The City of Anoka Selected as Outstanding Conservationist

Each year, Anoka Conservation District (ACD) supervisors consider the work we've done in partnership with landowners, cities, private sector partners, and other organizations to complete natural resources conservation work in Anoka County. The list is distilled down to a single conservation partner who most emulates a conservation ethic put to action. That individual or entity is acknowledged as Anoka County's Outstanding Conservationist. The 2021 Anoka County Outstanding Conservationist is the City of Anoka.

The projects the City of Anoka implemented in partnership with ACD and on their own over the years have demonstrated an enduring commitment to both steward and enjoy our natural resources.

The following list of conservation initiatives completed by, or in partnership with, the City of Anoka demonstrates their breadth of commitment;

  • Donation of a conservation easement to ACD on the 200-acre Anoka Nature Preserve (ANP).
  • Enhancement of 70 acres of forest habitats on ANP with buckthorn control.
  • Sponsoring annual goose hunts at ANP for veterans.
  • Construction of the state of the art stormwater treatment facility at the Rum River boat launch.
  • Installation of several stormwater treatment hydrodynamic separators.
  • Installation of five rain gardens.
  • Stabilization of 300 feet of riverbank at Rum River shores.
  • Stabilization of 1,500 feet of riverbank at Mississippi Community Park
  • Enhancement of bank stability on 350 feet of Rum River shoreline with cedar tree revetments on school property with the city trail easement
  • Enhancement of floodplain forest at Kings Island Park
  • Wetland enhancement at the ANP
  • Subwatershed retrofit modeling and analysis on 1,500 acres of city-scape.

This acknowledgment is part of a larger program, wherein SWCD's from throughout MN submit their outstanding conservationists to the MN Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts in nomination for the MN State Outstanding Conservationist. In early December, at their annual convention each outstanding conservationist is recognized during a large banquet whereat they will also unveil the state winner.

Congratulations on this well-deserved award and thanks go to the City of Anoka council and staff for all they have done. ACD staff and supervisors genuinely look forward to partnering with the City of Anoka on projects in the future.

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Tree and Shrub Pruning Basics

Trim up the sides and take a little off the top. I'm going for a well-kempt look without being obvious about it.

No! Not me, my trees.

The best time to prune most trees is in the winter months. To do it well, now is the time to make a mental note of what needs to be done. For example, identifying dead branches is easier during the growing season but pruning should be postponed until the tree is dormant.

Things to Remember:

  1. Remove the right parts - refer to the figure below
  2. Use the right tools.
    • Hire a professional for pruning outside your comfort zone
    • Sharp pruning sheers or pruning saw.
    • A chain saw (and related safety gear) may be needed for large limbs.
    • Safety glasses and gloves
    • A ladder to extend your reach
  3. Use the right techniques.
    • Use three cut method to avoid bark ripping
    • Cut just outside of the branch collar
    • Use the right sized cutting tool for the branch
    • Clean tools with rubbing alcohol between trees or after cutting diseased limbs
    • Properly dispose of diseased or infested wood/brush

Cautions

  • Do not use pruning paint – this will inhibit natural healing
  • Never prune oak trees in the spring and summer as Anoka County is the oak wilt capitol of the world and pruned trees are likely to get infected
  • If the tree is unhealthy, diagnose the cause before pruning
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128 Hits

Get a Little Wild in Your Yard

I noticed my neighbors doing this in their backyard. At first, I thought it was odd and might attract unsavory characters to the neighborhood and bring down property values. Now, I'm a card carrying member of the Rewild Club. It's best to explain.

I took a hard look at my yard and ask myself…What do I want from this space?

  • A peaceful shady retreat?
  • Home grown food?
  • Entertainment central?
  • Ruckus area for kids and pets?

What do I need to make that happen? A patio, a water feature, play area, shade trees, garden plot, privacy screening, a lawn area for recreation, disco ball and dance floor, an amphitheater for Shakespeare in the Park night?

I realized that my yard was mostly seldom-used lawn and none of the other fun stuff.

Amphitheater and disco balls aside, I started to pull together a plan. The biggest surprise was how much better my yard would be if I did less work. I opted to rewild unused space. Along the perimeter of my yard I stopped mowing, I stopped raking, I stopped fertilizing, I stopped weeding, and I stopped watering. In other words, I released by inner teenager. I let trees and shrubs that popped up keep growing, and planted a few for fall color, nesting, fruit and flowers. In a few years, instead of staring at a fence that needed maintenance, I had a living screen of trees and shrubs. Birds and butterflies came back to enjoy the flowers and fruits of my lack of labor, and they turned out not to be the unsavory characters I had imagined. The shade makes hot summer days in the yard enjoyable and cuts my lawn watering in half. There still plenty of lawn for kids and pets, but now the space is a haven for the family and a little wildlife.

