Anoka Sand Plain Rare Plant Rescue

The Anoka Sand Plain (ASP) Rare Plant Rescue Program had a busy year in 2023! Thanks to the assistance of partners and volunteers, we:

  • Rescued over 900 state threatened and endangered plants from 3 new sites!
  • Transplanted over 600 rescued plants and species from seed germination trials.
  • Collected seed from 5 rare plant ASP populations for genetic preservation in the MN Landscape Arboretum's Rare Plant Seed Bank.
  • Began stem cutting and/or germination experimentations on Gaylussacia baccata (Black Huckleberry) and Rubus sp. (Bristle-berries).
  • Collaborated with the City of Blaine to adjust land management practices around a rare population of Endangered Aristida longespica (Slimspike Three-awn).
  • Implemented follow-up monitoring of previous rescue transplants to calculate survival and record success rates of locations and methods.
Left to Right: Rescuing Lance-leaved Violets before development begins. Transplanting Lance-leaved Violets into a protected natural area. Volunteers rescuing rare plants in Hugo, MN.

Looking Forward:

  • Plants rescued in 2023 are overwintering at the MN Landscape Arboretum and will be ready to move into their new homes in 2024.
  • As habitat loss continues, we will continue to seek out and survey new suitable habitats for the rescued transplants.
  • Research efforts will continue as we expand our knowledge about these rare species.
  • Conservation plans are being developed for the rare species of the ASP, outlining methods and protocols for plant rescue and conservation.
We are anticipating additional rescue events in 2024. Please stay tuned and sign up here to join our contact list! The ASP Rare Plant Rescue Program is currently funded by Lessards-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council using MN Clean Water Land and Legacy Funds. If you want to learn more about the rare plant rescue program contact Carrie Taylor, Restoration Ecologist, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Students Involved in Stream Biological Monitoring

Each season, local high school students venture to a nearby river or stream, grab a dip net and pair of waders, and search for invertebrates (a mix of aquatic insects, crustaceans, bugs, snails, worms, and other critters lacking a backbone) living amongst the submerged rocks and vegetation. They bring their catch back to their partners on shore, who use guides to identify the invertebrates or preserve them for identification at a later date in the lab. In 2023, ACD staff led 560 high school students across 20 classes and 5 schools in these "biomonitoring" efforts. Besides being a great way to get some fresh air, students learned valuable lessons in aquatic ecology. 

Individual aquatic invertebrates have different sensitivities to environmental disturbances such as contamination and habitat loss. Some, such as stonefly and mayfly nymphs, often have a strong negative reaction to disturbance, while others, such as leeches, midges, and aquatic worms, are usually more tolerant and able to persist through a variety of conditions. These tolerance thresholds across species, is a relatively efficient way to broadly assess the health of a waterbody. For example, a high quantity and/ or diversity of species including those considered "intolerant" (sensitive) is a likely indicator of healthy habitat and water quality, whereas the presence of only more "tolerant" species hints at poorer water quality and habitat. Biomonitoring data is often paired with other information, such as water quality or stream morphology data, to identify where aquatic impairments are present and management efforts should be pursued.

After the students have finished collecting and processing samples, ACD staff re-identifies them and summarizes the data in the annual Water Almanac. Through this, big-picture trends in invertebrate communities (and stream health, by extension) can be explored across time. For more information contact Breanna Keith, Water Resource Technician, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

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Adopt-a-Drain Today!

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Do I Make a Difference?

Recently, I have seen some pushback from folks who say that asking the general public to recycle, conserve water, reduce their carbon footprint, etc. is inconsequential compared to commercial impacts and thus misguided. The consensus that corporations and governments have an outsized influence on these environmental impacts and private citizens contributions to the problem don't matter. Here are two articles in the Scientific American or The Atlantic, that discuss this issue in more detail.

Though I don't disagree that commercial/agricultural uses oftentimes outweigh residential uses (e.g. pesticide and fertilizer application); I also believe that if enough people adopt enough measures we can make a difference in a twofold manner. One, we will be more aware of how corporations operate and through purchasing power and/or legislation create changes that benefit the resource. Check out this awesome resource developed by USGS and learn more about water use in your local area. 

In another case, because of both residential and commercial changes in habits; we have actually reduced water usage dramatically in the last 3 decades. We should celebrate this because clean water is not infinite. There are still issues surrounding water quantity (and quality) and we can never sit on our laurels but we can make a difference one drippy faucet at a time. For more information contact Becky Wozney, Wetland Specialist, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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Conservation High-Tech

ACD Water Resource Specialist, Kris Larson, using a survey-grade GPS to collect measurements for an upcoming lakeshore stabilization project

Twenty-years ago we designed conservation projects with a tape measure and graph paper. Over the years, ACD has gone high tech. Today we use a survey-grade GPS (shared with neighboring SWCDs) and landscape design software. This allows precise measurements and estimates of quantities. It also allows us to clearly communicate a project's outcomes to landowners and contractors. But we still pull out the tape measure once in a while – it never crashes or fails to connect. 

