Linwood Elementary School Rain and Pollinator Garden

Turning a problem into a solution with the Linwood Elementary School rain and pollinator garden.

Construction and expansion took place recently at Linwood Elementary School resulting in a larger roof capturing and sending more rain water to an area in front of the school. This small area is surrounded by the building on two sides, the front sidewalk, and the sidewalk to the main entrance. The additional water produced a large deep puddle for several days and a mud pit after water finally infiltrated. There was a need to improve that area for safety and aesthetics especially since it is in front of the school entrance. The solution: a rain and pollinator garden.

The depressed basin provides a micro example of different hydrologic zones and plant communities ranging from upland plants on the perimeter of the area and wetland plants down in the basin. Parent volunteer, Jennifer Braido took the lead to help facilitate and three 4th grade classes learned about rain gardens so they could create a design for the rain and pollinator garden. ACD staff and Jennifer taught 4th graders about hydrologic zones, plant communities, wetland indicator status, plant adaptations including aerenchyma tissue in wetland plant roots and plant's seasonal bloom times. With all this information, the classes choose their favorite plants for different zones of the garden and did some math to determine how many plants they needed. Another parent volunteer, Robb Johnson, and ACD staff worked to increase water storage capacity by installing a French drain which has reduced the time of standing water after a large rainfall. Finally, the 4th graders were out planting their rain-pollinator garden with the upland species along the edges and the wetland species down in the basin. While they were planting, a monarch butterfly fluttered around appreciating this new habitat. An educational sign is posted to highlight the benefits of rain and pollinator gardens to all that pass by the main entrance to Linwood Elementary School.

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Prairie Enhancement at Gordie Mikkelson WMA

There has been a flurry of activity in the Gordie Mikkelson WMA prairies this spring. ACD is working with the MN DNR, Native Resource Preservation, and Linwood Elementary School to enhance 9.3 acres of prairie and add more species of native grasses and wildflowers in the already established windswept prairie. The 840-acre Gordie Mikkelson WMA is ranked as high biodiversity by the MN Biological Survey, and is an example of the mosaic Anoka Sand Plain landscape, containing a diversity of native plant communities including oak woodlands, sedge meadows, wetlands, and swamps. The MN DNR restored three grassland areas in Gordie Mikkelson WMA to native dry prairie. A remaining 9.3 acres are now undergoing restoration/enhancement. The goal is to convert these areas mostly dominated by non- native smooth brome and quackgrass to a dry prairie plant community (UPs13/Southern Upland Prairie System). Native Resource Preservation (NRP) conducted site preparation herbicide treatments in fall 2019 and fall 2020. The MN DNR conducted a prescribed burn in spring 2021 and NRP spread a diverse seed mix following the Rx burn and will follow up with establishment mowing. The already established windswept prairie is near the Linwood Elementary School and along the trail to their School Forest. This location provides a great opportunity to create a diverse prairie for future seed collection. ACD staff and 16 Linwood Elementary School classes planted 28 different species of plant plugs to add diversity and start a seed source that can be collected and spread to other prairies in the Mikkelson WMA.

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Firsts for the Rare Plant Rescue Program

ACD, Critical Connections Ecological Services, MN Landscape Arboretum, and 17 volunteers salvaged 500 State Endangered rubus stipulatus plants from a proposed development site. This was made possible by working closely with the MN DNR Endangered Species Consultant to incorporate the group's permitted salvage plan with the developer's permit to Take Threatened/ Endangered (T/E) Species for development. If T/E species are found on a site, developers are required to apply for a Permit for the Take of Endangered or Threatened Species Incidental to a Development Project which includes compensatory mitigation. For the first time, the DNR also included our group's salvage plan in part of the Take permit. There was a short window of time between the paperwork and the construction to salvage and transplant. Thankfully volunteers showed up to help out despite the 90-degree temperatures. Plants were transplanted into experimental plots at Bunker Regional Park, City of Blaine Pioneer Park, and Lino Lakes Woolan Park. Plants were also taken to the MN Landscape Arboretum where volunteers potted them for safe keeping for future planting. These 200 potted plants will likely be planted into experimental plots in the fall at Bunker Regional Park, City of Blaine Pioneer Park, Lino Lakes Woolan Park, Blaine Wetland Sanctuary and Columbus Lake Conservation Area. This is the first Endangered Species the Rare Plant Rescue Program has salvaged. 

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Stop the Spread of AIS

Summer is coming! Warmer temperatures and fishing opener mean aquatic invasive species and MN boaters are ramping up activity on Minnesota lakes and rivers.

Do your part to prevent the spread of invasive plants and animals by cleaning, draining, and drying all recreational equipment that goes into a Minnesota lake or stream.

To help protect our lakes and rivers:

  • Clean and drain boats and equipment before leaving the water access.
  • Dispose of all unwanted bait, worms, and fish parts in the trash.
  • Learn to recognize aquatic invasive species (AIS).
  • Follow Minnesota's AIS laws and regulations.

Share this information with others who spend time fishing, boating, or recreating in Minnesota.

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95 Hits

It's Garlic Mustard Season!

Now is a great time of year to check your property for Garlic Mustard. Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolatais) is an invasive species originally from Europe and Asia and typically establishes in the understory of forests and in fields. Garlic Mustard can spread quickly in the wind and can soon start to outcompete native species by emerging earlier, blocking sunlight, and using the limited moisture and nutrients in the ecosystem. Garlic Mustard also releases chemicals into the soil via its roots that alters the important underground network of fungi that connect nutrients between native plants.

