Check Out Ice Duration Trends Throughout Minnesota

With the warmer winter so far in 2023/2024, this is a good time to revisit Minnesota data on historical duration of ice cover. MPCA has interactive graphs showing lake ice durations over many years on their Climate Change and Minnesota's Surface Waters page. Choose the "Lake ice durations" tab at the top. The graph below shows the overall trend of lake ice duration (in days) from 1967 to 2023, with the colors representing Minnesota lakes in the north, central and south portions of the state. 

You can choose to evaluate trends in the each of the three regions of the state, or for many individual lakes, over a period of record of your choice. See more details on the following tabs of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Climate Change and Minnesota's Surface Waters page: Lake ice durations, Lake temperature, River flows & floods, Biological communities and FAQ.  

Ice duration (in days) from 1967 to 2023 shows shorter ice season in all parts of Minnesota
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Lawns to Legumes Individual Grants Available

Dreaming of warmer weather and gardening season? Applications are now open for Fall 2024 individual Lawns to Legumes grants! Minnesota residents are eligible to apply for $400 reimbursement grants for creating native pollinator habitat on their properties. Projects can take the form of small pocket plantings, larger pollinator meadows, or pollinator friendly lawns.

Grant recipients are selected by a lottery system. The application closes on May 15th. Check out the MN Lawns to Legumes page for a plethora of resources on pollinator garden design, selecting native plant species, and maintaining pollinator habitat.

Note: Individual Lawns to Legumes grants are distributed at the state level, not by ACD. You can find contact information for assistance with these programs at the links above. 

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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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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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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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It's Time For Buckthorn Busting

Fall is a great time to manage buckthorn on your property. Common and glossy buckthorn are invasive woody shrubs which aggressively outcompete native plants, disrupting the habitat benefits they provide. Buckthorn chemically alters the soil, creating an inhospitable environment for other plants.
Buckthorn leaves stay green longer than most other Minnesota woodland trees and shrubs so you'll easily notice them in mid to late October.
Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) can be found in upland forests. Look for the thorn, which can be found at the end of some branches. Glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus) tends to grow in slightly wetter areas but can be found in a variety of habitats. There are no thorns. Look for the rust colored terminal bud.

New research from the University of MN suggests that buckthorn seeds do not persist in the soil for 6+ years as was previously thought. Their findings suggest that over 97% of seeds germinate in the first year. As you manage buckthorn, aim to prevent seed production on mature plants with mid-summer cutting and follow up with treatment of the small sprouts for the best results.

See ACD's buckthorn fact sheet for tips on identifying buckthorn, to learn about native look-alikes, and compare methods for controlling common and glossy buckthorn. For more information contact Logan Olson, Restoration Technician, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Common Buckthorn
Glossy Buckthorn
  987 Hits

Pollinators and Partnerships

 ACD strives to build resilient pollinator corridors throughout Anoka County. This goal is accomplished by protecting and enhancing existing habitat and creating new habitat. ACD is fortunate to have local partners who also share this vision and are helping identify unused turf areas that can be converted to native plantings. ACD is currently working with the Cities of Fridley and Blaine to convert turf into prairie plantings in public green spaces. Half an acre of turf is being converted in Fridley's Commons Park and 0.3 acres of turf to prairie at Blaine's Laddie Lake Park. Staff from both cities prepared the sites and mowed the sites to prevent weeds from seeding. ACD staff seeded the sites in the spring. Members of the Cities and multiple volunteer groups planted native grasses and wildflowers to add to the seed mix.

These projects are funded by BWSR's Habitat Enhancement Landscape Pilot (HELP) grant. Other ACD HELP turf to pollinator projects are at Coon Lake County Park, Bunker Hills Regional Park and Ramsey River's Bend Park. The BWSR HELP grant also provides funds to enhance native prairies at the Cedar Creek Conservation Area, Bunker Hills Regional Park, Rum River Central Regional Park, Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve and Mississippi West Regional Park.

One way to help these projects is to donate your native prairie seeds, including milkweed seed. See ACD's previous post about milkweed seed collection. Watch this short video to see butterfly milkweed seed cleaning

For more information 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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ACD Wants your Milkweed Seed!

