Check Out Ice Duration Trends Throughout Minnesota

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ACD Host Chainsaw Training

This past month, ACD and partner staff completed an 8 hour chainsaw safety training course. The skills and safety tips learned will be applied while clearing large buckthorn, cutting cedar trees for streambank stabilization projects, and while addressing other natural resource concerns that come our way. Winter is an ideal time to cut or trim oak and ash trees without the high risk of spreading oak wilt and emerald ash borer diseases. If you plan to cut trees on your property this season, remember the following tree felling rules:

Hazards- Survey the area to identify and remove any potential hazards.
Hinge- Create a hinge for safe and predictable felling. See an example notch here.
Escape- Have 2 escape routes at 45 degrees from your cutting direction.
Lean- Analyze the tree from all angles to ensure you understand its weight distribution and lean direction.
Plan- Have a plan to complete a safe and predictable cut. Click here to learn how to execute the bore cut.

Having the right training and equipment can spare you from serious harm when using a chainsaw. Take the time to educate yourself on proper safety equipment and risk management strategies. Safe cutting! You can read a description of the training course here or contact Logan Olson, Restoration Technician, at 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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Wildlife Management Areas: What, Where, Why

Wildlife management areas (WMAs) are part of Minnesota's outdoor recreation system and are established to protect those lands and waters that have a high potential for wildlife habitat and other compatible recreational uses. WMAs are key to:

  • protecting wildlife habitat for future generations,
  • providing citizens with opportunities for hunting, fishing and wildlife watching, and
  • promoting important wildlife-based tourism in the state.

How did WMAs get started?
Minnesota's WMA system started in 1951, when the State established its "Save the Wetlands" program to buy wetlands and other habitats from willing sellers to address the alarming loss of wildlife habitat in the state. Initiated by a handful of visionary wildlife managers, the WMA program evolved into the present-day system of WMAs.

How many WMAs are there and where are they located?
There are over 1.3 million acres of high quality habitat in about 1,500 WMAs located throughout the state, making it one of the best and largest WMA systems in the country.

How are WMAs managed?
WMAs are the backbone of DNR's wildlife management efforts in Minnesota. Much of the wildlife managers' work is directed toward protecting and enhancing wildlife habitat on WMA lands. For instance, prairie and grasslands are planted, wetlands are restored and enhanced. Prescribed burning is done to maintain grasslands, prairies, and brush lands. Forest openings and regeneration projects benefit create wildlife habitat. Different management practices are utilized for different ecotypes.

What can I do to help?
There are opportunities to volunteer at WMAs by picking up trash to assisting with seed collection and much more! For more information and locations of WMAs go to this link https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/wmas/index.html.

For more information contact Becky Wozny, Wetland Specialist, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

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Pursuing Levy Authority in 2024

The elected Board of ACD is moving forward with legislation to have the ability to levy property taxes for residents of Anoka County. With the levy limits included in the bill (HF3701) and ACD's other revenue streams, the anticipated levy increase for the average single family home in 2025 through 2029 is around $0.67 per year. Why bother pursuing legislation for such a small levy? That's a long story, but here's the gist of it.

  • ACD has been around since 1946 serving the public by providing financial and technical assistance to private landowners who want to be good stewards of our lakes, stream, wetlands, drinking water, wildlife, etc.
  • ACD submits a budget to Anoka County to request funding to support our mission. The County has the option to fund all, some or none of the request.
  • ACD's requests to the County compete for limited funding against transportation, public safety, social services, economic development, and parks and recreation.
  • For 20 years, when population growth and inflation alone grew Anoka County's budget by 83%, ACD's allocation grew by 8.4%.

"So what you're saying is that if ACD gets its way, a family of four in Anoka County will have to give up one fancy cup of coffee every four years for cleaner lakes and rivers, better fishing, improved habitat for wildlife, and safer drinking water?" Well, when you put it that way…

For more information about ACD's pursuit for levy authority contact Chris Lord, District Manager, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

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Wetland Restoration Funding Available!

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Anoka Sand Plain Rare Plant Rescue

The Anoka Sand Plain (ASP) Rare Plant Rescue Program had a busy year in 2023! Thanks to the assistance of partners and volunteers, we:

  • Rescued over 900 state threatened and endangered plants from 3 new sites!
  • Transplanted over 600 rescued plants and species from seed germination trials.
  • Collected seed from 5 rare plant ASP populations for genetic preservation in the MN Landscape Arboretum's Rare Plant Seed Bank.
  • Began stem cutting and/or germination experimentations on Gaylussacia baccata (Black Huckleberry) and Rubus sp. (Bristle-berries).
  • Collaborated with the City of Blaine to adjust land management practices around a rare population of Endangered Aristida longespica (Slimspike Three-awn).
  • Implemented follow-up monitoring of previous rescue transplants to calculate survival and record success rates of locations and methods.
Left to Right: Rescuing Lance-leaved Violets before development begins. Transplanting Lance-leaved Violets into a protected natural area. Volunteers rescuing rare plants in Hugo, MN.

