Outdoor Skills and Stewardship Trainings

If you are looking to develop your knowledge of the outdoors this summer, consider the Minnesota Outdoors Skills and Stewardship webinar series being offered by the Minnesota DNR. The webinars take place every Wednesday through the month of August and are less than an hour long. These training webinars are structured towards the general public and can be beneficial for someone who is brand new to a topic or for someone who is experienced but is looking for a refresher. Each weekly webinar covers a different topic. Topics range from "Forging on the North Shore" and "How to Harvest Wild Rice" to "New Deer Regulations" and "Smallmouth Bass River Fishing".

This training series is unique because attendees get the opportunity to learn from some of the top professionals in the state who are leading experts within their field. For people who are busy, this is a great way to learn new skills without having to commit a ton of time and resources. You can also access previously recorded webinars providing you hours of fantastic resources.

Sign up today and give one a try! Follow the link below to view the upcoming training schedule and get access to past webinars.

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fishwildlife/outreach/index.html 

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Anoka CWMA works to control invasive species in Anoka County

BWSR awarded ACD $15,000 for the third phase of the Anoka Cooperative Weed Management Area. The Anoka CWMA formed in 2018 and consists of Anoka Conservation District, Anoka Parks, Cities, Watershed Districts, MN Department of Agriculture, and volunteers to coordinate invasive species control efforts in Anoka County. Anoka CWMA activities include mapping, monitoring, outreach, treatment on select populations, and provides some cost share assistance. 

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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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Rain Gardens Benefitting the Rum River

Six new rain gardens will be installed this summer in Anoka and Ramsey to benefit the Rum River. The first of them, on Washington Street, was completed the first week of June. Each curb-cut rain garden captures water from the neighborhood streets, driveways, roofs and other surfaces. Prior to these projects, the stormwater is discharged directly to the Rum River without treatment. Rain gardens are ideal in built-out neighborhoods where space is not available for stormwater ponds or other larger practices.

Funding for two rain gardens is a state Clean Water Fund grant and the Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organization. Funding for the other four is the City of Anoka as part of their 2022 street renewal project. 

Bowler family members Amanda and Connor at the newly constructed rain garden in their front yard (not pictured: Daniel Bowler). The Bowlers will own and maintain the rain garden which treats stormwater from 2.2 acres of their neighborhood.
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Native Plantings Added to Streambank Stabilization Sites

Image sourced from MNDNR Stream Habitat Program

Last year, over 3,000 linear feet of cedar tree revetments were installed on the banks of the Rum River in Anoka County. While the cedar trees themselves will help capture sediment and prevent further erosion throughout the coming years, the re-establishment of native riparian vegetation is essential for promoting long-term bank resiliency. In May, ACD staff, with assistance from Anoka County Parks staff, planted a total of over 1,000 plants across six cedar revetment sites; species planted included sandbar willow, red osier dogwood, false indigo, and buttonbush (pictured below). 

When present, the deep roots of native trees, shrubs, grasses, and other vegetation act like a net, securing the bank's soils and preventing them from washing away. Streambank vegetation also provides essential habitat for many aquatic and terrestrial species. For these reasons, ACD incorporates native plantings into all streambank stabilization projects.

Images sourced from Minnesota Wildflowers. © Peter M. Dziuk
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Isanti 5th Grade Conservation Day

On a cool and cloudy May morning, ACD participated in Isanti Conservation Day, an annual event designed to teach students about natural resource stewardship. Approximately 475 fifth graders were given a chance to get outside for a morning to learn about the natural world around them, and how to protect it, by rotating through stations scattered throughout Becklin Homestead Park. ACD collected a myriad of live aquatic invertebrates from local streams to give the students a hands-on way to learn about the unseen creatures that live in their favorite water bodies.

Each group examined trays containing wriggling nymphs of mayflies, damselflies, and dragonflies, case-building caddis fly larvae, freshwater shrimp, snails, and more. They excitedly gathered around their tables to observe the activity in their trays and tallied how many kinds of invertebrates they were able to identify from a provided list. This led to discussions on what the diversity and types of creatures found in the water could tell them about river health. Looking at their lists, students learned that they could make inferences about water quality based on the pollution tolerance of the invertebrates that they found. Each session was wrapped up by sharing ideas on actions and practices that they could take to protect the health of their local rivers. The event was engaging for the fifth graders and provided them with new perspectives on how people can learn about water quality.  

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Insects Are Important Because of Their Diversity

Spring is finally here and with that comes lots of critters-- including insects! Oftentimes, insects have a negative connotation for people, but many (if not most) actually have an important role in our world. Instead of reaching for the nearest spray can of pesticide anytime you see something munching on your flowers, first determine if it actually is a pest or not! One of the easiest ways to do this is to download apps that help you identify items in the natural world. One that I really like and can be used for plants as well is the iNaturalist app, available for free! It allows you to narrow down to a few possibilities and is quite accurate.