Do you have native milkweed plants on your property? If so, early fall is a great time to collect seed. Seeds are mature and ready for collection once they are darker brown. Milkweed pods will turn from green to brown, start to open up and reveal the brown seeds inside. Pods will continue to open up and the seed will fly out and disperse. However, it's ideal to collect seed before the pods fully open up and the seed fluff/silk develops. It is best to remove the fluff from the seed for storage. To separate the seed from the fluff, remove the entire stalk of seeds and fluff/silk from the seed pod, hold the end of the fluff/silk and gently push and pull the seeds off the fluff/silk. Watch this short video to see butterfly milkweed seed cleaning. Once the seed is "cleaned" (the fluff is removed), lay it out to dry completely, label the seed with the plant species name (common or butterfly milkweed), and write the date and location the seed was collected. Store dry seed in paper or mesh plastic bags.

ACD collaborates with Anoka County Parks and cities within Anoka County to enhance local native habitats. If you have native milkweed seed you would like to donate, ACD staff will happily take it and spread seed at appropriate locations. Contact Carrie Taylor, Restoration Ecologist, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. There will be a waterproof box outside the ACD office for seed drop off. Be sure to label the milkweed species. ACD office address: 1318 McKay Dr NE Suite 300, Ham Lake, MN 55304. 

Meet The Milkweeds 

Common Milkweed ▪ Asclepias syriaca
Whorled Milkweed ▪ Asclepias verticillata
Butterfly Milkweed ▪ Asclepias tuberosa
Poke Milkweed ▪ Asclepias exaltata
Swamp Milkweed ▪ Asclepias incarnata
Green Milkweed ▪ Asclepias viridiflora

Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves of milkweed. Let's help feed these hungry caterpillars!

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ACD Seeks 2024 Funding for Groundwater Specialist

Anoka Conservation District is requesting an increase in funding from Anoka County to add a Groundwater Specialist to our staff in 2024. Groundwater is arguably the most critical natural resource in Anoka County as it is used for all household and commercial needs including consumption by 94% of those living, working and playing in Anoka County. Whether through private wells or municipal water supplies that draw from groundwater, Anoka County residents expect their faucets to run with clean plentiful water. Despite this, there isn't a single public employee in Anoka County that is dedicated full-time to being the 'go to' person for groundwater. We'd like to change that, and by doing so, make sure a vital resource that is out of sight, doesn't remain out of mind.

2022 brought groundwater into the spotlight in several ways, both locally and nationally

  • Drinking water contamination in Andover neighborhoods near the closed Waste Disposal Engineering Landfill hit the front page. This problem remains under investigation and unresolved for many residents.
  • Nearly 50 private wells in Blaine and Ham Lake went dry due to interference from municipal well pumping in the City of Blaine.
  • Multiple train derailments across the country exposed the vulnerability of drinking water to contamination by spills. Anoka County, with high water tables and sandy soils has an exceptionally vulnerable groundwater resource and so, more than other areas, Anoka County must be prepared to respond quickly to spills.
  • Bottled water companies continue to pursue permits to withdraw Minnesota groundwater and ship it out of state for sale.
  • Drought led to record low water levels throughout the county, which stretched surficial groundwater and baseflow very thin, compromising navigation, water supply, recreation, and habitat for fish and wildlife.
  • Private wells exceeding contaminant thresholds for common pollutants such as nitrates and bacteria is on the rise throughout the state. 
Bringing a Groundwater Specialist on board would enable ACD to address several Keystone Endeavors from our 2021-2030 Comprehensive Natural Resources Stewardship Plan: for Groundwater, provide leadership and coordination; reduce use; increase recharge; and reduce contamination. They could also address recommendations from the Anoka County Water Resources Management Task Force listed in 2020 Anoka County Water Resources Report to: coordinate water management programs; continue county-wide education programs; protect source water; and protect drinking water.

If groundwater is a mystery to you, please check out ACD produced "Our Groundwater Connection" video, "Our Groundwater Connection: Contamination" video and the ACD Groundwater Brochure. For more information contact Chris Lord, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 763.434.2030 x130
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Rare Plant Rescue: Black Huckleberry

The Rare Plant Rescue team coordinates with the MNDNR and local developers to salvage rare plants before construction begins. The most recent salvage was focused on the State Threatened species Black Huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata) which was listed as a threatened species in 2013. After locating the plants, the top layer of leaves and sandy soil were carefully brushed away to expose the root systems. Staff dug by hand through the sandy soil, following the woody rhizome until it was connected to another black huckleberry plant. Whole sections of black huckleberry were unearthed, placed in water and transported to the MN Landscape Arboretum (MLA). Staff and volunteers potted the plants so they can grow in a controlled setting at the MLA throughout the summer. MLA staff also took stem and root cuttings to experiment with different propagation methods.