During its first year, garlic mustard leaves are rounder and take on a rosette formation at ground level. In their second year, the leaves grow up a flowering stem and become more triangular and heart-shaped with toothed edges. Small white four-petaled flowers emerge in the spring. Hand pulling is an easy way to control small populations of Garlic Mustard and is best done in the spring before they go to seed. These plants can then be placed in a plastic bag and thrown out with the garbage and should not be composted.

Any effort to remove Garlic Mustard from your property might seem daunting, but over time, you will hopefully see native plants start to repopulate the areas you have removed Garlic Mustard.


Learn more about Garlic Mustard here:

Garlic mustard distribution on EDDMaps

Garlic mustard fact sheet

MDA garlic mustard website

MDA garlic mustard life cycle and treatment info sheet

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271 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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Rescuing Rare Plants in Anoka County

Staff from Anoka Conservation District, Critical Connections Ecological Services, and Minnesota Landscape Arboretum will work with volunteers the last week of April to salvage up to 1,000 State Endangered Rubus stipulatus from a development site and transplant them into protected sites.

Rare plant rescue has been made possible with MN DNR's permit application for the Propagation of Endangered or Threatened Species, which was developed in 2019. Since the release of the permit application, approximately 7,500 State Threatened lance-leaved violets (viola lanceolata) and 150 State Threated swamp blackberry (rubus semisetosus) have been salvaged from three development sites and transplanted into protected sites where their populations are monitored.

To learn more about rare species in Minnesota, go the MN DNR's Rare Species Guide:https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/rsg/index.html

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Siberian Peashrub treatment at Bunker Hills Regional Park

Siberian peashrub (Caragana arborescens) is a restricted noxious weed in Minnesota. It has a background similar to Common Buckthorn, commonly found in hedge groves, shelterbelts, and wildlife plantings. Siberian peashrub is not as common as buckthorn but is becoming more prevalent throughout the state. These plants have an extensive root system and the ability to self-reproduce to create new infestations. Last year, infestations in Bunker Hills regional park were surveyed and mapped by ACD staff. These maps were used during three days of targeted treatment by ACD this winter. After three days, ACD completed cut-stump treatment on 14 infestations which totaled approximately 3.5 acres. 

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2020 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 2020 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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Plant Native Trees and Shrubs for Pollinators

If you are looking for a low maintenance option to benefit native pollinators, consider planting native trees and shrubs. They provide overwintering habitat and food sources for our native bees, butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, and beetles. Many trees and shrubs bloom in the spring and provide an early nectar and pollen source. Fun fact from Heather Holm: One, 70 foot tall, mature black cherry tree (photos below) has the equivalent number of flowers as a 3,500 square foot perennial garden.

ACD's Annual Tree sale has a wide variety of trees and shrubs to choose from! See the full catalog here: https://www.anokaswcd.org/tree-sale-order-forms/2012-10-26-17-32-43.html

See Heather Holm's Native Tree and Shrubs for Pollinators guide for more information: https://www.pollinatorsnativeplants.com/uploads/1/3/9/1/13913231/treesshrubsposter.pdf

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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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Winter Buckthorn Treatment is Underway

Common and glossy buckthorn are common invaders in native landscapes; common buckthorn grows mostly in upland environments while glossy buckthorn grows in wetland environments. ACD is working to control buckthorn at sites that still have intact native plant communities and rare plants to ensure those quality sites do not become further degraded. Work this winter is taking place at Robert and Marilyn Burman WMA, Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, and Blaine Preserve SNA with funds from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

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ACD Leads the Way on Rare Plant Conservation in Minnesota

Birds-eye view of volunteers planting rare lance-leafed violets at Blaine Wetland Preserve

Anoka Conservation District (ACD) has partnered with the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (MLA) and Critical Connections Ecological Services (CCES) to salvage thousands of rare lance-leafed violets (Viola lanceolata)—a Minnesota State Threatened species—from permitted construction sites in Blaine, MN. Thanks to the new MN Department of Natural Resources 'Permit for the Propagation of Endangered or Threatened Plants', volunteers and staff from the City of Blaine, ACD, MLA, CCES, and the surrounding community were able to take these rare plants, clean them to remove weed seeds, and then transplant them into the protected Blaine Wetland Sanctuary. The newly planted lance-leaved violet populations will be monitored over time to determine the effectiveness of transplanting.  

Opened seed head of the lance-leafed violet (Viola lanceolata)

"Salvaging threatened and endangered plants from development projects where they would otherwise be destroyed provides an important opportunity to explore transplant options and to collect critical information about these rare plants. We aim to develop salvage and management protocols and monitor the efficacy of transplanting rare plants," said Carrie Taylor of the Anoka Conservation District.

"We have seen the destruction of many rare plant populations over the past couple of decades due to development. We are grateful for the MN DNR's new 'Permit for the Propagation of Endangered and Threatened Plants' so that we can move these plants to protected areas and learn how best to manage them," said Chris Lord, of the Anoka Conservation District. 

