Monitor Monarch Butterflies and their Habitats with ACD!

ACD is looking for volunteers to participate in upcoming Monarch and Monarch habitat monitoring efforts. ACD will host a number of volunteer events this summer in natural areas across Anoka County. We will provide all the training and materials you will need. Your work will contribute to a national dataset helping conservationists better understand and protect the Monarch. 

As a volunteer you will be trained to:
- Identify blooming prairie plants which provide Monarch habitat resources
- Find and observe Monarch eggs and larvae
- Record activities of adult Monarchs

Join us for this fun opportunity to explore natural areas of Anoka County while learning about Monarch conservation! You can indicate your interest in volunteering this summer by completing a quick google form. For more information contact Logan Olson, Restoration Technician, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Working in the Rum River to Improve Habitat

A hallmark of ACD's natural resource work has included the stabilization of eroding riverbanks and the enhancement of native vegetation in adjacent riparian and floodplain areas. These activities improve water quality in the river and habitat quality along it. Included in the goals of our Phase 2 grant for Rum River habitat enhancement through the Outdoor Heritage Fund of the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment is the improvement of in-stream habitat in the Rum River channel. This is a new endeavor for ACD that presents an exciting opportunity to expand our work and our partnerships within the Rum River Corridor.

Though we are over a century removed from the widening and scouring of the Rum River by the millions of logs cut during the Minnesota timber boom, the effects of that industry still remain. Rivers used as log arteries were made wider and more consistent to ensure the smooth sailing of logs downstream. In more modern times, towns piped rain water directly to the river from impervious areas via stormwater conveyance systems. These rapid spikes in water input during storms exacerbate bank erosion, down-cutting, and sedimentation in the river at rates far beyond what was natural. 

The Washburn Saw Mill on the Rum River – late 1800s Source: Anoka County Historical Society
Plunging flow off the end of a bendway weir in the Rum River creating areas of rapid and slow flow, variable water levels, a scour pool, and quiet water depositional areas. This creates variability in flows and habitats.

Due to this historical usage of the Rum River as a conveyance tool for wood and stormwater, habitat for fish, invertebrates, mussels, and other aquatic life remains lacking and out of balance. In the coming years we will be partnering with Anoka County Parks, DNR Fisheries, The Nature Conservancy and others to identify and enhance missing or deficient in-stream habitat. Secondarily, we will look for enhancement opportunities for game fish habitat near publicly accessible shorelines to improve access to quality shore fishing. For more information contact Jared Wagner, Water Resource Specialist, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

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Beavers Connecting Rivers to Floodplain Wetlands

During a recent site visit to explore wetland restoration opportunities, ACD staff came across a fantastic example of beavers' "engineering" skills in action! A series of three beaver dams, located near the outfall of a Rum River tributary, were effectively slowing and spreading the stream's flow into the surrounding floodplain wetlands. Healthy connections between streams and their floodplains provide numerous water quality and habitat benefits, and in this case those benefits also extend to the Rum River immediately downstream.

Many streams in modified landscapes take on excess water from artificial drainage features like ditches and storm pipes. Over time and especially during extreme precipitation events, these higher volumes of water often increase erosion within the stream, which can lead to the straightening and downward-cutting ("downcutting") of the stream channel and, as a result, the disconnection of the stream from its floodplain (see the figures below, produced by American Rivers). 

Connected Floodplain
Vertically Disconnected Floodplain

Floodplain reconnection efforts are an increasing priority amongst many conservation organizations, but they can be costly and complicated – particularly if development has occurred within the floodplain. However, in areas where streams have room to spill into their floodplains without causing damage, allowing and even promoting beaver activity can be a cost effective way to help restore riparian corridors. Learn more about the benefits of beavers in the articles below. 

- University of MN Study 

- King County, WA

- Riding Mountain National Park, Canada

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

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$1.7M of Habitat Enhancement for the Rum River Corridor

$1.7M of state funds from the Outdoor Heritage Fund of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment was awarded for habitat enhancement in the Rum River Corridor. A broad-based partnership will bring an additional $215,000 in local matching funds. We will use these funds to enhance wildlife habitat from the headwaters in Lake Mille Lacs to where the Rum River joins the Mississippi River in Anoka. The Rum River Corridor is critical habitat for many rare species, including Blanding's Turtle and two types of mussels, to name a few. We will be doing habitat improvement projects from in the river to beyond the banks.