Plants that survive the salvage will be transplanted into a protected site in the fall. The study includes documenting the habitat type of the salvaged site, propagation methods, and rare plants previously planted at protected sites are monitored annually. Approximately 80 Black Huckleberry plants were transplanted during this recent rescue in Ham Lake.

For more information on the Rare Plant Rescue program contact Carrie Taylor at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 763.434.2030 x130 

  886 Hits

Empowering Individuals Towards Sustainable Behavior

It can sometimes feel that the individual actions you make in your daily life cannot combat the massive environmental crisis facing our planet. The scale of action that needs to occur to curb climate change can feel overwhelming and give the impression that individual choices don't make a difference, so what's the point. This type of thinking is incorrect and unproductive. Although decisions we make as individuals may seem like a slow route to a more sustainable planet, these actions are what allow for larger scale social progress.

The MPCA developed an exceptional report: The Psychology of Sustainable Behavior, tips for empowering people to take environmentally positive action. This report focuses on the ideas behind why it is difficult for us as humans to change our behavior even when we know the negative environmental impacts. The MPCA provides insight into how to motivate and empower sustainable actions with the goal of creating social conditions where sustainable choices are the more appealing and natural choice. There are a few arguments to why individual sustainability matters and why it is a crucial component to overall social change.

  • "Small changes do add up." - When small changes are made by many individuals, or when one individual makes many small changes, it begins to add up to make a significant difference.
  • "Personal changes are the gateways to public change." - All the work put towards influencing individual change helps pave the way and provides the building blocks for future policy changes.
  • "Understanding individual motivations help create a new frame." - Gaining insight into how individuals think about environmental problems and sustainability provides the framework to develop new effective ways to talk about environmental issues and can engage a broader segment of the population.
  • "Individual change makes sustainable behavior normal." - The more that people see other people living a certain way and talking about things a certain way, the more they come to accept it as a normal way to be and live.

Check out the full MPCA report on influencing sustainable behavior below. 

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Gravel Bed Installed at ACD

 Gravel beds are designed to store bare-root trees and shrubs while enhancing root development. Gravel beds can be crafted from anything that can contain 18-inches of pea gravel, or can even be made from nothing more then piles of pea gravel.

Plants placed in gravel beds become stressed and put energy into creating fine root systems to find nutrients and water. After a few months, the well-developed root systems increase survival rates after planting by several fold. Gravel allows for root growth while making the plants easy to remove. Gravel also doesn't degrade and inhibits the growth of pathogens and weeds.

Bare-root trees and shrubs are easier to handle, cheaper to purchase, and come in greater varieties. Since bare-root plants are often only available in the early spring, the gravel bed can store bare-root plants for projects that have a summer or fall timeline. Plants with healthier root systems and higher survival rates are particularly important on projects where watering newly planted trees and shrubs is impractical.

ACD's gravel bed was envisioned and designed by Ethan Cypull, a Minnesota GreenCorps member that is currently stationed at ACD. Construction of the gravel bed was completed by Ethan and other ACD staff.

For more information contact Ethan Cypull, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 763.434.2030 x120 

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Lakeshore Stewardship Highlighted Following Spring Flooding

High water levels combined with strong winds impacted lakeshores throughout Minnesota this spring. In some cases, already-eroding and unprotected shorelines receded by multiple feet. In others, existing structures such as timber retaining walls were damaged – drastically compromising the land above. These occurrences highlight the importance of lakeshore practices that create resilient, stable, and healthy shorelines. ACD is working to maximize technical and financial resources to assist landowners with their shoreline restoration needs.

Martin Lake, located in northern Anoka County, was particularly impacted by spring flooding. Fortunately, grant funds were recently secured to provide assistance with restoration and stabilization efforts on this lake. Many landowners are interested in addressing erosion and improving wildlife habitat on their shorelines; in total, ACD staff met with residents at 20 different properties. Properties providing the greatest opportunities for water quality and ecological benefits will be selected for partial funding through available grants, and recommendations/ guidance will be provided for the remainder.

If you notice erosion on your shoreline or otherwise want to enhance its resiliency and ecological value, check out our "Our Lakeshore Connection" animated video to learn more:


Or contact Breanna Keith at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 763.434.2030 x160

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Rescuing Rubus fulleri – State Threatened Species

The Anoka Sand Plain Rescue team salvaged rubus fulleri just days after the snow melted and the take permit was issued. A recent development was designed to avoid impacts to natural/uncropped wetlands and leave a natural area that contains most of the rare plants on the site. However, a subpopulation of rubus fulleri was to be impacted since there was no feasible way to avoid the areas due to construction constraints. 