(From left to right) Carrie Taylor, Amanda Weise, and Jason Husveth--architects of the Rare Plant Salvage project

Anoka County is home to many unique habitats and rare species. However, development is rapidly increasing in the County, causing fragmentation of the landscape and threatening rare plant populations. The construction sites received a DNR permit that allows for the 'Take of Endangered or Threatened Species Incidental to a Development Project.' As part of that permit, a compensatory mitigation is paid to fund activities that result in a net-benefit to the species. When the 'taking' or removing rare plants from a development project area is unavoidable, rare plant salvage is an alternative conservation practice undertaken to transplant those plants that would otherwise be destroyed. Jason Husveth, principal ecologist with CCES, credits the developer, The Excelsior Group, for helping to make this happen despite incurring addition time and cost.

While salvage of rare plant species occurs in many states, there is no established process for doing so in Minnesota. Critical Connections Ecological Services, Anoka Conservation District, and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum are seeking funding to develop an ongoing Rare Plant Salvage Program for Minnesota.

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1226 Hits

Look Out for Oriental Bittersweet

Now that there are no leaves on the trees, it is a good time to look for Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus). This invasive species is on the ERADICATE list. It is a vine that girdles and smothers trees and shrubs. Look for the bright red fruit with yellow capsules.

Be sure to check your ID with the native American bittersweet, which has orange fruit capsules instead of yellow. American bittersweet fruits are found only at the end of the vine while Oriental bittersweet has fruit at the leaf axils.

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Christmas Tree Care and Fun Facts

Ever since I was a young girl, my family has had a 'real' tree. Our trees were cut from our farm and some were 'Charlie Brown' trees but I have great memories of going out into the woods.

With my own family, we have a tradition of going to our local Christmas tree farm. It's definitely a memory-making experience and my girls always enjoy marching down the rows of firs, spruce, and eventually a white pine, which also happens to be my favorite conifer. I even manage to teach the girls a thing or two about how to identify the different species.

Why buy a real tree vs. a manufactured one?

  • An acre of Christmas trees can remove 8,000 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere.
  • Are biodegradable and recyclable (into mulch).
  • Provide more than a holiday decoration:
    • Habitat and shelter for birds and small animals.
    • Shade and cool the soil.
    • Help prevent erosion.
    • Provide year-round beauty in our Minnesota landscape.
    • Buying locally gives us a fresh tree and supports local businesses. Here's a list of local tree farms from the MN Christmas Tree Association: https://mncta.com/choose-cut if you don't have a favorite already.


Christmas Tree Care

Make a fresh cut. Before you bring the tree into your home and place it in a stand, re-cut the trunk at least one inch from the bottom just before putting it in the stand. Even if you just cut it, this re-opens the tree stem so it can drink water. Christmas trees are very thirsty! It is not unusual for a tree to drink 2 gallons of water the first day it is in the stand.

Choose a spot away from heat sources. Heat sources like heat registers, space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, televisions, computer monitors, etc. speed up evaporation and moisture loss of the tree.

Water immediately. After making the fresh cut, place the tree in a large capacity stand with warm water. The stand you use should hold at least one gallon of fresh water.

Don't add anything to the water! Research has shown that plain tap water is the best. Some commercial additives and home concoctions can actually decrease a tree's moisture retention and increase needle loss.

Check the water level daily. Do not allow the water level to drop below the fresh cut or the stem will reseal and be unable to drink.

What can I do with my tree after the holiday season?

In Anoka County, Christmas trees can be dropped off for free once they've been cleaned of all tinsel, ornaments, lights, etc. Check out this link for more information. https://www.anokacounty.us/359/Compost-Sites

These trees are chipped and recycled into mulch. Mulch moderates soil temperatures, suppresses weeds and helps hold soil moisture.

After removing indoor decorations, you can also set your tree in its stand outside and decorate it for our winter birds. (No need to water it). The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust recommends a variety of homemade treats such as suet cakes, branches of berries, popcorn, pinecones smeared with peanut butter, and other treats. We simply set ours out by our bird feeders and the birds love the extra cover from wind, cold and predators. In early spring, we bring it to our local compost site.

Will we ever run out of trees?

The National Christmas Tree Association reports that for every tree that is cut, 2 to 3 trees are planted the following spring. So the more trees sold, the more that are planted. And the more trees planted, the more carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere, releasing even more oxygen. This helps reduce our carbon footprint.

This information was adapted from MN Extension https://extension.umn.edu/yard-and-garden-news/christmas-tree-care-and-fun-facts 

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225 Hits

The Recovery of the Wild Turkey Population in Minnesota

Wild Turkey - MN DNR

Did you know that wild turkey had gone from a native population of millions of birds to being almost extirpated by 1900 in the United States?

The restoration of the American wild turkey is one of the greatest wildlife conservation success stories.

That success story began in 1973 in Minnesota. The MN DNR traded a flock of its homegrown ruffed grouse for 29 turkeys from Missouri. The Missouri-born birds were released in Houston County in southeastern Minnesota and the population grew rapidly. Many partnering turkey advocates aided in their return, including members of the National Wild Turkey Federation who helped transport the flocks to new habitats. The restoration of the wild turkey over the past 25 years is one of Minnesota's greatest conservation success stories. Once rare, today wild turkeys are becoming a common sight throughout southern and western and even central Minnesota.

Wild Turkeys live year-round in open forests with interspersed clearings. They nest on the ground in dead leaves at the bases of trees, under brush piles or thick shrubbery, or occasionally in open fields. Wild turkeys are omnivorous, and their diet changes by the season: in spring and summer, they eat insects, seeds, and leafy vegetation; in fall and winter, they eat tree nuts, seeds, and berries. They will also eat small amphibians and reptiles. Poults, young turkeys, feed heavily on insects.

