Don and Debbi Koeberlein
Tolono, Illinois

Don and Debbi Koeberlein have demonstrated their outstanding dedication to the protection of wetlands through several wetland restoration projects they have completed on their property and by encouraging other farmers to participate in similar activities. The Koeberleins have restored about 20 acres of wetland habitat on their 500-acre farm; have planted trees on 11 acres of Conservation Reserve Program land; and maintain 110 acres of wetlands pasture as wildlife habitat. These wetland restoration projects provide valuable water quality services. They minimize the amount of nitrate entering the water supply and decrease runoff from their farm, as well as from their neighbors’ property.

The Koeberleins have invested additional money to construct a diversity of wetland types on their property so that University of Illinois scientists can compare the relative effectiveness of wetlands in removing pollutants from farmland runoff. University researchers have found that wetlands are able to remove two-thirds of the nitrate and half of the phosphorus that otherwise would enter streams and groundwater. In addition, the Koeberleins’ project serves as a showcase for other Illinois farmers.

As a drainage contractor, Don encourages customers to consider installing wetlands along water sources, and the Koeberleins have helped convince landowners in the area to create five seasonal wetlands. Don has spoken about the role of wetlands at meetings for farmers, landowners, and the state land improvement contractors association, and the Koeberleins host tours for interested groups. They also operate a hunting preserve on their farm, demonstrating that there are other sources of income from fragile land besides crop production.

— Darrell Smith, Farm Journal