Staff from ACD, Critical Connections Ecological Services and the MN Landscape Arboretum salvaged whole plants and cut stems/canes. Plants were taken to the MN Landscape Arboretum where they will be potted. Stems/canes were cut into pieces ensuring each piece included a bud and was potted. The Arboretum is experimenting with different propagation techniques and will keep the rubus  on-site until the fall. At that time, plants will be transferred to ecologically appropriate protected site where they can be monitored for survival and growth.  

Root tipping – yellow circles show rooting at the base and the tip

Rubus fulleri was designated as a state-threatened species in 2013. In Minnesota, this species is restricted to the shallow wet meadows of the Anoka Sand Plain. Following a century of agricultural and residential development in this region, few high quality examples of R. fulleri habitat are known in the state. Rubus fulleri is most threatened by habitat loss, with populations becoming more isolated and fragmented. Active management, including prescribed fire and invasive species control is needed to maintain a viable R. fulleri population.

Rubus Anatomy:

Cane: a biennial, woody shoot which grows out of the perennial crowns and roots

Primocane: first year cane, mainly comprised of vegetation growth

Floricane: the same cane in the second year, bearing the flowers and fruits, then dies back


Rubus fulleri traits include canes that arch and trail along the ground. They also root tip, meaning the tip of the trailing cane grows roots into the ground. 

For more information contact Carrie Taylor at 763.434.2030 ext.190 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Lawns to Legumes Grant Application Open Now!

The MN Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) is accepting applications for the Lawns to Legumes grant program through June 30, 2023. Any Minnesota landowner can apply for up to $350 in reimbursements for creating new pollinator habitat on their property. This includes pollinator gardens or meadows, bee lawns, and native tree or shrub plantings.

Grant recipients must contribute 25% match in the form of purchasing materials, hiring contractors, or as in-kind time spent planting and maintaining the project.

Find resources for planning your pollinator planting, choosing native plants, and applying for a grant on the BWSR Lawns to Legumes website. 

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Identifying Wetland Restoration Opportunities in Anoka County

Anoka County is rich in wetlands that provide countless benefits to the county's ecological and water resources. Wetlands capture and filter floodwater and runoff, provide habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species, and help recharge the groundwater supply. Anoka County has lost approximately half of its original wetlands since European settlement. Historically wetlands have been drained and filled to create more useable land for agriculture and rural development. Many regulations exist to protect wetlands today, but a history of impacts combined with present-day challenges such as invasive vegetation, increasing demands for housing and suburban development, and altered hydrology threaten what remains.

For these reasons, the Anoka Conservation District (ACD) has increased efforts to identify wetland protection and restoration opportunities. An inventory of restorable wetlands was recently completed for two priority watersheds in the county including the Ford Brook watershed and the Rum River direct drainage watershed. Altogether, approximately 70 potential wetland restoration sites were identified across both private and public lands. In the coming months, ACD will conduct outreach and explore these possible opportunities in more depth, with the goal of restoring hydrology and native vegetation at one or more sites in 2024.

ACD has enhanced wetland habitat via vegetation management for several years, but hydrologic restorations are a relatively new endeavor which require careful planning, holistic approaches, and multi-agency collaboration. In 2022, five acres' worth of wetlands on public land were successfully restored by plugging drainage ditches which restored previous hydrology conditions and managed current vegetation such as the invasive reed canary grass to improve habitat with a diversity of native species.

For more information contact Brenna Keith, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Candidate wetland restoration sites (shown in red) for the Ford Brook watershed in Northwestern Anoka County.
A wetland restoration completed at Cedar Creek Conservation area in 2022 included reed canary grass removal (above) to improve the wetlands’ native vegetation communities.
The Cedar Creek wetland restoration also included ditch plugs (above) to improve the wetlands’ water-holding capacity.
  616 Hits

“Our River Connection” Animated Video: Understanding Rivers and the Ways We Impact Them

Rivers are essential resources and provide an immeasurable list of services that are critical for many ways of life throughout the world. Minnesota is home to many important river systems, such as the Mississippi River, that provide services which help sustain life and provide resources to help human economies thrive.

Minnesota's rivers endured decades of intensive impacts as the state industrialized, commonly used as a dumping grounds for untreated waste and modified extensively to make navigation easier. Our treatment of rivers has improved significantly in the years since, but human activity continues to impact them today. River systems are extremely complex in nature and many of the negative impacts caused by human activity go unrecognized or are misunderstood. Fortunately, there are many ways we can minimize our impacts and help restore our rivers to good health.