The Anoka Conservation District with funds from the Outdoor Heritage Foundation and National Wild Turkey Foundation is enhancing turkey habitat at the Robert and Marilyn Burman WMA and Gordie Mikkelson WMA. Tree thinning and buckthorn removal will open the forest and promote oak regeneration. Acorns are a favorite fall food. Increased native plant diversity in the woodlands, savanna, and prairies will attract a diversity of insects, providing a high protein food source.

Give thanks to the many conservationists who worked to restore wild turkey populations and their habitat. 

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Top Ten Winter Bird Feeding Tips

White-Breasted Nuthatch

10. Make sure seed is accessible and dry. Hopper or tube feeders are good at protecting seed from wet weather. Sweep snow off of platform feeders, or clear a place on the ground where you can scatter seed for ground-feeding species such as sparrows, towhees, juncos, and doves.

9. Make a windbreak. Make a windbreak using your old Christmas tree or the remains of a brush pile. Consider planting shrubs next to your feeders where the birds can rest out of the wind and escape from predators. Consider clearing a small area of snow off the ground to scatter seed if it's too soft to support their weight.

8. Keep extra feeders for use in bad weather. We keep an extra-large-capacity tube feeder in the garage for use when nasty weather comes. It not only gives the birds another place to eat, which means more birds can eat at one time, but it also cuts down on our trips outside for refilling the feeders. Other extras to consider having: peanut feeder, suet feeder, satellite feeder (for the small birds to use), and a hopper feeder.

7. Scatter seed in sheltered places. Not all birds will venture to your feeder. Some species prefer to skulk in the thickets, brambles, and other secure places. For these species, consider scattering some seed (black-oil sunflower, sunflower bits, peanut bits, mixed seed) under your deck, in your hedges and bushes, or even along the edge of a wooded area. Dark-eyed juncos especially prefer to feed on food scattered on the ground along with tree sparrows and white-throated sparrows.

6. Put out high-energy foods such as suet, meat scraps, and peanut butter. Fat gives the biggest energy boost to winter birds and without enough energy to keep them going, many songbirds would not survive a cold winter night. Suet (the fat removed from processed beef), meat scraps, and peanut butter all provide fat to birds that eat them. If you don't have a suet feeder, use a mesh onion bag. Suspend it from a tree branch or iron feeder hook. To feed peanut butter, drill one-inch holes in a foot-long section of a small log. Insert a screw eye into one end of the log. Smear peanut butter into the holes and suspend the feeder from the screw eye. And, no, peanut butter will not stick to the roof of a bird's bill and choke it to death.

5. Use a birdbath heater wisely. A water heater can keep your birdbath open in the coldest of weather, which is good but place several large rocks in your bath so there is not enough room for a bird to bathe, but still plenty of places for a thirsty bird to get a drink. When the weather warms up you can remove the rocks and let your birds get on with their hygiene.

4. Offer mealworms in a heavy dish or small crock. Use a heavy dish so the wind can't blow the worms and dish away. This is a high protein snack that many birds enjoy and can be found in most feed stores. They are relatively expensive so use them sparingly on the coldest days or in the spring when an unexpected cold snap can leave migrants without much to eat.

3. Furnish your bird houses. Imagine you're a bird roosting in a nest box on a cold winter's night. Wouldn't it be nice to snuggle down into some dried grass or dry wood shavings in the bottom of the house? Layer three to four inches of clean dry meadow grass in the bottom of bluebird boxes after the last nesting of the summer. Wood shavings work well, too. Don't use sawdust, however; it can retain moisture once wet, which does not help the birds keep warm.

2. Plug the air vent holes in your bird houses with removable weather stripping. We use the claylike weather stripping that comes in a roll (Moretite is one brand) to plug the air vent holes in our bird houses. Good ventilation is necessary on a scorching summer day, but it's a real liability for birds seeking winter shelter. Think how cozy the birds will be in a well-sealed house.

1. Be ready for big changes in weather. If you keep abreast of the weather developments you'll know when bad weather is coming, and you'll be able to stock up on seed, suet, and other goodies. You can also be ready to take on some of the activities listed above. Conversely, when the weather breaks, take advantage by cleaning and disinfecting your feeders (one part bleach to nine parts hot water). Whatever you do, don't let yourself be caught totally unprepared for harsh winter weather. 

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Teaching Students about Natural Resources during a Pandemic

One activity that ACD does every year is take local high school students to streams near their schools to collect macroinvertebrates. Many of these organisms are the larval forms of many of our common insects. Think mosquitoes, mayflies, black flies, and dragon flies. Assessing the community of invertebrates living in a stream over time can give us a good indication of how healthy that stream is (i.e. how good the water quality is). This is because the different types of these invertebrates have varying levels of tolerance to polluted water. Some can only live in very clean water, while others can survive in very polluted water.

This exciting lesson combines a field trip to a stream and the opportunity to play in the water, with a lesson about the natural world and how we can use the biotic organisms living in those streams to monitor their health over time. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to think outside of the box to make this fun and important lesson happen in 2020. In the spring of 2020, we were not able to do this lesson with any schools, because all of them were full time distance learning, and we had never prepared a distance learning lesson before. This fall however, we got a little more creative.