Links:
Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment
Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council
Outdoor Heritage Fund

For more information visit the links above or contact Jared Wagner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 763.434.2030 x200
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Rum RIM protects 149 acres and 8,370 feet of shoreline in northern Anoka County

Anoka Conservation District and other SWCDs are working together to prioritize parcels and enroll willing landowners in BWSR's Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve in the Rum River Watershed. The RIM Reserve program compensates landowners who are willing to give up development rights on their land in perpetuity to permanently preserve the natural landscape. The Rum River flows from Lake Mille Lacs to the Mississippi River through diverse landscapes and land uses. Protecting priority lands will benefit water quality and Twin Cities' drinking water supply, as well as improving wildlife habitat and connectivity. 

ACD is grateful to the families in northern Anoka County who just recently enrolled their land in BWSR's RIM program. Those families cherish the natural state of their land and the Rum River. Thanks to them, 149 more acres of land will be protected.

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Anoka-Ramsey Community College provides helping hands for rare plants and rare habitats

ACD staff have been collaborating with Professor Kristen Genet to create hands-on learning opportunities for an Anoka-Ramsey Community College Ecology class. The class learned about rare plants, rare habitats and the invasive species that threaten them, and provided service through their learning. The class got out to plant native grasses and wildflowers to create a dry prairie pollinator garden in a Coon Rapids park. They also conducted rare plant surveys to help guide rare plant rescue planting densities and removed buckthorn that was starting to grow into areas with rare plants. Thanks to Kristen Genet and students for all their contributions!  

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Protecting Pollinators at the ACD Office

Plant species that are "native" to a local area (i.e., grow there naturally) provide necessary food and habitat for pollinators and enhance soil and water quality. Outdoor spaces that are in covered in turf provide very few benefits to pollinators or the environment, so frequent pockets of natural spaces are critical in developed areas. We recently converted part of our office property from an area that was annoying to mow into beneficial pollinator habitat! Here's how we did it:

In early summer, we used "sheet mulching" to kill off the grass and weeds. If you can plan to have a couple of months before planting, this is an easy method to prepare a site without using herbicides. The future garden space was fully covered in cardboard sourced from our local recycling facility and then covered with a couple inches of mulch. This effectively smothered existing weeds.

We selected 11 native wildflower species, 2 native shrub species, and 2 native grass species for the garden that will thrive with the amount of natural sun and water that the spot gets. Adding wildflowers is a no-brainer to provide nectar for pollinators, but adding grasses sometimes gets overlooked in pollinator gardens. Native grasses provide homes for insects to overwinter in and add beautiful texture to a space! There are many great places to order native plants from in Minnesota; we used Minnesota Native Landscapes and Glacial Ridge Growers.

Since our garden is next to a sidewalk, it was lined with river rock to create a cleaner look and contain the mulch. 

In early fall, the plants arrived and were planted. By this time, the cardboard underneath had broken down enough that it was easy to rip gaps in it to dig holes for the plants. Autumn planting gives plants an edge for developing strong roots in their new home and is a great option if you miss the spring planting window. The plants were spaced about 1.5 feet apart to leave them with room to grow into their full-sized forms. The already-present mulch will help hold in water and continue to suppress weeds.

It will be exciting to watch these new plants grow over the coming year to create a beautiful spot that will support some of our essential pollinator species in Anoka County.

You can also follow these steps to convert areas of your property that may not get much traffic or are hard to mow into a space that will benefit everyone! 

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Six Lake George Shorelines Stabilized and Naturalized

The Anoka Conservation District has completed work with six landowners on Lake George to correct shoreline erosion and install native plant buffers. 483 linear feet of shoreline were treated with rock rip rap, coconut fiber biologs, shoreline plantings, or other techniques. The result is 5.9 fewer pounds of phosphorus and 4.8 fewer tons of sediment entering the lake each year.