The Anoka Conservation District has proudly released a new animated video to help understand how rivers function and the role humans play in keeping them healthy. "Our River Connection" video brings you on a journey through a breadth of river topics, such as river formation, natural river behavior, current and historical human impacts, and actions we can take to protect them today. This video is suitable for a wide range of audiences, with narrative and visuals that are approachable and easy to digest. When you're done watching the video, you can take the companion quiz or explore the links in the video description to learn more. 

ACD Contact: Breanna Keith, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

  617 Hits

Creating and Enhancing Habitat in Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Zones and Conservation Corridors

I have fond memories of chasing fireflies in the neighborhood's empty lot and watching them glow in jars. It was a joy to see their light show. After living in the west for 15 years, I was excited to move back to the Midwest to be closer to family AND to see those fireflies once again with my kids. Sadly, we rarely see them these days.

There has been a significant decline in pollinators worldwide due to pesticides and habitat loss. Pollinators including; fireflies, bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and native flies, play a key role in pollinating many commercial crops and are an essential part of natural environments. The loss of these species is getting noticed and many are trying to help.

Fortunately, there are technical and financial resources available to help enhance pollinator habitat. The MN Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) received funding from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, to create cost-share programs for pollinator-friendly native plantings and habitats. The Anoka Conservation District (ACD) is a recipient of BWSR's Lawns to Legumes Demonstration Neighborhood grants. ACD collaborated with local Watershed Districts, Cities, church groups, libraries, volunteers and residents to complete 53 pollinator plantings. Those plantings together, create habitat corridors within Anoka County along the Mississippi and Rum River, Coon Creek and Rice Creek Chain of Lakes. ACD also received funding from BWSR's Habitat Enhancement Landscape Pilot Program and are collaborating with Anoka Parks and Cities to convert turf areas to native plantings and to enhance native prairies. These programs create opportunities for collaboration, education, engagement with residents and most importantly, improve pollinator habitat. 

This map shows High Potential (red) and Dispersal (yellow) zones for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. Green areas on the map are Metro Conservation Corridors and Public Lands. The yellow dots are sites funded by the Lawns to Legume program and the orange dots are sites funded by the Habitat Enhancement Landscape Pilot program. ACD strives to work with Partners including residents to increase biodiversity and enhance habitat in Anoka County.

There are still cost share opportunities to create pollinator habitat in your yard. Applications for INDIVIDUAL Lawns to Legumes grants with Metro Blooms will be accepted through January 18, 2023.Apply online at Blue Thumb – Planting for Clean Water's website.
My family has only seen fireflies in our yard once, but we've enjoyed frequent visits from all sorts of other pollinators including monarchs and bumble bees in our native plantings. Birds are also fun to watch on tree and shrub berries and wildflower seeds.
Learn more about what you can do to help:
Xerces Society
BWSR Lawns to Legumes
MN Department of Agriculture- Pollinators
MN Department of Natural Resources - Pollinators
Audubon Native Plants Database

ACD Contact: Carrie Taylor, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Monitoring Drought Strategically

The majority of the state is currently experiencing drought conditions, including Anoka County. The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) is a map that is updated each Thursday to show the location and intensity of drought across the country. Drought categories show experts' assessments of conditions related to dryness and drought, including observations of how much water is available in streams, lakes, and soils compared to usual for the same time of year.

Each week, drought experts consider how recent precipitation totals across the country compare to their long-term averages. They check variables including temperatures, soil moisture, water levels in streams and lakes, snow cover, and meltwater runoff. Experts also check whether areas are showing drought impacts such as water shortages and business interruptions. To learn more about current drought conditions in Anoka County and other areas of the country visit https://www.drought.gov/states/minnesota/county/anoka

Anoka County
USDM’s five-category system
Current drought statistics for Anoka County
  702 Hits

The Mount Simon-Hinckley Aquifer

The Mount Simon-Hinckley aquifer is one of the deepest and oldest aquifers in the state. It runs from Hinckley, MN to a large swath of south central Minnesota. The aquifer reaches depths of over 1,000 feet in some areas, containing water that is 30,000 years old. Industrial pumping of the aquifer has been banned in the seven county metro area for more than 30 years, and household use is only allowed when there is no other reasonable water alternative. Even with current restrictions, demand on the aquifer is likely to increase in the future due to projected climate conditions.

Many people think of aquifers as large underground lakes, but really an aquifer is more like sand soaked water where water trickles down through the porous space. This trickle of water may be extremely slow and it may take years for water to reach the aquifer. This leads to issues when aquifers are over-pumped and this slower recharge rate is not taken into account. There are already known areas in the Mount Simon Aquifer that are dry, caused by excessive pumping.