I made a virtual lesson via Go Pro video with a teacher from the Forest Lake Area Learning Center and his sons. With Totino Grace and St. Francis High School students, we worked in small groups in the field with masks on, disinfecting all equipment between classes. We also had classes attend virtually while a teacher held the live feed camera up and talked to the students that were attending online. Overall, whether by recording, live video stream, or in person at the river respecting social distancing and mask wearing, just about 200 kids still got to take part in this activity from the three schools mentioned. It took a little more time and effort than usual, but in the end we made sure a large number of local students still got the opportunity to take part. 

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Anoka County is 100% Compliant with the MN Buffer Law

The Anoka Conservation District is proud to announce that Anoka County is now 100% compliant with the state's buffer law! The law was passed back in 2015 with the goal of improving water quality throughout the state by reducing pollutants entering public ditches and public waters. This milestone was achieved through strong partnerships between Anoka County, Anoka Conservation District, local landowners, and the Board of Water and Soil Resources. This achievement doesn't mean that the hard work is over but it does represent what is possible for the state of Minnesota when strong environmental policy is handled on the local level. It will be exciting to see the benefits to the state's water systems come to fruition after years of work.

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ACD Hard at Work Removing Carp from Martin Lake

The Anoka Conservation District has been hard at work this September removing invasive carp from Martin Lake, located in northeastern Anoka County. Martin Lake has had a large carp population over the years, which can be extremely detrimental to lake water quality if left unmanaged. This type of work isn't possible without strong partnerships between natural resource professionals and residents of the community. This project and the dedicated volunteers on Martin Lake are a shining example of the level of civic engagement that is achievable when these relationships are nurtured. Thank you volunteers!

Updates are also periodically posted here: Carp Harvests

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417 Hits

Buckthorn ID and Control

Late September through the end of October is a good time to inventory common buckthorn on your property. Common buckthorn leaves remain green longer than most Minnesota native trees and shrubs so they will stand out when other trees and shrubs are changing color and dropping leaves.

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) can invade wetlands. There are no thorns. Look for the rust colored terminal bud.

See the buckthorn fact sheet for tips to identify buckthorn, learn about native look-alikes, and find methods for controlling buckthorn.

For a safe way to treat buckthorn stumps, you can apply herbicide with buckthorn blasters/dobbers: https://landscape-restoration.com/

See the DNR's buckthorn management page for more information.

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Don't Feed the Deer!

In recent years the Minnesota DNR has been tracking the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in Minnesota deer. Chronic Wasting Disease (or CWD) is a neurological degenerative disease that causes the brains of deer (and other cervids) to deteriorate and become spongy. It ultimately leads to the death of the infected animal. While a direct link to human infection by CWD through contact with or consumption of infected deer has not been recorded, other similar diseases do affect humans.

The larger concern for now is the spread of the disease through Minnesota deer populations. The positive test rates of CWD have been historically low in Minnesota, but positive tests do keep occurring in new areas. CWD can spread from deer to deer through direct or indirect contact. The prions, or infectious agents of CWD, can be spread through deer saliva, urine, feces, blood, and even antler velvet. Concentrating numerous deer in one area greatly increases the chances that the disease can spread through the local population and keep spreading outward from there. Deer feeders, salt licks, and other attractants concentrate deer to an area and increase the likelihood of the disease spreading.

The MN DNR is implementing feeding and attractant bans in and around areas where CWD has been found. Anoka County is not yet included on the ban list for either of these activities, but it is surrounded on all sides by counties that are. Now is the time to be proactive. We all love to watch the deer in our yard, local parks, and wildlife areas, especially the spotted fawns in the spring. Many of us also enjoy watching for a set of antlers on a chilly fall morning from a tree stand. Stopping the use of deer feed and attractants now will help ensure that we can continue to watch and marvel at these majestic animals into the future.

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544 Hits

Know Your Shoreline

If you live on water, whether it be a lake, river, creek, or stormwater pond, low water during the summer months can provide a great opportunity for you to conduct a quick inspection of your shoreline condition. The very bottom of your shoreline, where it meets the water, is called the toe and is the most critical part for stability.

Low water often exposes the toe of the slope and allows you to identify areas of concern. For example, you might observe undercutting, where the lowest portion of the bank has been scoured away by flowing water or wave action. When problems are caught early, the solutions are often much simpler and cheaper. Addressing erosion concerns early also helps prevent more severe bank failures down the road.

Another good time to inspect your bank is in the fall once leaves have fallen and before snowfall. You can inspect the upper portions of your bank for problems like rutting from concentrated overland flow over the top of the bank.

If you have any questions about your shoreline or think a site visit may be warranted, please contact ACD staff. We're here to help. 

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352 Hits

Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species

Many invasive species are now beginning to develop mature seed. Here are some ways you can do your part to prevent spreading their seed:

  • Avoid mowing invasive species with seed. Seed will travel with the mower and likely remain on the mower to be spread into new areas.
  • Beware of seeds found on your boots or clothing. They may be in the mud between your boot treads or attached to your clothes like Velcro. Use a boot brush to clean your boots and check for seeds on your clothing.
  • Seeds may also attached to treads on bikes, ATV, and stroller tires. Spray down tires to remove mud and plant parts.


Invasive plants can harm ecosystems and choke out beneficial native plants. Always be vigilant to prevent the spread of invasive species!

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312 Hits

What can I do with my wetland?

Whether you call it a swamp, marsh, or low area, it is most likely a wetland and it is most likely regulated by someone.

