On the North Shore, many hands work to help a dying forest

Credit to Cody Nelson of MPR News for the original article: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/07/25/north-shore-forest-restoration-white-pine

From bugs to invasive species to hotter temps, a host of factors are laying waste to Minnesota’s northeastern forests.

Emily Krulc, center, and her Minnesota Conservation Corps crew take a lunch break.

Emily Krulc, center, and her Minnesota Conservation Corps crew take a lunch break while planting white pine seedlings in the Moose Creek area near Schroeder, Minn., on June 24.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Northern Minnesota once boasted stands of massive white and red pine — giants that lived up to 350 years, with trunks 4 or 5 feet in diameter.

When they were logged out, trees with shorter life spans, like birch, took their place. Now, those trees are dying off.

What’s the answer? For now, it’s plant more trees.

“There’s so much destruction,” said Emily Krulc as she and her Minnesota Conservation Corps team planted white pine seedlings on a recent, wet day in Minnesota’s Arrowhead region. “How can we find a balance between our needs, human needs, and also still caring for the lands that essentially [are] going to be what sustains us?”

White gloves hold a tiny pine tree.

A Minnesota Conservation Corps member loosens the dirt from a white pine seedling before planting it in the Moose Creek watershed near Schroeder.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Efforts to restore Minnesota’s iconic forests face numerous obstacles — from invasive species competing for space to deer eating tree seedlings before they get a chance to grow. But they’re crucial to the Arrowhead region’s ability to continue providing environmental and economic benefits for decades to come.

Planting is the painstaking, unheralded work that will give the forests a chance.

‘We have to get out there and make it happen’

Krulc and her team descended on a football field-sized patch of forestland west of Schroeder, Minn., to plant 350 tree seedlings — mostly white pine — one morning last month.

Using planter bars and chainsaws to clear out any undesired growth, they planted a tree every 10 to 12 feet. Figuring out exactly where to plant a tree is something of a guessing game.

“Humans don’t always know where trees want to go,” Krulc said, “so we’re kind of doing our best to guess you know where these white pines might like to grow and getting them in the ground.”

Sometimes it works best to plant a baby tree among fallen branches lying on the ground, she said. Other times, trees just go where the soil is soft enough to get them in the ground.

When the seedlings get a little older, workers plan to install fencing around the tree or attach bud caps, paper stapled over the top of the tree. These measures protect the young trees from hungry deer.

The Conservation Corps crew was working on land owned by the Rajala Woods Foundation, a nonprofit established by the electrical utility Minnesota Power.

A creek and a foggy forest in the background.

Water flows down Moose Creek near Schroeder. Twelve-hundred acres along Moose Creek are owned by the Rajala Woods Foundation.
Evan Frost | MPR News

This 1,200-acre plot sits along Moose Creek, about a 30-minute drive inland from Lake Superior. The landscape is a thick, relatively young forest. Utility towers stand out above the trees, slinging wires above the trees.

“If you look around, you’re challenged to see any white pine or red pine or jack pine,” said Kurt Anderson, the foundation’s chair.

Anderson’s job is to change that. Rajala Woods is in the early stages of a project to plant 3 million white pine and other trees with long lifespans in forests in central and northeastern Minnesota.

A blonde man with a bear and a hat looks right out of frame.

Kurt Anderson of the Rajala Woods Foundation, left, watches a trout feed in Moose Creek.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Its namesake, Jack Rajala, was a white pine advocate who planted some 3 million trees in his own lifetime. He also made his living from the timber industry that was responsible for cutting most of the trees in the first place.

Logging of the huge white pine began in Minnesota in the mid-19th century.

Many white and red pine were harvested and sent to market in the following decades. “At that time the forest supply of these long-lived tree species seemed inexhaustible. And that obviously wasn’t the case,” Anderson said.

Some major wildfires and droughts took a toll on the woods, too.

As the forest grew back, it was different. Birch and other trees with shorter life spans, like aspen and balsam fir, became abundant. Long-lived pines, more scarce.

Anderson said people realized white pine preservation and restoration needed attention as early as the 1920s. But early efforts to restore white pine backfired.

“White pine was brought over to Europe to grow in some nurseries to bring back over here,” Anderson said, “and during that overseas trip, blister rust was introduced to white pine.”

Blister rust, a fungus that can infect and kill white pine, became a veritable enemy. So did a growing population of whitetail deer, which found an ideal habitat in forests that had been cleared out by logging.

Modern forest restorers have learned from past mistakes. In 1997, Rajala published a guidebook for how he believed restoration should happen.

“If we want to bring [the white pine] back, we have to do far more than wait for it to just happen —we have to get out there and make it happen,” Rajala wrote in “Bringing Back the White Pine.”

A car with a canoe on top drives past a tall tree.

A large white pine stands over Highway 61 on the North Shore on June 25.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Today, Anderson said, the short-lived tree species are reaching the end of their lifespan. That explains the declining birch stands along Lake Superior.

As this continues, he said a worst-case scenario means an unrecognizable forest.