Looking Forward:

  • Plants rescued in 2023 are overwintering at the MN Landscape Arboretum and will be ready to move into their new homes in 2024.
  • As habitat loss continues, we will continue to seek out and survey new suitable habitats for the rescued transplants.
  • Research efforts will continue as we expand our knowledge about these rare species.
  • Conservation plans are being developed for the rare species of the ASP, outlining methods and protocols for plant rescue and conservation.
We are anticipating additional rescue events in 2024. Please stay tuned and sign up here to join our contact list! The ASP Rare Plant Rescue Program is currently funded by Lessards-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council using MN Clean Water Land and Legacy Funds. If you want to learn more about the rare plant rescue program contact Carrie Taylor, Restoration Ecologist, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Students Involved in Stream Biological Monitoring

Each season, local high school students venture to a nearby river or stream, grab a dip net and pair of waders, and search for invertebrates (a mix of aquatic insects, crustaceans, bugs, snails, worms, and other critters lacking a backbone) living amongst the submerged rocks and vegetation. They bring their catch back to their partners on shore, who use guides to identify the invertebrates or preserve them for identification at a later date in the lab. In 2023, ACD staff led 560 high school students across 20 classes and 5 schools in these "biomonitoring" efforts. Besides being a great way to get some fresh air, students learned valuable lessons in aquatic ecology. 

Individual aquatic invertebrates have different sensitivities to environmental disturbances such as contamination and habitat loss. Some, such as stonefly and mayfly nymphs, often have a strong negative reaction to disturbance, while others, such as leeches, midges, and aquatic worms, are usually more tolerant and able to persist through a variety of conditions. Understanding these tolerance thresholds across species is an efficient way to broadly assess the health of a waterbody. For example, a high quantity and/ or diversity of species including those considered "intolerant" (sensitive) is a likely indicator of healthy habitat and water quality, whereas the presence of only more "tolerant" species hints at poorer water quality and habitat. Biomonitoring data is often paired with other information, such as water quality or stream morphology data, to identify where aquatic impairments are present and management efforts should be pursued.

After the students have finished collecting and processing samples, ACD staff re-identifies them and summarizes the data in the annual Water Almanac. Through this, big-picture trends in invertebrate communities (and stream health, by extension) can be explored across time. For more information contact Breanna Keith, Water Resource Technician, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

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Adopt-a-Drain Today!

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Do I Make a Difference?

Recently, I have seen some pushback from folks who say that asking the general public to recycle, conserve water, reduce their carbon footprint, etc. is inconsequential compared to commercial impacts and thus misguided. The consensus that corporations and governments have an outsized influence on these environmental impacts and private citizens contributions to the problem don't matter. Here are two articles in the Scientific American or The Atlantic, that discuss this issue in more detail.

Though I don't disagree that commercial/agricultural uses oftentimes outweigh residential uses (e.g. pesticide and fertilizer application); I also believe that if enough people adopt enough measures we can make a difference in a twofold manner. One, we will be more aware of how corporations operate and through purchasing power and/or legislation create changes that benefit the resource. Check out this awesome resource developed by USGS and learn more about water use in your local area. 

In another case, because of both residential and commercial changes in habits; we have actually reduced water usage dramatically in the last 3 decades. We should celebrate this because clean water is not infinite. There are still issues surrounding water quantity (and quality) and we can never sit on our laurels but we can make a difference one drippy faucet at a time. For more information contact Becky Wozney, Wetland Specialist, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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Conservation High-Tech

ACD Water Resource Specialist, Kris Larson, using a survey-grade GPS to collect measurements for an upcoming lakeshore stabilization project

Twenty-years ago we designed conservation projects with a tape measure and graph paper. Over the years, ACD has gone high tech. Today we use a survey-grade GPS (shared with neighboring SWCDs) and landscape design software. This allows precise measurements and estimates of quantities. It also allows us to clearly communicate a project's outcomes to landowners and contractors. But we still pull out the tape measure once in a while – it never crashes or fails to connect. 

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Salt Smart This Winter

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What is a Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)?

ACD Water Resources Technician, Breanna Keith, meeting with property owners interested in shoreline health.

We're the private lands conservation experts! We provide financial resources and expertise to help private landowners with conservation efforts on their property that also have public benefits. Minnesota is a unique state, with an SWCD in nearly every county to assist with work on the ~70% of Minnesota's lands that are private. ACD is simply an SWCD that shortened its name. In comparison, the well-known MN Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages public lands and resources. 

For more information about SWCD's and the role they play within the state, contact
Jamie Schurbon, Watershed Program Manager, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.g

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Well Sealing Funding Extended Through 2024!

Unused wells can serve as direct conduits for surface contaminants to reach our aquifers. ACD was awarded a grant in 2020 through the Clean Water Fund to help eligible landowners seal unused wells located within Anoka County. This program has been extended to run through 2024 in order to continue to to provide local residents assistance with sealing an unused well on their property!

A well is defined as "not in use," when the well is not functional, cannot readily pump water, or has not been operated on a regular basis. A "not in use" well has not been sealed by a licensed well contractor. A well that is "not in use" (i.e., "abandoned") must be repaired and put back into use, permanently sealed by a licensed well contractor, or the owner must obtain a maintenance permit. In many cases, placing an old well back into use is not practical. Sealing your well is also legally required when you go to sell your home. If your house was built before public water was available, the property may have one or more wells. Wells can be located either inside or outside a residence. 

Indoors look for:

  • Glass block or concrete patch in an exterior step.
  • Wells are often housed in a small room in the basement, many times under exterior concrete steps.
  • Pipe sticking up out of the floor in your basement, or a concrete patch in the floor where the well was located. 
Outdoors look for:
  • Low spot or sunken area in the ground.
  • Metal, wood, or concrete cover or manhole.
  • Areas that stay wet can be caused by an unsealed flowing well.
  • An old shed or well house, or an old pump.
  • Dug wells typically appear as a ring anywhere from 1 foot or several feet in diameter, made of concrete, tile, bricks, or rocks.
  • Pipes above, at, or below the surface may indicate a well.

Visit ACD's website today to get more information or to download an application to apply. If you are unsure if you have a well on your property or questioning if you would qualify for funding simply contact Kris Larson, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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