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Salt Smart This Winter

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What is a Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)?

ACD Water Resources Technician, Breanna Keith, meeting with property owners interested in shoreline health.

We're the private lands conservation experts! We provide financial resources and expertise to help private landowners with conservation efforts on their property that also have public benefits. Minnesota is a unique state, with an SWCD in nearly every county to assist with work on the ~70% of Minnesota's lands that are private. ACD is simply an SWCD that shortened its name. In comparison, the well-known MN Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages public lands and resources. 

For more information about SWCD's and the role they play within the state, contact
Jamie Schurbon, Watershed Program Manager, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.g

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Well Sealing Funding Extended Through 2024!

Unused wells can serve as direct conduits for surface contaminants to reach our aquifers. ACD was awarded a grant in 2020 through the Clean Water Fund to help eligible landowners seal unused wells located within Anoka County. This program has been extended to run through 2024 in order to continue to to provide local residents assistance with sealing an unused well on their property!

A well is defined as "not in use," when the well is not functional, cannot readily pump water, or has not been operated on a regular basis. A "not in use" well has not been sealed by a licensed well contractor. A well that is "not in use" (i.e., "abandoned") must be repaired and put back into use, permanently sealed by a licensed well contractor, or the owner must obtain a maintenance permit. In many cases, placing an old well back into use is not practical. Sealing your well is also legally required when you go to sell your home. If your house was built before public water was available, the property may have one or more wells. Wells can be located either inside or outside a residence. 

Indoors look for:

  • Glass block or concrete patch in an exterior step.
  • Wells are often housed in a small room in the basement, many times under exterior concrete steps.
  • Pipe sticking up out of the floor in your basement, or a concrete patch in the floor where the well was located. 
Outdoors look for:
  • Low spot or sunken area in the ground.
  • Metal, wood, or concrete cover or manhole.
  • Areas that stay wet can be caused by an unsealed flowing well.
  • An old shed or well house, or an old pump.
  • Dug wells typically appear as a ring anywhere from 1 foot or several feet in diameter, made of concrete, tile, bricks, or rocks.
  • Pipes above, at, or below the surface may indicate a well.

Visit ACD's website today to get more information or to download an application to apply. If you are unsure if you have a well on your property or questioning if you would qualify for funding simply contact Kris Larson, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Staying Active in the Winter

"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?" wrote John Steinbeck. We know that Minnesota winters ban be frigid, making people more likely to stay indoors. Many residents are unaware of all the great activities are out there to keep you from becoming stagnant in the winter months and able to stay healthy and happy. Sometimes winter activities are even more exciting and offer experiences that you don't get during other seasons. Cold-weather camping is a great way to savor those special moments but many folks, even experienced campers, think the idea sounds crazy. Click here to learn more about the basics of winter camping from the Sierra Club.

To help Minnesotans plan winter visits to state parks, and other recreational areas, the Minnesota DNR shares its top tips to have fun this winter, along with other resources for planning a winter adventure. "We know Minnesotans love being outdoors, and winter offers a whole new way to play outside," said Ann Pierce, the DNR's Parks and Trails Division director. "However, we also know cost and information can be barriers for Minnesotans to get outdoors and enjoy nature. We're working to alleviate this for folks by providing no cost or low-cost activities and providing easy trip planning resources."

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Winter Work is Underway!

Believe it or not, winter is a busy time of year for ACD's field crew. This winter, our buckthorn crew has started a five-year restoration project at Lamprey Pass Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Columbus, MN. A popular destination for waterfowl hunting, Lamprey Pass is the second largest WMA in the North Metro. 

Buckthorn thicket after clearing
Buckthorn thicket before clearing
ACD Technicians next to a huge Common Buckthorn 

The Lamprey Pass site is currently overrun with common buckthorn, a large invasive shrub that crowds woodland understories and shades out native plants. ACD's crew is working hard to remove this invasive plant from the WMA, creating a more open habitat which will benefit native plant species and make the woodlands more hospitable for hunters. The images above and below demonstrate the impact of clearing buckthorn on the site. For more information about treating buckthorn, contact Logan Olson, Restoration Technician at Logan.Olson @AnokaSWCD.org 

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AI Helps Tell Anoka County's Groundwater Story

I've been dabbling with how to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to improve productivity at ACD. Using ChatGPT, I've found a tool that can help generate an outline to serve as a jumping off point when starting a report or project plan. Recently, groundwater contamination problems have been popping up in the news. Within two Andover neighborhoods, residents with contaminated private wells are reduced to only using bottled water until they can hook up to city water. The plume of contamination below their homes, now plaguing them, will certainly continue its journey, ominously passing under neighborhoods in its path. Those hooked up to city water supplies will be fine. Those on wells, may be in for an unsettling surprise.

