Mergens retired as district manager for West Otter Tail SWCD on January 24

Aaron Larsen

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

Meeting with county commissioners on Jan. 24 was Aaron Larsen who has replaced the retired Brad Mergens as district manager for the West Otter Tail County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) based in Fergus Falls.

Larsen began his new duties on Jan. 1 after his selection in December 2022 by the West Otter Tail SWCD Board of Supervisors. Mergens retired after 38 years of service.

The new SWCD district manager formerly served in the West Otter Tail office, under the direction of Mergens, as project manager. Larsen is a native of Morgan, Minnesota, southeast of Redwood Falls.

Larsen told commissioners that he plans to continue work with buffer initiatives to protect Otter Tail County’s public waters. He will do this in coordination with Darren Newville who manages the East Otter Tail County SWCD in Perham.

In recent years the SWCD offices have provided inventory, mapping assistance and financial assistance to farmers in Otter Tail County.

Both Larsen and Newville will work in coordination with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) whose mission is to help improve Minnesota’s water and soil resources. This is done by working in partnership with Otter Tail County, local organizations and private landowners, Larsen said.

BWSR is the state’s administrative agency for 90 soil and water conservation districts and 46 watershed districts,

Larsen and county commissioners, on Jan. 24, also discussed cover crops and related tillage practices with the goal to improve soil health, mitigate erosion and improve water quality.

Minnesota SWCDs are special-purpose units of government established under state law to carry out conservation programs at the local level. The districts work with landowners to provide technical expertise and financial assistance to landowners.

The objectives are to maintain and improve the quality and quantity of natural resources including surface water, groundwater, soil and ecological resources. Each SWCD has a five-member, locally elected board of supervisors to set policies, provide local input and ensure oversight and accountability for the district.