This male twelve-spotted skimmer is a dragonfly that is fast and will guard its territory. Its larvae will eat mosquitos before they hatch.
Japanese beetles are a non-native, invasive beetle. Once they are adults, spraying pesticides is ineffective.

That scary bug could actually be a beneficial "good bug" that eats problem pests. Accept a little damage and give nature time to work. Accept a few pests, as long as they are not harmful to the long-term effects of the landscape. Natural predators often bring pests under control, but they need time to work. Monitor your landscape to spot signs of pests, but don't spray at the first sign of damage — nature may control it for you or plants may outgrow the damage. If a pest or weed problem develops, use an integrated approach to solve the problem. Physical controls like traps, barriers, fabric row covers or plants that repel pests can work for some pests.

A holistic approach can be an effective tools for controlling pests such as insects, weeds, and diseases. Be sure you need a pesticide before you use it. Ongoing pest problems are often a sign that your lawn or garden is not getting what it needs to stay healthy. You need to correct the underlying problem to reduce the chance of pests reappearing. Remember, a holistic — or integrated pest management — approach is the most effective way to manage pests.

A longhorn beetle on an upright yellow coneflower. Note the pollen that it is eating.
Start with prevention.

  • Mow higher. Most grasses should be mowed to a height of two to three inches. Taller grass has more leaf surface and deeper roots and eventually chokes out many weeds.
  • Clean out diseased plants so disease doesn't spread.
  • Pull weeds before they go to seed and spread.
  • Identify the problem before you spray, squash or stomp (see paragraph above on ID). Whether it's a bug, disease or weed, you need to identify it to know how to effectively manage it. Carefully read and follow pesticide product label instructions. Avoid overuse of pesticides. When you have a small problem area, treat just that area, not the entire yard. Remember, most bugs are good bugs. Only about 5– 15 percent of the bugs in your yard are pests.

For more information and amazing photos go to the following link: Those Other Flower Visitors | The Prairie Ecologist 

Eastern bluebirds benefit from less pesticide use and will feed their nestlings with the caterpillars that feed on your shrubs and trees.
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Rare Plant Rescue Program Salvaged 200 MN Endangered Rubus stipulatus

The Highway CSAH 14 (Main Street) is slated to expand and build storm ponds in an area with Rubus stipulatus, a MN Endangered rare plant. The Rare Plant Rescue Program, consisting of Anoka SWCD, Critical Connections Ecological Services, and MN Landscape Arboretum, coordinated with the MN DNR and Anoka Highway Department to salvage the plants prior to construction. As soon as development permits were complete and signed, the Rescue Program swiftly accessed the highway expansion site to dig out plants that were just emerging. Plants were taken to Bunker Hills Regional Park where Anoka Parks staff and Volunteers transplanted 200 plants into plots. Cuttings of Rubus stipulatus were also taken, and will be propagated at the MN Landscape Arboretum and planted in the fall. Rescue transplants will be monitored to assess survivorship and recruitment. This is all made possible with collaboration, Volunteers, and Anoka Sand Plain Partnership Outdoor Heritage Funds.

To learn more about this program and how to get involved, see the information flyer here: https://tinyurl.com/mnrp-flyer

Sign up on the Rare Plant Rescue Network form

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“Google River View”: 360° Photos Collected on the Rum and Mississippi

An actively eroding bank on the Rum River

Photos collected from near-shore zones on surface waters throughout the county serve as valuable tools for assessing lakeshore and riverbank conditions. Following a day in the boat with a 360° camera, these photos are uploaded to Google Street View, making them accessible to anyone. ACD then uses these them to compile erosion inventory reports, which describe erosion severity and stabilization project needs on high-priority waterbodies such as the Rum and Mississippi Rivers. Updated photos for these rivers were collected throughout the first week of May and are now available to view (alongside those captured in previous years) on Google Maps.  

While browsing through these photos, you are sure to see a beautiful river view. You may also notice banks currently experiencing noticeable erosion or, alternatively, portions that have recently been stabilized and planted with native vegetation.

A formerly failing riverbank at the Mississippi River Community Park in Anoka, stabilized and planted with native vegetation
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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.

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Biomonitoring with Area High Schools

Each spring and fall, ACD staff teaches area high school students about collecting macroinvertebrates to track water quality in Anoka County streams. This lesson is educational and fun for students, while providing ACD with data to track water quality over time through the streams' biota. Biological organisms that can be used to track the health of the environment they live in are called biological indicators (or bioindicators for short).