The Mount Simon Hinckley aquifer is an especially complicated system because of the diversity of the landscape it covers. These different landscapes have unique water flow as well as varying rock types which influence the water's ability to percolate down. Water within the same aquifer may differ in age by a thousand years depending on when the water reached the aquifer. Age of the water can be an indicator of water supply.

Learn more about how groundwater systems work by watching ACD's "Our Groundwater Connection" informational video.

  4639 Hits

Where will this snow go?

As spring snowmelt and rainwater rushes down your street and into the nearest stormwater drain, you may contemplate its ultimate fate and journey along the way.

In a natural landscape, much of this water would evaporate or soak into the ground – destined to support vegetation or join the groundwater below – while the remainder would move downward along the surface to nearby wetlands, lakes, and streams. In developed landscapes, impermeable surfaces such as roofs and pavement prevent water from soaking into the ground while manmade drainage networks rapidly channel it to local waterways.

Anoka County contains many interconnected lakes, wetlands, streams, and rivers that receive and transport stormwater. Unfortunately, many of these have experienced increased pollution, erosion, and flooding as a result. Management practices such as rain gardens, bio-swales, and storm ponds have been established throughout the county to intercept stormwater pipes and ditches, decreasing the pollutant load and total amount of runoff entering our surface waters.

Ultimately, all of Anoka County drains into the Mississippi River – either directly from the land near its banks, or indirectly through its many tributaries (such as Coon, Cedar, and Rice Creeks, and the Sunrise, Rum, and St. Croix Rivers). The path that stormwater takes to these major rivers is unique to each neighborhood, city, and watershed; the figures below show examples of stormwater drainage scenarios common in Anoka County. 

  ACD pursues a variety of projects that reduce the amount of untreated stormwater entering our waterways; learn more about these by viewing our interactive projects map here. You can also help reduce the amount of pollutants entering your neighborhood's stormwater by following the practices listed here.

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Plant this not that

Spring is around the corner and that means it is time to think about what to plant. Ornamental plants are not native to MN and therefor do not provide as quality of a food source to pollinators or wildlife. Some ornamentals have started to spread to natural areas where they can cause ecological harm. Amur maple, Norway maple and Winged burning bush have been common landscaping plants but their spread into natural areas has been detected. That invasive behavior landed them on the MN Noxious Weed List as Specially Regulated Plants. There are many native plants to choose from that are suitable for landscaping. See the Woody Invasives of the Great Lakes Collaborative website's Landscape Alternatives for native plant ideas. Blue Thumbs Plant Finder is a great tool to determine the best native plants for your site conditions. Many MN natives are available at local plant nurseries.

Avoid

Choose Instead

Amur Maple

Mountain maple, pagoda dogwood, high bush cranberry, fireberry hawthorn

Norway Maple

Red maple, sugar maple, hackberry, basswood

Winged Burning Bush

Leatherwood, pagoda dogwood, nannyberry, wolfberry

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It’s time to start native seeds for your pollinator garden!

There is so much magic and joy in starting wildflowers from seeds. This is a good time to start that process for many native plants so that they are ready in the spring. Many native plants' seed stays dormant until there are good conditions in the wild. As a gardener, you can create these conditions to break dormancy for seed germination. Many native seeds need cold moist stratification to germinate. This can be done outdoors if seed is planted in the fall and overwintered. If you want to start them indoors in containers then pre-treatment stratification is needed. Stratify by placing seeds in a damp paper towel, coffee filter, or sand and into a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator (33-40 °F). Native plant's seeds range from needing 10 to 120 days of cold stratification. Once seeds have been stratified for the number of recommended days, plant seeds in a soil medium. Keep soil moist until seeds sprout and send up their first leaves. Water as needed and allow the soil to begin to dry out between watering. The magic continues as plants continue to grow!

Learn more about individual native plant seed pre-treatment and germination strategies in the Prairie Moon Nursery 2022 Cultural Guide and Germination Guide and the Tallgrass Prairie Center's Native Seed Production Manual.

If you aren't ready to start a new seed starting hobby, this is also a good time to start designing and planning a pollinator garden. Many local plant vendors have their plant catalogues ready for you to view. Be sure that plants you purchase are free of neonicotinoids, which are very toxic to pollinators.

See BWSR's Lawns to Legumes page for garden design templates and list of local native plant vendors. 

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Think Spring!!