ExcavatingAnoka County residents frequently inquire how to improve their land for waterfowl or other wildlife. A common practice in Anoka County is pond excavations in seasonally saturated areas, or cattail-choked wetlands to provide an open water habitat. The Wetland Conservation Act regulates excavations in the permanently and semi-permanently flooded areas of type 3, 4, or 5 wetlands and also regulates the placement of spoil and the depth of the excavation in all types of wetlands. Other jurisdictions including the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources may have regulatory authority on wetland excavation projects.

DrainingThere is potential for pond excavations to drain adjacent wetland areas. Typically, in Anoka County, if the hydrology is predominantly groundwater driven, a pond excavation can be designed that will not drain adjacent wetlands. However, there is an increased likelihood that a pond excavation will drain adjacent wetlands when wetlands hydrology is primarily surface water, or when the excavation is connected to a drainage ditch. This is an issue that is best addressed by your local government or the Anoka Conservation District during review of a specific project.

Filling: Filling of wetlands must be avoided during pond excavations. The spoil from the excavation must be placed in an upland area. A qualified wetland professional may be needed to ensure that the destination of the spoil is upland.

Proper erosion control practices must be incorporated as well. If you have questions, contact the Anoka Conservation District for assistance. Contact us.

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393 Hits

Spurge Euphorbia esula MN Noxious Weed: Prohibited – Control

  • 1-2 foot tall
  • Greenish-yellow flower bracts
  • Simple and opposite leaves
  • A white, milky sap exudes if the stem or leaves are cut
  • Grows in full to part sun in range of soil types and moisture

If you see leafy spurge, please report it on EDDMaps: www.eddmaps.org/

For more information and control methods see:

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/terrestrialplants/herbaceous/leafyspurge.html

https://www.mda.state.mn.us/plants/pestmanagement/weedcontrol/noxiouslist/leafyspurge

Biological control is an option for reducing large infestations of leafy spurge. Adult leafy spurge beetles (Aphthona lacertosa) feed on the leaves and lay eggs at the base of spurge plants. Larvae feed on the roots over the winter until they pupate and emerge as adults the following summer. See: https://www.mda.state.mn.us/plants/pestmanagement/weedcontrol/noxiouslist/leafyspurge/leafyspurge

Photo at Anoka Nature Preserve. 7.3.2019
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401 Hits

Oak Wilt

Oak Wilt is becoming an increasing problem throughout the State and kills off a large number of oaks every year. Even though oak wilt is active in a large area of Minnesota, effective management techniques exist.

Oak wilt in a healthy tree will begin wilting the canopy. This usually starts at the top of the tree and spreads downward. The tree then sheds leaves, which will begin individually wilting at the edges and spread towards the midrib of the leaf or at the leaf tip and wilt towards the stem. A discoloration or streaking of the wood just below the bark may also be present.

In Red Oaks, the deterioration process can take as little as 4 weeks. In White Oaks, the disease may come back every year but death of the tree could take up to 5 years or longer after the initial symptoms appear.

Healthy oak trees are usually infected by the fungus's ability to move underground through the roots of nearby trees that have grafted together. In general, trees more than 50 feet apart are less likely to be infected through grafted roots. Sap beetles also transport the disease above ground by moving from an infected tree to a healthy one.

Stopping the spread of oak wilt is possible. Breaking root connections between closely spaced oaks will reduce the chance of the disease spreading from infected trees to nearby healthy ones. This takes a specialized piece of equipment and can be difficult to achieve. This is way preventing infection in the first place is the recommended best management practice.

Even though the nice weather makes you want to head outside and work on your property, you should avoiding pruning and wounding healthy oaks in the spring and summer. Between April and July, oak trees are at a much higher risk of infection by sap beetles who are attracted to fresh wounds in the bark of oak trees and may be carrying the fungus. Oak trees should be assessed for storm damage and any wound should immediately be sealed with a water-based paint of another type of plant sealer.

Other techniques to stop the spread of oak wilt include; avoid moving firewood from known infected areas, timely removal and disposal of infected trees, and the use of fungicide when necessary. Many times multiple approaches are necessary to slow or eradicate the problem. Meeting with a local tree care providers can help create a management plan that will be effective on your property.

If you have more questions or are concerned about Oak Trees in your area, contact a local professional to inquire about what can be done on your property. Early detection is still the best method of control.

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691 Hits

Trim Oak Trees now to Prevent the Spread of Oak Wilt


Oak wilt is caused by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum. Oak wilt can be spread in two ways: 1) fungal spores travelling tree to tree through grafted roots, and 2) fungal spores spread by sap beetles that fly from infected trees or wood to healthy trees. The beetles are attracted to fresh wounds in healthy trees, and these wounds offer an introduction point for the fungus.Trimming or cutting healthy oaks from the months of November through March helps to prevent fresh wounds in healthy trees when the beetles are active. Trimming away dead and dying branches during this period can help prevent oak wilt spreading from neighboring areas to your trees. If your oak trees still need trimming before this spring, be sure to do it before the end of March. April 1 through July 15 is considered the high risk period, and all trimming of oaks should be avoided. July 15 through October 31 is considered low risk, but spread is still possible. Red oaks and pin oaks are especially susceptible to oak wilt, and once infected, a healthy tree is killed within ​months.

