establishment of perpetual easements throughout a five-county area. Granite outcrops contain some of the smallest and most temporary wetlands harboring the rarest and most specialist plants. In the first year alone, the program enrolled 212 acres followed by another 530 acres the next year.
“We need to start teaching our children that not only is it bad business to destroy the rain forest it is equally as bad to convert 99.9 percent of the prairie and drain 95 plus percent of the wetlands!!! We just don’t do a very good job of admitting that we have made some huge mistakes in the past and the present. I can get an answer from most students on the importance of a rain forest thousands of miles away but none of them know a damn thing about their own backyard!!! Education is the key!!! We can change our behavior but first we have to admit we have a problem."