Tips for the would-be rewilder.

  1. Just mow less.
  2. Baby steps. Pick a small area to try first. Consider it a journey of many years, not a mountain to climb on a single trek.
  3. Forget tidy. Wild areas can be messy. You can keep the edges formal if you want.
  4. Pick up ID books for birds, flowers, and trees so you can get to know your new neighbors. Books? Did he say books? I think he meant App.
  5. Avoid using chemicals where the wild things are.
  6. Think vertically if you have a small space. Tall trees, medium sized trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses can call have a place in a very small area.
  7. Add a water feature to ramp up the wildlife appeal.
  8. Plant diversity is good. Variety will make the space more interesting and resistant to stressors like disease and drought.
  9. Speed up the process with affordable bare root trees and shrubs from your local conservation district annual tree sale.
  10. Avoid invaders. Learn a few of the invasive plants in your area and try to keep them out of your wild space.
  11. Let your neighbors know why you would do such zaniness.
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306 Hits

District Capacity Funding Impact

Each year since 2016, soil and water conservation districts across the state, including ACD, have receiving a special allocation from the Clean Water Fund of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to build statewide capacity to provide conservation related programs and services. Each district utilizes these funds differently to meet the needs of their constituents and natural resources. Following is a snapshot of how ACD relies on these funds.

District Capacity funds (DCF) have made the greatest difference in Anoka Conservation District (ACD) operations by serving as a highly adaptable funding source. We use DCF to tackle critical but small tasks that elevate our overall function and efficiency. Most individual projects and activities funded with DCF cost less than $5,000.

Education and Outreach: DCF has been used to create a natural resources Blog that is continually updated with timely content, a quarterly e-Newsletter that is distributed to key stakeholders and the public, and outreach materials including brochures, displays and animated videos; all of which are available at https://www.anokaswcd.org/educational.html.

Inventory: ACD completed riverbank and lakeshore condition photo inventories for our major rivers (Rum and Mississippi) and many lakes, totaling over 50 miles of shoreline. Photos are uploaded to Google maps where they are available by using the StreetView function for the public, and ACD staff when fielding calls from landowners.

Planning and Analysis: Streambank and lakeshore photos were analyzed to determine erosion location and severity, enabling ACD to identify and rank potential projects based on cost-effectiveness for water quality benefits. This was the foundation to secure many grants. Similar analysis of wetland restoration opportunities facilitates targeted outreach efforts.

Technical Capacity: Building staff expertise through training and technology upgrades, including design software and survey equipment.

Technical Assistance: In 2020, DCF was used to help complete 198 site consultations, 19 surveys and designs, and construction management for 20 projects for landowners. Technical assistance is a critical service to achieve conservation on private lands.

Cost Share: DCF is used to supplement other funding to help projects such as shoreline and riverbank stabilizations over the finish line.

Project Life Extension: Approximately 25 landowners annually are provided project management guidance to extend the benefits of their project beyond the contracted life. 

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ACD Stands Poised for a Decade of Natural Resource Stewardship

ACD is pleased to present our 2021-2030 Comprehensive Natural Resource Stewardship Plan to our implementation partners and stakeholders. The plan embraces the fact that all natural resources are interconnected and interdependent and presents stewardship goals, objectives and strategies in a manner that will enhance our ability to address issues holistically. The plan is structured around four foundational natural resources: surface water, groundwater, ecological resources, and soils. We also dedicate a portion of the plan to our human resources in a section called Community.

While the plan has been adopted in its current state, over the coming four months ACD intends to reengage with stakeholders who helped bring the plan together to solicit additional input for incorporation into an amendment mid-2021.

Special purpose units of government like watershed districts and soil and water conservation districts routinely face the challenge of communicating progress toward goals amid the complexity of natural resources stewardship. Often this messaging is to stakeholders with limited expertise on the subject. To address this challenge, as a central component of the plan, ACD has developed an Action Wheel with 24 Keystone Endeavors across the four foundational natural resources, community and district operations. Annual success in achieving these endeavors will be reported in an easy to understand manner beginning with our 2021 Annual Report.

The extent to which ACD's efforts improve the quality of life of Anoka County residents is another matter. This delves into matters of ecosystem services, economics, spirituality, recreation, mental health, and so on. How to gauge the value of floating on a clean lake on a hot afternoon? We have a plan for this too, which will come together in our 2021 Annual Report.

Because ACD does not have statutory funding authority, budgets and work plans are aspirational as opposed to prescriptive. To project future budgets, expense and revenue trends over the prior ten years were used. The following revenue and expense projects may appear aggressive at first glance. Considering that Anoka County has over 350,000 residents and that two-thirds of projected revenues come from product sales and state grants, the burden on the Anoka County taxpayer to support ACD's work, including county and local government contributions, would be well below $5 per person. 

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324 Hits