The health of our waters is important. Maintaining high quality water requires getting wet. That’s why Sauk County conservationist Serge Koenig is standing in the rushing waters of a cool stream gathering samples.
Koenig is part scientist, part ambassador for conservation. He explains, “What we’re trying to do now is just clean up the water a little bit” because the Baraboo River is the second most-polluted feeder into the Wisconsin River due to phosphorus run-off. The Baraboo drains half of Sauk County.
Run-off from farms and towns threatens the diversity of life in the water as it flows through Wisconsin to the Mississippi and on to the Gulf. There, Koenig witnessed firsthand the effects while on a family vacation. He says, “We waded in the river where the Mississippi enters the Gulf and it was eerie. It really was dead. There was no life in that water. And so that’s when it really hit home that we’ve got some work to do up here.”
That work means connecting to Sauk County’s farmers. He learned a lot about ag production on his own, even volunteering to milk cows for three weeks to better understand farm operations and farmers. Koenig’s skill with people has convinced many to adapt better environmental practices like converting farmland to rotational grazing. He notes the progress his organization has made, reporting, “Last year we put in a thousand sixty-five acres. We went from 10 acres to a thousand sixty-five. It’s unbelievable.”
Koenig was born in Madagascar where his love of the outdoors was nurtured. While a student at UW-Stevens Point, he considered a lot of things but he always came back to natural resources, making him a compelling messenger for conservation. “It’s probably why I’m still here. This is my calling,” says Koenig.