Where does AI come in? I asked ChatGPT to write a short somber poem about groundwater pollution. Here you go…



Beneath the soil, where secrets flow,
Groundwater whispers, tainted below.
Pollution seeps, a silent intrusion,
Nature's tears in liquid confusion.
Once pure, now stained with human's trace,
A solemn grave for life's embrace.
Quietly it suffers, unseen and still,
Groundwater mourns, a poisoned rill.


Contact Chris Lord, District Manager, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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Hundreds of Project Opportunities Near the Rum & Mississippi Rivers

Stormwater runoff from human-modified landscapes is a source of excess water and pollutants that can significantly impact rivers, lakes, and wetlands on the receiving end. However, not all drainage areas are created equally; rural landscapes with abundant agriculture and artificial drainage features, or urban areas with infrastructure predating stormwater treatment regulations, are often the most impactful. Areas draining to a priority waterbody are targeted for Subwatershed and Stormwater Retrofit Analyses (SRAs and SWAs). In these analyses, we study how runoff is moving through the landscape, strategically place various Best Management Practices (BMP's), and estimate their anticipated water quality benefits and installation costs. These findings are then summarized into a report which can be referenced by ACD staff and local natural resource managers to pursue the most cost effective projects. 

Ongoing SRAs and SWAs. Altogether, ~800 (urban) acres draining to the Mississippi River and over 30,000 (primarily rural) acres draining to the Rum River have been analyzed for BMP opportunities.

ACD has completed several SRA/ SWA reports, but current efforts are focused on areas draining to the Rum and Mississippi rivers. Projects sited in these areas include rain gardens, subsurface treatment structures, enhanced street sweeping, wetland restorations, soil health practices (cover crops, no- till farming, etc.), and targeted agricultural practices (grassed waterways, riparian buffer enhancements, control basins, etc.). Altogether, approximately 150 urban BMPs and over 300 rural BMPs have been sited, and their associated SRA/ SWA reports will be released in the coming months.

For more information contact Breanna Keith, Water Resources Technician, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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Apex Pond Construction Complete!

The Apex Pond enhancement project in the City of Fridley is complete! Project planning began in 2022 with surveying, testing soils for on site contaminants, and design development. Construction began in fall, 2023 and spreading native seed and securing erosion control blanket over the upper slopes surrounding the pond were the final elements needed to complete installation. Originally constructed in 1999 with a ponding depth of one foot for rate control of runoff, the enhanced pond is approximately six feet deep and provides water quality treatment for nearly 90 acres of residential neighborhoods. The increased ponding depth enables sediment and nutrients to settle and accumulate in the pond basin.

September, 2023 - De-watering, Tree Removal  
Completed Construction of Apex Pond, November, 2023  

For more information contact Mitch Haustein, Stormwater and Shoreland Specialist, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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More than a River - It's a Trail

Watershed Projects Manager, Jamie Schurbon, Enjoying the Rum River State Water Trail With His Family

In Anoka County, the Rum and Mississippi Rivers are designated State Water Trails. Like many state trails, information is available about trail access, places to camp, culturally significant areas, and more on the MNDNR's water trails website. ACD is completing a number of projects along both rivers to improve water quality and habitat. We've been especially busy with projects along the Rum River that include wetland restorations, riverbank stabilizations, invasive species management, and habitat protection. Many of these projects are funded in part by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.  

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Increasing Biodiversity in Prairies

Prairie once covered 1/3 of Minnesota. Today only a little more than 1% of native prairie remains. Prairie is a key habitat for 34 Species in Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and for many at-risk pollinators in Minnesota. It is important to maintain and enhance the little prairie that is remaining to help out these important species. Anoka County Parks maintains prairie habitat on County land with prescribed burns every 3 to 5 years. ACD helped manage weeds before the scheduled burns and overseeded a custom seed mix for each site after the burns. The native seed mixes contain species that are minimally present or not present at all the prairie units. Species that benefit at-risk pollinators were included in the mixes. The goal is to enhance the prairies by reducing non-native weeds and increasing native biodiversity. 

Pre-burn, August 2022, showing weedy hoary alyssum. ACD conducted weed control in 2023
Sally, ACD Seasonal District Technician, assisted Anoka Parks and Red Rock Fire with the Pasture Unit prescribed fire earlier this fall and is pictured here seeding on bare soil.

Bunker Hills Regional Park Pasture Unit includes a wetland depression surrounded by dry prairie. Site preparation involved controlling non-native woody encroachment and monoculture patches were sprayed or mowed. ACD overseeded following a prescribed burn in the fall. The seed mix contained 41 different forb species and 5 different grass species. A mix of wildflowers provided pollen and nectar sources for several endangered species of Bumble Bees. For more information contact Carrie Taylor, Restoration Ecologist, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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