“You end up with a scrubland, a brush scrubland that doesn’t provide a lot of ecological benefit. It doesn’t provide a lot of economic benefit,” Anderson said. “There’s not much timber there to harvest, it doesn’t host a lot of wildlife habitat.”

Some scientists have projected a savanna-like habitat in northeast Minnesota’s Arrowhead region.

Jim Manolis, forest conservation program director at The Nature Conservancy, said a “perfect storm of factors” are leading to this dying forest — from bugs to invasive species to hotter temperatures to the deer.

“Forests along the North Shore are dying,” he said. “I think it’s safe to say there’s hundreds of thousands of acres that are in poor condition and need some help.”

While there’s no measurement on exactly how much forest is dying or at risk, Manolis said, the Nature Conservancy is working on a comprehensive map using lidar and other data sources.

Forest advocates say there’s hope for the white pine, but not without a lot of human intervention.

“We have to be a little smarter as a society about trying to think out not just 50 years in advance,” Anderson said, “but maybe 150 years in advance.”

This forward thinking would prime the forest to withstand climate change and economic changes. It’d also make it a continued haven for nature lovers, and the creatures that keep them coming back.

‘You can feel the age of a forest’

A man is seen standing in water through dense brush.
Shawn Perich prepares to fly fish in a creek off of the Gunflint Trail near Grand Marais, Minn. on June 25.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Shawn Perich caught his first brook trout at age 4 and was instantly hooked on fishing.

When he’s fly-fishing, Perich switches off the outside world.

“There’s really nothing else going on for me except being here in the river and feeling the current wrapping around me as I wade in the stream,” he said, “and just being entirely focused on where I’m placing that fly and whether I can get a fish to strike.”

Perich has fished for trout across North America, he said, but he always finds himself drawn back to the North Shore.

He lives with his dog, Rainy, in Hovland, Minn., and works as a publisher of Northern Wilds magazine.

He caught two brook trout in as many casts one recent morning. Then he pulled in several more of the color-spotted golden fish, releasing each back to the stream.

“They’re so pretty, it’s just hard to keep ‘em,” he said after pulling in a fish.

A fish with a hook in its mouth leaps out of the water.

A brook trout leaps out of the water after biting a fly in a creek down the Gunflint Trail near Grand Marais.
Evan Frost | MPR News

A seasoned angler, Perich knows what makes a good home for brook trout.

For one, they need cool water — he said one brook felt like an “ice cube” once out of the stream. And that cool water comes from shade.

Tall, old trees like the white pine can provide shade for these Lake Superior tributaries their entire length through the forest.

Being in a stand of white pine that could be centuries old feels different, Perich said. And indescribable.

“That’s a hard thing to put into words, really,” he said. “But you can feel the age of a forest. When you walk into a standard white pine you can tell you’re in a special place.”

Tiny scissors cut fishing line off of a fly lure.

Perich ties a fly onto his line while fishing.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Perich recognizes the forest will never return to how it was before Europeans arrived. It’s critical that forest restoration efforts continue to look forward, he said.

Even if current restoration projects succeed, the forest won’t be what it used to be. But, planners hope, it’ll be a diverse, healthy forest that’s more resistant to climate change and one that resembles the nature Minnesotans cherish.

“The land was here before us, the land will probably be here after us. And we have to work with nature,” Perich said. “And nature itself really hasn’t changed that much over that period of time.

“And if we can continue to perpetuate what’s here, what’s supposed to be here, I don’t know if there’s anything better we can do.”

 

 

Minnesota Weekly Fishing Update

Credit to Explore Minnesota for the newsletter.

Fishing at sunset on Leech Lake  
 

Most species continue to bite despite recent above-normal temperatures. Bass and muskie action has kicked into high gear. The crappies are schooling and eager to bite. Walleye anglers are still taking nice numbers of fish.

The forecast for most of the state this weekend calls for mostly sunny skies with highs in the 70s — ideal for a fishing outing!

For rules, regulations and other helpful information on fishing in Minnesota, consult the DNR’s Fish Minnesota web page.

 

[Northeast] [Northwest] [Central] [Minneapolis-St. Paul Area] [Southern]

Northeast Minnesota

International Falls – Rainy Lake

Walleye remain in a transition phase on Rainy Lake. They are beginning to show up on the main lake reef tops, breaklines and deeper points. Most of this activity is in 12 to 24 foot depths. Walleyes at the reefs are generally holding on the top or near the top of the structure. Jigs, lindy rigs and slip bobbers with a leech have been turning lots of fish. Many walleye remain shallow and continue to be caught in and around weedlines. Traditional spinner rigs with a crawler or minnow continue to be effective. More walleye will show up on the main lake structure in the coming weeks or even days.

While most smallmouth bass are done nesting, many remain shallow in 2 to 5 feet of water. Others are further along in the transition, holding in and around the deeper boulders in 5 to 10 feet of water. As always, weed growth and wind make good rock structure better.