Unfortunately, oak wilt is very common in Anoka County. More information on prevention of the disease in your yard can be found at https://extension.umn.edu/plant-diseases/oak-wilt-minnesota
  537 Hits
537 Hits

Stop the Spread of GARLIC MUSTARD


Garlic Mustard / Alliaria petiolata

An invasive Species you can eat.

Garlic mustard is a highly aggressive invasive species, growing in woodlands and woodland edges. It is one of the first invasive species to emerge and flowers in May – June. It is a biennial forb, producing a basal rosette the first year and bolting to produce an elongated stalk, flowers and seed in the second year. Since garlic mustard is a biennial the main goal is to prevent the plant from going to seed. The best way to control garlic mustard is to hand pull the entire plant (including the roots). If flowers or seed pods are present, it is necessary to compost at a facility that composts at high heat. Plants can produce viable seed even after pulled.

Garlic Mustard is edible and has medicinal uses

Garlic mustard leaves are available very early in the spring as soon as the ground begins to warm. Like all greens, leaves taste better when leaves are young and before the plant has bolted. Leaves can be eaten raw or cooked and have a mild garlic and mustard flavor.

Popular recipes include:

  • garlic mustard potato salad
  • wilted greens in stir fry
  • tabbouleh
  • garlic mustard pesto

Medicinal properties of garlic mustard leaves and stems: antiasthmatic, antiscorbutic, antiseptic, deobstruent, diaphoretic, vermifuge and vulnerary (Grieve 1984 and Chiej 1984). Greens are high in Vitamin A and C.

Important! Never eat wild plants unless you are certain about identification. Some plants are poisonous. Know the site rules about harvesting plants on public and private lands. Determine past management of the area. Don't consume plants from areas that were treated with herbicides.

Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin 1984 ISBN 0-14-046-440-9

Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald 1984 ISBN 0-356-10541-5

  1029 Hits
1029 Hits

You don't want to be underneath this mistletoe: the Eastern Spruce Dwarf Mistletoe


by Fred Baker, Emeritus Professor and Forest Pathologist, Utah State University

Eastern spruce dwarf mistletoe is a disease that kills trees quickly, with most trees dying within 20 years. In Minnesota, this mistletoe typically affects black spruce, an important species to the state's forest products industry and landscape.

The dwarf mistletoe disrupts a tree's physiology in incredible ways. The most common sign is the formation of a witches' broom. In this process, the disease diverts the tree's nutrients to the broom and "starves" the rest of the tree. Ultimately, the tree will die because it's unable to process the lipids it needs to survive.

Witches brooms in a dwarf mistletoe-infested black spruce stand. Photo: Brian Anderson.

Dwarf mistletoe is a parasite. It flowers in March and is a safe bet to be the first "plant" to flower in the spring. Seed dispersal happens in late August and early September. When seeds disperse, dwarf mistletoes are unique because they can shoot their seeds up to 55 feet from a diseased tree! These seeds are covered with a sticky substance that attaches to a nearby spruce needle. During summer rainfall, this sticky substance rehydrates, and the seeds slide closer to the twig, where it germinates the following spring.

Although dwarf mistletoe can shoot seeds up to 55 feet, most only go a few feet. This results in a spread rate of about 2.4 feet per year through a forest stand. Research indicates that spread from large trees and small trees is about the same. Slightly more than half the spruce stands in Minnesota are thought to be infected with dwarf mistletoe.

Mistletoes are obligate parasites. This means that if you kill the tree, the parasite dies too. If timber harvesting is done in black spruce, removing all spruce trees during a harvest could minimize the risk of mistletoe infecting a future stand.

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976 Hits

Landscaping for Wildlife

This may not seem like the time of year to be planning for habitat improvements on your property, but if you want to take advantage of good prices on bare root trees and shrubs, now is the time to order. Anoka Conservation District's annual tree sale is a great place to start.

When asked by property owners what they can do to attract wildlife to their property, I start with the basic; 1) minimize mowing, and 2) provide food, water, shelter, and plenty of space.


Food: Flowers, fruit, buds, twigs, seeds, nectar, and foliage are food for many of our local birds, insects, and small mammals. These little critters are in turn, food for larger animals. If you build from the bottom up, and create habitat for the smallest creatures, the larger ones will follow and your habitat will be more stable. Planting trees, shrubs, flowering plants, and grasses will all get you heading in the right direction. Use native species to ensure they attract wildlife from this area.

Water: If you have a natural water source, like a pond, wetland, lake or river, you are all set. Flowing water attracts the most wildlife, but still water works well too. If you plan to add an artificial water source, everything from a simple bird bath to a fancy water feature like a lined pond with flowing water and pump, will bring in everything from birds and butterflies, to frogs and deer.


Shelter: Shelter comes in natural and manufactured forms. Bird and bat houses are options, as are wood or rock piles. Consider leaving fallen trees to lay on the ground or dead standing trees to remain, if they aren't a safety concern. Plant trees and shrubs for nesting. Even tall native grasses provide good cover for deer and birds to bed down in.

Space: Animals have varied needs in terms of space. Some defend large areas while others live in harmony with close neighbors. Whether or not you have a small urban oasis or 40 acres of wild open space, if you provide food, water, and shelter, it will attract wildlife to fill the available space. Curb your expectations to the limits of your property and do a little research on any particular species you are hoping to draw in.