Macroinvertebrates, the larval forms of many common insects, are a great biological indicator for stream health in particular. They also live in lakes and wetlands. Many people don't realize that common insects like dragonflies, mayflies, black flies, and many others spend the majority of their lives as larval forms in the water. These larvae have varying tolerance levels to pollution, meaning some need very clean water to survive, while others can survive in either clean or polluted water. By tracking the populations of these organisms over time, we can gauge changes in water quality by assessing population shifts and known tolerance levels. This provides a valuable supplemental dataset to water quality samples collected periodically. Because these organisms spend months to years in the water, they give a more comprehensive long term look at water quality than water samples collected at random times can alone. 

Anoka High School students sorting through Rum River samples for macroinvertebrates, May 2022

For the past 24 years, ACD has partnered with numerous schools and groups in Anoka County to collect macroinvertebrates. We currently partner with the Upper and Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organizations, the St. Francis American Legion, and the Rice Creek Watershed District to fund this monitoring with classes from four schools. Anoka High School and St. Francis High School classes monitor the Rum River near their schools, Totino-Grace High School classes monitor Rice Creek in Fridley, and the Forest Lake Area Learning Center monitors Clearwater Creek in Centerville. We also plan to take a new class from Blaine High School out in the fall of 2022 to monitor Coon Creek in Coon Rapids.

Over time, this program has taught thousands of Anoka County students about stream water quality, biological indicators, and work in the environmental sciences, all while getting them out of the classroom and into a stream. 

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RAIN GARDENS IN THE CITY OF ANOKA

Street reconstruction projects often provide opportunities to install new projects that can benefit water quality in nearby waterbodies. In the City of Anoka, four curb-cut rain gardens are currently being designed in conjunction with a street reconstruction project. The designs are being done by ACD in partnership with the City of Anoka and landowners. The rain gardens will capture stormwater runoff before it enters the storm sewer system, which discharges to the Rum River.

High priority properties with large contributing drainage areas were targeted. Those properties with landowners willing to transition some yard space out near the road from turf grass to garden area and agree to provide maintenance are being considered for rain garden installation. Funding for design is provided by a Metropolitan Conservation Districts Engineering and Technical Assistance Program, and installation funding will be provided by the City of Anoka.

Watch for additional updates as designs are finalized and the rain gardens are installed. To see other rain gardens already installed throughout Anoka County, please see the virtual project tour on ACD's website. 

Curb-cut rain garden example
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Tree and Shrub Pick Up!!

Pre-ordered trees & shrubs will be ready for pick up on April 30th, staggered by last name. 

Map of pick up location

DATE AND TIME: Saturday, April 30. Staggered pick up by first letter of Last Name:

          A-D: 9-9:30am                                P-S: 11:15-11:45am

          E-J: 9:45-10:15am                         T-Z: 12-12:30pm

          K-O: 10:30-11am 

PICK UP LOCATION: ACD Office- 1318 McKay Drive NE Ham Lake LOWER LOT

  • We strongly encourage you to come during your timeslot
  • Drive-thru pick up to comply with social distancing
  • Make space ahead of time so ACD staff can put your order in your vehicle
  • Refer to www.AnokaSWCD.org for up-to-date information
  • Ask a neighbor or friend to pick up if you can't make it
  • Parking lot is too small, so no large trailers!!

Storing your seedlings until they can be planted:

  • Store trees and shrubs in a cool, dark location (garage or shed)
  • Your trees and shrubs should be fine stored for up to 3 weeks
  • Keep roots moist but don't fill bag with water or put roots in a bucket of water
  • Roots have been dipped in root gel and bagged to keep them moist

Questions?

1st, try: www.AnokaSWCD.org

2nd, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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

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

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

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

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Rum Riverbank Stabilization Grants Available

A recent shoreline stabilization project on the Rum River

Grant funds are available to landowners for addressing shoreline erosion on the Rum River. If your shoreline is falling into the river, migrating back over time, or the bottom has washed out leaving an overhang, these funds can pay for a substantial portion of design and construction of a solution. Funding is available to address erosion issues of all sizes, with landowners typically paying 15-25% of the project cost. Shoreline restoration does more than just protect your property. It also protects the water resource you live on and enhances river habitat!

Those interested can schedule a site visit with Anoka Conservation District (ACD) staff to discuss options and see if your shoreline might fit into one of our various grant programs for financial assistance. Because the design and construction bidding can take months, starting in the spring is recommended. Contact Jared Wagner at ACD at 763-434-2030 x200 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Rum Riverbank stabilization projects are a partnership of ACD, Anoka County Parks, and the Upper and Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organizations (URRWMO, LRRWMO) with funding from the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment.

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