Spring is just around the corner so get your tree order in today. The District offers a wide variety of native stock, including black cherry trees, mixed oak trees, maple trees, and pine trees. The trees and shrubs are sold as bare root seedlings or transplants, ranging from 8" to 24" in height. They may be purchased in bundles of ten for $19.00, or twenty-five for $38, not including tax. Native prairie seed and tree aides are also available. You do not need to be an Anoka County Resident to order. The pick-up is at the ACD Office at the end of April, 1318 McKay Drive NE, Ham Lake, MN 55304.  

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2021 ACD TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE SUMMARY

ACD staff provide technical assistance for a wide variety of projects each year. Many of the requests for assistance come directly from landowners interested in improving natural resources or addressing concerns on their properties. Technical assistance is also provided for projects in collaboration with county, city, and watershed entity partners. The table to the right summarizes 2021 technical assistance provided by ACD staff.

Assistance begins with a site consultation. Consultations typically include a conversation with the landowner, desktop review of the site using GIS mapping software and available data sets, and a site visit to discuss options. If the landowner is interested in pursuing a project, ACD can provide design and installation oversight services. Maintenance guidance is also provided for previously installed projects.

Additional information about active projects and those previously completed is available on ACD's project tracking map.

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/Shortlist/index.html?appid=d1e76c3d808743c1b149bde24c990894 

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HydroClim Minnesota

"HydroClim Minnesota" is a new electronic newsletter put out monthly by MNDNR Climatologist Pete Boulay. ACD has partnered with Pete for years to manage a network of precipitation volunteers throughout Anoka County.

"HydroClim Minnesota" summarizes weather conditions and other weather events occurring throughout the state and the resulting impact on water resources. By subscribing to the newsletter you can learn exciting facts such as, a storm event occurring on December 15, 2021 was not only the warmest day ever recorded in the month of December but it also involved Minnesota's first documented tornado for the month of December!

To learn more fun facts about weather in your state visit https://mndnr.gov/hydroclim. 

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Start Thinking Spring Conservation!

Current subzero temperatures can make warmer months seem far away, but winter is a great time to begin planning for spring and summer conservation projects at your home. Whether you want to create an oasis for pollinators and other native wildlife or install features that improve local water quality, there are many great informational resources to help you get started.

Create a native vegetation planting plan and control invasive species

Establishing areas of diverse native vegetation and managing invasive plant species produces multiple environmental benefits, including the provision of food and habitat resources for native wildlife and the improvement of local soil and water health, particularly for areas adjacent to rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Sourcing native plants and landscaping services from local experts is the best way to ensure your efforts maximize ecological benefits in your area. 

 Address lawn care needs sustainably

The ways in which we mow, irrigate, and chemically treat our yards can lead to unintended impacts in nearby aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. This year, consider developing a lawn care regime that strategically targets nutrient and pesticide needs and reduces the need for irrigation.

Participate in community surveys and attend educational events

Winter is a great time to explore environmental topics that pique your interest and inspire you to become involved in backyard conservation efforts. Many of Minnesota's environmental and conservation organizations provide free or low-cost educational opportunities such as webinars and workshops. You can also become involved in natural resource surveys such as those for wildlife, weather, and water quality, which greatly improve our understanding of conservation needs across the state. 

Financial and Technical Assistance

Because environmental benefits produced through conservation practices typically extend beyond the bounds of your property, conservation projects such as lakeshore restorations, riverbank stabilizations, and best management practices for urban or agricultural stormwater runoff may qualify for financial or technical assistance. Seeking out and applying for these opportunities early will help you get a strong head start on spring and summer projects.

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Climate Runaway

A few days ago I was out conducting field work and met a landowner who had recently made the move to Minnesota from California. When I asked what prompted the change of scenery he replied climate change. We got to talking and I was troubled to hear his story.

A few decades ago this gentleman built his families dream home, nestled away in the Sierra Mountains of northern California. This was the property where they planned to retire. They constructed the home having a strong understanding of wild fires in the area and the natural role fires play within the ecosystem. Once construction was complete conditions only worsened. Every year would bring a longer and more severe fire season, slowly becoming more and more unmanageable. The home would be encased in smoke for months at a time, making it unsafe to go outside. Private insurers stopped providing fire insurance due to the increased demand and unprecedented payouts.

New levels of stress were introduced from constantly worrying about losing the home or much worse a family member or friend. What was supposed to be paradise now felt more like a prison. Eventually they reached a personal breaking point and decided to sell the home. Even this aspect was now incredibly difficult and resulted in a large financial loss.