Some landscape features you may want to consider:

  • butterfly gardens
  • frog ponds
  • native prairie gardens
  • shrub groves
  • rock or brush piles
  • bird baths
  • feeders
  • pollinator garden
  • hummingbird garden

For a complete brochure on the topic, visit;  https://www.anokaswcd.org/index.php/backyard-habitat.html

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1256 Hits

ACD Receives Funding for Weed Management Grants

ACD received funding from BWSR to continue the Anoka Cooperative Weed Management Area program and received two sources of MDA funding for Anoka County invasive species control and for Metro-wide non-native Phragmites treatment.

The Anoka Cooperative Weed Management Area Program currently consists of 27 Partners who have identified priority invasive species of concern, locations and activities in Anoka County. ACD received the maximum funding of $15,000 to be utilized in three years. Renewal/BWSR Request for Proposals are offered every two years. Current BWSR funds will support:

  • mapping and monitoring priority invasive species on EDDMaps,
  • surveys in select high quality habitats,
  • implementation of biocontrol release,
  • monitoring past treatment,
  • training a new partner, Anoka County Highway staff on invasive species identification and treatment, including wild parsnip sites identified on Anoka Highway ROW,
  • organizing and creating outreach material and expanding the ACWMA website to provide a central location for ACWMA resources,
  • provide outreach and engagement with City Staff, residents, and volunteers,
  • and, provide technical and financial resources for invasive species cost share program for priority invasive species and priority locations.

ACD received the maximum funding from MDA Level 1, $10,000, to be spent in 2020. These funds will increase the capacity of the ACWMA efforts and specifically support:

  • Invasive species trainings and volunteer engagement in invasive species control in Anoka County, including a training to Anoka County Master Gardeners in April 2020.
  • Mapping and monitoring priority invasive species and surveys in high quality habitats.
  • Release knapweed root weevil (Cyphocleonus achates) and knapweed flower weevils (Larinus minutus obtusus) biocontrol at two sites.
  • Provide training to Anoka County Highway to identify and control priority invasive species, starting with wild parsnip by June 2020.
  • Treat all known populations of wild parsnip in Anoka County by July 2020.
  • Follow up treatment of golden creeper with digging out roots and June 2020 and herbicide application of any remaining plants by September 2020.
  • Conduct a land management and invasive speices workshop to City of Blaine residents in September 2020. By mid-November 2020, provide technical and financial support for buckthorn treatment to landowners adjacent to the Blaine Wetland Sancturary, treating 12 acres of buckthorn. I'm collaborating with Rebecca Haug/City of Blaine, Beth Carreno/RCWD and Metro Blooms.

ACD received $49,705 from MDA Level 2 to be spent over two years to map, treat, and monitor non-native Phragmites in the Metro. Metro County Partners will continue mapping and will obtain permission from landowners to treat with herbicide and mowing. ACD will coordinate monitoring following MN DNR protocols, will hire a contractor for treatment, and lead native planting/restoration at Sunrise Lake which was previously treated.

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644 Hits

Lawns to Legumes in Anoka County

The Anoka Conservation District, in partnership with the cities of Fridley, Coon Rapids, Anoka, and Andover, were awarded $40,000 from the Board of Water and Soil Resources to establish a Lawns to Legumes Demonstration Neighborhood in the Mississippi and Rum River Corridor. The project will convert residential lawns into pollinator habitat in support of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee and other at-risk pollinators. Residents interested in being part of a Demonstration Neighborhood in Anoka County should complete this form: bit.ly/lawns-legumes-anoka

In addition, there are several other ways to get involved:

  • 1.Visit the Board of Water and Soil Resources website to learn more and download free resources: bwsr.state.mn.us/L2L
  • 2.Sign up for a Lawns to Legumes Workshop near you: bluethumb.org/events (Landowner workshop will be scheduled in Anoka County in summer of 2020)
  • 3.All residents may be eligible for individual mini-grant funding up to $350. Apply here: bluethumb.org/lawns-to-legumes

If you have any questions about how the Lawns to Legumes Program will work in Anoka County or how you can be involved, please reach out! This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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741 Hits

Leaving a Legacy on the Land through Easements

Written by: Jamie Schurbon, Watershed Projects Manager

When I was young, there was a woodlot in the neighborhood where kids, including me, roamed. It was along the river, where there were frogs to be caught. We built forts. We played games. It felt like 100 acres, but in hindsight was probably just a few. That natural area was, apart from the people, a most memorable part of the neighborhood.

What's the best part of your neighborhood? Perhaps it's a woodlot on your own property. Or a wetland the provides a little privacy. Or just a few big mature trees. We get joy from living in natural surroundings big or small. When these things are lost, the neighborhood seems to sigh in disappointment (and some folks get downright upset).

Conservation easements are one tool available to landowners who want to ensure their land is kept natural for the long term, as a legacy for the community. Conservation easements pay landowners in exchange for a restriction on certain types of changes, such as clearing and building, to the land in the future. The easement runs with the land and applies to future owners.

The newest easement program available in Anoka County focuses on properties along the Rum River. Riverbank properties are critical to the scenic and recreational qualities of the river, as well as the river's ecological quality. The program pays 60% of the assessed value of the land. You set the easement boundaries. You retain ownership. The land does not become open to the public.

Easements are purchased strategically. While many lands are eligible, not all are competitive candidates. Those that score highest are parts of larger high quality natural areas and will not become "islands" within development. Easements should help retain community character and be consistent with anticipated growth.

If you are interested in having your land considered for a conservation easement, please contact Carrie Taylor at 763-434-2030 ext. 19 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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845 Hits