Lake George water quality is a priority. The lake is heavily used by the public due to a large county park and many homes on its shores, and good water quality. That water quality has been experiencing a slow decline over time. Projects such as these help maintain water quality and also add near-shore habitat that benefits fish and other wildlife. The recently installed projects are further intended to be demonstrations of lake-friendly landscaping for other shoreline homeowners. 

The six project sites were selected from amongst 34 homeowner who expressed interest. Sites were chosen based on degree of erosion, benefit to the lake, and other factors. Funding was from a Watershed Based Implementation Funding grant to the Anoka Conservation District with matching funds from the Upper Rum River Watershed Management Organization and landowners.

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ACD and Partners are Working to Bring Legacy Funds to Enhance Habitat in Anoka County

Anoka Conservation District recently submitted two proposals, HRE07 Rum River Corridor Fish and Wildlife Habitat Enhancement – Phase 2 and HA02 Anoka Sand Plain Habitat Conservation – Phase 8 to the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council ML 2023 Request for Funding. The proposed activities will enhance aquatic and terrestrial habitat in Anoka County and collaborate with Partners in the Rum River Corridor and the Anoka Sand Plain Ecoregion.  

HRE07 Rum River Corridor Fish and Wildlife Habitat Enhancement – Phase 2
$3.5M request ($3M for Anoka County) includes:

  • Streambank and in-channel stabilization (2,200 linear feet);
  • In-stream fish habitat with a focus on game fish (1,200 linear feet); and
  • Riparian forest, wetland, and prairie enhancement in the Shoreland Zone (118 acres) including wild rice habitat on tribal lands.

Partners:

  • Anoka, Isanti and Mille Lacs SWCDs
  • Anoka and Isanti Counties
  • Upper and Lower Rum River WMOs
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe

HA02 Anoka Sand Plain Habitat Conservation – Phase 8
$8.9M request ($2.15M for ACD) includes:

  • Conservation easements (540 acres)
  • Habitat restoration and enhancement (1,736 acres and 2,200 linear feet of shoreline)
  • Rare plant rescue program

Direct Grant Recipients and Partners:

    • Anoka Conservation District
    • Great River Greening
    • Minnesota Land Trust
    • National Wild Turkey Federation
    • Sherburne County Parks
    • Anoka County Parks
    • City of Anoka
    • MN Landscape Arboretum
    • Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve
    • MN DNR Forest Lake WMA
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Habitat Enhancement Landscape Pilot Program

BWSR awarded ACD $40,000 for the Habitat Enhancement Landscape Pilot Program. ACD, Anoka County Parks, City of Blaine and City of Fridley identified project sites to create species rich, diverse prairies. There are 12 prairies identified in Anoka County Parks land with low forb diversity within the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee priority area that will be enhanced. Turf to prairie conversion will occur on a total of 4.75 acres at Fridley Commons Park, Blaine Laddie Lake, Coon Rapids Dam, Rice Creek West Regional Trail and Bunker Regional Park. These projects range from 0.25 to 1.5 acres and will be forb-rich.

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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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Creating a More Resilient Landscape at Kings Island

Anoka Conservation District has been working with the City of Anoka and Mississippi Park Connection to create a more resilient landscape at Kings Island. Efforts have begun to remove invasive buckthorn from the island to allow space and light for native plant regeneration. Invasive emerald ash borer (EAB) infestations that kill ash trees have been detected throughout the Metro region and near Kings Island. Approximately 50% of Kings Island canopy is ash (green, black or white ash) so a loss of ash would have a great impact on the habitat on Kings Island. Surveys have and will continue to be conducted to monitor for the presence of EAB. To prepare for the loss of ash trees and create a more resilient landscape at Kings Island, a diversity of tree and shrubs were planted by volunteers. Species planted include Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago), Red-oiser Dogwood (Cornus sericea), Swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), Butternut (Juglans cinerea), Cottonwood (Populus deltoids), Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum), and Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) a tree with a more southern range. More efforts are needed to control buckthorn and create diversity for a more resilient landscape at Kings Island. 

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