This conversation stuck with me as his experiences were a firsthand account of the realities of climate change. In the future more citizens will have to relocate due to extreme weather conditions such as fires, hurricanes, excessive rainfall and drought. Minnesota could become a northern climate safe haven. The issue of climate change is something we are going to have to try and tackle together as a country. By working together and combining our individual efforts we still have the ability to shift the direction of things and help ensure a healthy planet for future generations. 

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Best Native Trees for our Changing Climate

Climate change has many impacts on the natural environment and there are many ways we can help reduce climate change. There is yet another way to help with the impacts of climate change. Planting a diversity of trees that are predicted to thrive in a changing climate will help the landscape adapt and become more resilient.

Minnesota's climate is changing. Average temperatures have increased 1 - 3 ◦F statewide with the greatest temperature increases in the winter. Total precipitation has increased with more intense rainfalls. Despite the increase in total precipitation, there have been more days between precipitation events, which increases the potential for drought. The US National Climate Assessment predicts that these trends will continue in Minnesota. By the end of the century, Minnesota will likely have the summer climate of Nebraska and Kansas (Figure 1). Plant communities and habitat types will change along with the changing climate. Most tree species northward range are predicted to shift about 300 miles by the end of the century (McKenney et al. 2007). The change in tree cover alters the understory and the habitat for wildlife. One way to help the landscape adapt and become more resilient is to plant a diversity of trees and include species from more southern areas.

US Forest Service climate change models predict these trees are likely to thrive in a changing climate in the Metro region:

Tree Species

Habitat

American elm *

Average – Moist soil, floodplains, deciduous forest, swamps

Basswood

Deciduous forests, woodland edges

Black Oak

Savanna

Black Walnut

Mixed forest, Savannas, banks

Bur Oak

Forest to open prairie

Cottonwood

Lowland forests along along lakes and streams, floodplains

Hackberry

Average – Moist soil, Hardwood forest, floodplains, river bank

Shagbark hickory

Upland dry forest

Silver maple

Floodplain forest, riverbanks

White Oak

Upland dry forest

* disease resistant needed


Consider the habitat, moisture, soil, and sun conditions when selecting trees for your property.

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/treecare/best-native-yard-trees.html


McKenney DW Pedlar JH Lawrence K Campbell K Hutchinson MF. 2007. Potential impacts of climate change on the distribution of North American trees. BioScience 57:939-948.

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Minnesota's Changing Climate

Flooding in a Southwestern MN Ag. Field

Minnesota is one of the states most impacted by climate change. Official precipitation and temperature data has been collected in Minnesota from 1895 through today, showing some striking statistics about our changing climate:

  • 13% increase in the size of the heaviest annual rainfall.
  • Since 2000, rains of more than 6" are four times more frequent than the previous 30 years prior.
  • 65% increase in the number of 3" rains.
  • Average temperatures in Minnesota have warmed by 3˚F since 1895.
  • Overall, Minnesota's climate is warmer and wetter.


These changes are impacting Minnesota's wildlife, forests, water quality, infrastructure, and outdoor recreation (especially winter sports). Below are some links to MN DNR infographic GIFs that shows the change to our 30-year average winter temperature and 30-year average yearly precipitation:

 

Sinkhole in Duluth Following a 7"+ Rainfall
As you can see, Minnesota's winters are warming dramatically, with the 9˚ contour moving  north by as much as 150 miles. Similarly, the 26" contour for precipitation has migrated roughly 100 miles to the Northwest.

We witnessed the impact of elevated precipitation in 2012 when the most damaging flood in Duluth's recorded history began when heavy rains fell over already saturated ground on June 19th and 20th. At the Duluth National Weather Service (NWS) the rainfall total for those two days was 7.24 inches. A NWS volunteer observer in Two Harbors recorded the storm's largest value of 10.45 inches in 24 hours.

The aftermath included millions of dollars of insurance losses to repair roads, bridges, homes and businesses. Many homes foundations were damaged extensively and the houses were razed. One state highway (MN 23) was closed for 3 years while it was repaired. The City of Duluth has had to adapt their stormwater infrastructure to withstand events that 30 years ago were considered 500-year events, but now happen regularly. In June 2018, just southeast of Duluth, the area received up to 10" of rain and once again damaged Highway 23.

Here in Anoka County, we've witnessed a similar story in 2019, with all of the monitored lakes, rivers, and streams in the County reaching historic water level averages for the year. This increase in precipitation only solidifies the need for comprehensive watershed management to make sure that our infrastructure and waterways can handle the increased erosion and flow produced by this additional rain. 

 Interested in learning more? Check out MN Pollution Control Agency's Climate Change in Minnesota webpage or the MN Department of Natural Resources Climate Data

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