We've all heard that you may not be able to change the whole world, but you can change your little part of it. Desmond Tutu, South African leader put it another way: "Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world."
In mid-September, the Carlton County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) honored five of your neighbors for the "little bits" they have done to protect and improve natural resources in our county. These 2017 conservation award winners are: Wildlife Conservationist — Eileen Schantz-Hansen; Stream Steward Conservationist — Troy and Alicia Stone; Contractor Conservationist — Superior Construction; Outstanding Conservationists — Wendell and Elizabeth Lund; and Forest Steward Conservationist — Mark Behrends.
This week and next week, the SWCD will introduce these winners with the hope that hearing about what they've accomplished will encourage you and other landowners to work on conservation projects in your little corners of the world!
Wildlife Conservationist: Eileen Schantz-Hansen
While hiking, skiing, biking, canoeing, kayaking, and gardening, Eileen Schantz-Hansen was also always on the lookout for birds. Many of the projects she and her late husband, Richard "Schantz," worked with involved birds and other wildlife.
Schantz purchased the original 72 acres of their property on Gillogly Road in the 1970s and added adjoining acreage until the total reached 240 acres. The original property was covered with sumac, but Schantz cleared most of it and embarked on a multiple use land management plan. Today the property is a wonderful mix of trees, wetlands, trails, open areas and a homestead.
Over the years, Schantz set up a small nursery, planted a Christmas tree plantation, created a wildlife pond, and established several gardens of vegetables, fruits and berries. After Schantz passed away in 2009, Schantz-Hansen continued to maintain and expand the gardens, projects, and trails. She also graciously allowed community members and groups to use the trails for winter skiing and encouraged people to come and learn how to grow blueberries and turn apples into wonderful cider, etc..
Marna Butler-Fasteland, 4-H program coordinator with the University of Minnesota Extension in Carlton County, nominated Schantz-Hansen for the SWCD Wildlife Conservation Award because of "her love of birds" and other wildlife. One of her projects was to place nesting boxes for birds and ducks throughout the property. Because of this, she has so far counted 150 different species of birds. Other wildlife that have also benefitted from pond and habitat projects include muskrats, beavers, sandhill cranes, wolves, fox, badgers, bobcats, etc.
In addition, as Schantz did not want the property to ever be developed, Schantz-Hansen honored his wishes and enrolled most of the property in the Minnesota Land Trust. "Thank you, Eileen," Butler-Fasteland said, "for being a good steward of the beautiful property you shared with Schantz."
Stream Steward Conservationist: Troy and Alicia Stone
Troy and Alicia Stone were honored for their cooperation in helping to restore Elim Creek, a tributary of the impaired North Fork of the Nemadji River. Their property contained three of the red clay dams installed in the 1970s throughout the Nemadji Watershed in efforts to reduce the amount of eroding red clay flowing into Lake Superior. However, the life expectancy of the dams had been reached (10-25 years) and dams started to fail and blow out, causing hundreds of tons of red clay sediment to be flushed into the watershed.
According to Kelly Smith, Carlton SWCD forestry conservation technician, "advances have been made in understanding how stream channels change over time." The Stones were instrumental in cooperating with SWCD staff in the removal of their red clay dams and restoration of a natural stream channel to Elim Creek.
The project involved several steps including installation of a livestock access control fence, removal of three dams, creation of a new stream channel, and tree planting (conducted by the Conservation Corps of Minnesota) along the project's entire riparian zone.
"Thanks to the Stone family for their patience, help and cooperation," said Smith, this extensive project helped "re-establish one-third mile of brook trout habitat in the Lake Superior Watershed."
Contractor Conservationist: Superior Construction
"Stream restorations are not ordinary earth work jobs," expressed Melanie Bomier, water resource technician with Carlton SWCD. These jobs "take contractors to challenging terrain with even more challenging soils. Superior Construction not only accepts the challenge, they make it into an art of its own." Carlton SWCD honored Superior Construction for stream restoration projects on the Stone's Elim Creek property as well as a similar project on a Deer Creek tributary.
In the Deer Creek project, Superior Construction worked to restore 500 feet of the stream on a difficult-to-access site with a steep slope and during the time of fall rains. The earth work involved removal of the old dams and impounded water as well as the creation of the new, stable stream channel. The project also included shaping a flood plain and installation of wood structures in the stream bed that created a zig-zag pattern to help slow the flow of water by making step pools. Willow stakes, dogwood and spruce trees were also planted. In addition, Superior Construction took video footage of the project and gave the SWCD an interesting, 10-minute, fast action video showing the project from beginning to end.
"The Deer and Elim Creek Projects are just two of the many stream restorations that Superior Construction has been involved with in our region," added Bomier. "Their extensive experience, willingness to work in tough conditions, and cost-effective implementation make them a regional leader."
Carlton SWCD invites county landowners and residents to give all of the 2017 conservation winners a hand, not only figuratively (applause) but also literally by working to add our "little bits" to theirs. Working together, we can make Carlton County an even better place to live and enjoy our natural resources!