On a Mission: ACD Meets with Legislators to Tackle Some Tough Funding Challenges

Over the course of several days in March and April, ACD staff and supervisors held virtual meetings with 15 of the 17 legislators that cover Anoka County. Each meeting flows a little differently depending on the natural resource issues happening in their districts and how familiar they are with ACD's programs and services.

As much as we enjoy connecting with our state legislators and hearing about the endeavors they are championing, we were on a mission. HF3719 and SF3913 are working their way through the Legislature to provide more stable funding to Soil and Water Conservation Districts, of which ACD is one of 90 statewide. It was important to us to garner support for this bill, which helps address a long-standing challenge SWCDs have had securing sufficient and stable funding for base operations.

ACD is also initiating legislative discussions to secure levy authority for Anoka Conservation District. Anoka Conservation District Manager, Chris Lord is working with the Revisor's Office to draft bill language to be refined throughout the summer months with input from legislators so it can be introduced next session. With strict limits in place (less than $2.75 per person per year maximum) to guard against run-away spending, local levy authority would provide ACD's elected board of Supervisors much deserved autonomy and stabilize ACD's programs and services. ACD often builds programs with grant funds only to dismantle them when the grant runs out. Repeating this cycle without end is highly inefficient. "Less than 10% of ACD's budget comes from a stable local levy. To effectively operate an agency with such an unstable financial foundation is not reasonable in the long-term" said Lord. 

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How Fast Will My Tree Grow?

By far the most frequently asked question as part of our annual tree sale is "how fast will this tree grow?" Simple enough, yet so complicated.

It would be great if we could say "one to two feet per year." That's what customers want to hear. Five feet per year is even better. The truth is more nuanced. A 'slow growing' tree planted in just the right place can easily outgrow a 'fast growing' tree that is planted in the wrong place. Trees can be finicky about how sunny they like it, how wet they want it, how nutrient rich they need it, how cold they can tolerate, or how salty they will bear.

For example, spruce trees like sunny spots that aren't too wet. Never a very fast growing tree to begin with, if put in the wrong place, they can grow painfully slow. In the photos,15 years ago four 3-foot tall potted Colorado Blue Spruce trees were planted in a row about 25 feet apart. The closest tree in the photo is about 25 feet tall and fairly full. The next is 15 feet tall and not looking too bad. The third is a scraggly 12 feet tall. The fourth is clinging to life and tops out at around 9 feet tall.

All four trees have enough sunlight so that isn't the problem. The best grower is planted in ground that is sandier and about 2 feet higher in elevation than the saddest of the bunch, which is planted in a peaty soil that was once a wetland. From the best to the worst grower, they are planted in progressively wetter areas. The fastest grew 18 inches per year while the slowest grew only 4 inches per year.

This is why when asked "how fast will my tree grow?" we hesitate and then follow with "it depends…" This is also why we include all the information you need to select the right tree for your property as part of our sale. Choose well and your trees will flourish, and if you need a little help, give us a call. 

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Tribute to a Job Extremely Well Done

When coworkers find exciting career opportunities that entice them to move on, we share in their excitement, while also lamenting that we won't be working with them any longer. Having accepted a position with Hennepin County, Outreach and Engagement Coordinator Emily Johnson's last day with ACD is November 12, 2021.

Emily originally joined ACD in September of 2017 as a MNGreenCorps member and accepted a position with ACD one year later as our first Outreach and Engagement Coordinator. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Biology with a minor in Geology from Macalester College and a Certificate in Environmental Education from Hamline University. Emily coordinated the newly established Anoka County Water Resource Outreach Collaborative, created outreach materials and programs, connected with target audiences, and built efficiency in achieving outreach goals throughout the county.

Emily's work general fit into three categories:

  • Outreach – connecting with people;
  • Information – enhancing the public's understanding of our shared natural resources; and
  • Engagement – providing the public with opportunities to take action to make a difference.


In Emily's first 15 months on ACD's staff, she set an unimaginable standard by:

  • tabling 40 event booths and interacting with nearly 5,000 people;
  • coordinating 27 presentations to a combined audience of over 1,600; and
  • hosting 15 conservation action oriented workshops for over 300 residents.


COVID-19 swept across the country in 2020, severely limiting the ways in which Emily was able to connect, inform and engage the public. During that time, Emily prepared the Community chapter in ACD's new 10-year comprehensive plan, which focuses on how to tap into Anoka County's human resources to result in positive conservation outcomes. Emily also enhanced ACD's visibility in the community by initiating monthly digital snapshots of our work as well as more comprehensive quarterly newsletters. Quickly adapting to virtual meetings and events, Emily forged ahead with outreach and engagement despite COVID-19 barriers. She redirected her attention to enhancing social media content, mastering virtual meeting technologies, refining digital web content, and creating outreach materials.

Emily created durable outreach materials in the form of displays, brochures, videos, articles, and website/social media content. The impact of these materials grows with each reading, viewing, and/or use. By the end of 2020 Emily's three videos received over 10,000 views. As of today, that has grown to nearly 22,000.

Whether tabling a booth on a frigid day on one of Anoka County's frozen lakes or engaging with a landowner at a community event, Emily always did so with an inviting smile, an infectious energy, and a compelling understanding or our natural resources.

Emily brought to ACD a talent set that will be hard to replace: social media and communications coordinator; outreach technologies engineer; sociologist and public engagement expert; event organizer; and natural resources steward. Brimming with talent, intelligence, dedication, professionalism, and a personable disposition, Emily is bound to succeed at whatever endeavor she tackles. Staff and supervisors at ACD wish her the very best and hope to collaborate with her in her new position at Hennepin County. 

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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 majority of the City of Anoka's successful conservation projects have involved multi-agency collaborations and support; without our partnership and the expertise/guidance from the staff at ACD, many of these projects would not have been possible. The success of these projects involves the hard work of many individuals all working together to create the projects, draw plans, complete grant applications, and monitor construction/projects." – Lisa LaCasse, City of Anoka Public Services Administrator

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.

Lisa LaCasse, Public Services Administrator for the City of Anoka, cites the extensive work to restore habitat at the Anoka Nature Preserve as one of the conservation projects that saw a lot of benefits for both native plants and wildlife, as well as for people. A large quantity of invasive buckthorn was removed and the area was part of a prescribed burn to promote the growth of native species. The City continues to maintain the area through cutting back regrowth of buckthorn and spot-treating as necessary. LaCasse views this project as a huge success because the City and residents are beginning to see growth of desired native plants as well as improved habitat for wildlife. In addition, the removal of the dense buckthorn underbrush has improved archery deer hunting opportunities. Often, community volunteers are able to participate in invasive species removal projects like this one and come away with a sense of connection to the habitat they worked to enhance as well as a sense of pride for a job well done. "It's easy to see the progress and immediate improvements from these types of projects." – Lisa LaCasse

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. Projects upcoming in the City Anoka include new rain gardens to capture and infiltrate stormwater, hydrodynamic devices, modifications to existing storm ponds, and stabilization of the Rum River shoreline to reduce erosion. 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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