​Some crappies continue to be caught on small jigs and slip bobbers in 4 to 6 feet of water. The weeds or a combination of rock structure and weeds are generally best. Other crappies are beginning to school up on the breaklines, points and sunken brush piles.

Like walleye, northern pike are transitioning out to the main lake structure, showing up at the deeper points and reef tops in 12 to 25 foot depths. Walleye anglers report that it is not uncommon for a pike to attack walleye as they are being reeled in. Other pike are still being caught when casting the weed structure, shorelines and points with spoons, spinner baits and larger stick baits. 800-325-5766; www.rainylake.org

Kabetogama

The sun is out and water is warm!  Blueberries and raspberries are starting to ripen. If you search the lake islands, you will find them first. The first major mayfly hatch is over on Lake Kabetogama so fishing should take a turn for the better. The next challenge is the abundance of forage as this year’s minnows are abundant. Water temperatures have risen into the high 70s which will send fish deeper on calm, sunny days.

Last week, 8 to 14 foot depths gave up lots of nice walleye, with live bait rigs and leeches and spinners with half of a crawler producing best. On days with wind and during low light hours, these tactics should continue to be productive. On sunny, calm days, check 20 to 30 feet of water using rigs and leeches. Walleye fishing has also been great at the windblown shorelines and muddy bottom weedlines. Anglers pulling bottom bouncers with a spinner and crawler are having lots of success. On bright days, use orange or chartreuse; on cloudy days, whites and pinks work better. The shallow weedlines on Lake Namakan are beginning to produce as well. Northern pike have been aggressive, responding to large, soft plastics and spinnerbaits worked at the rock piles and rocky shorelines. 800-524-9085; www.kabetogama.com

Ely Area Lakes and Rivers

The walleye bite remains fairly consistent throughout the area. Most of the walleye are coming from 6 to 8 feet of water at the weed beds and windy shorelines. A jig tipped with a leech or half a crawler has been best. Shallow-diving crank baits are also worth trying. A few large walleye are being pulled from the sunken islands on spinner rigs tipped with a leech or crawler, as well as on a jig and leech worked in 12 to 15 feet of water. Blue, pink and gold remain the best colors.

Smallmouth bass fishing remains excellent as fish begin to stage on the edge of the first break. Anglers should continue to work the shoreline, fishing a bit deeper in roughly 10 feet of water for the bigger bass. Topwater fishing remains good early in the morning, but anglers will want to switch to spinner baits, jerk baits or senko rigs as the sun rises. Pink, white and chartreuse remain the top colors. Anglers are having to fight off the northern pike at times.
Crappies remain shallow in the weed beds. Anglers casting a simple jig and twister, close to thick stands of weeds, are catching lots of nice fish. During evening hours, crappies are hitting crappie minnows under a bobber, small crank baits, and jigs and twisters out on the weed edges. White, yellow and pink colors have been working best.

Lake trout fishing has been good, with anglers taking fish on flashy spoons and down riggers trolled through 40 to 80 feet of water. Stick baits trolled with 3 to 4 colors of lead core line out have also produced lake trout.

Northern pike remain very active, but most have been on the smaller side.  Spinnerbaits, buzz baits and suspended jerk baits fished in and around the weed beds have accounted for the majority of pike. Many large pike are now coming from the deep reefs where they are accidentally being caught by walleye anglers. Anglers targeting these fish are having luck with large minnow baits fished right on top of the humps. 800-777-7281; www.ely.org

Grand Rapids Area Lakes

The heat of the summer has kicked in and the muskie bite is heating up! Watch for muskie as they cruise the top of the cabbage weeds. They can also be caught in deeper waters on certain lakes. Many times the pike are suspended, awaiting whitefish and tullibee that may be feeding on bug hatches. The cabbage fish are often the most visible and active. Fast-paced cowgirl buck tails (double bladed) or noisy top water baits can be the key for hot summer muskie fishing. Lakes in the Grand Rapids area to chase muskie include Deer, North Star, Spider and Moose, along with the Mississippi River between the dams. Each of these have great habitat and abundant trophy-sized fish.

Largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing has also been good. Anglers will want to target the outside weedlines for consistent action. For smallmouth bass, use chatter baits and drop shot in areas with a mix of weeds and rocks. For largemouth bass, use swim baits with action tails and plastics over the top of the weeds and around docks. www.visitgrandrapids.com

Northwest Minnesota

Baudette – Lake of the Woods & the Rainy River

It has been an excellent week of summer fishing on the south end of Lake of the Woods. Walleye are responding well to jigging with frozen shiners or leeches. Drifting spinners with crawlers is also working well. The best depths remain 29 to 32 feet of water. The basin is filling with walleye, and crank baits are turning fish.

Anglers are taking a mixed bag of fish from the Rainy River and Four Mile Bay. Spinners and jigs are both working well. Some walleye are coming from the river channel edge of Four Mile Bay. Smallmouth bass are being pulled from the rocky areas, weed beds and bridges.

At the Northwest Angle & Islands Area, a combination of eating-size walleye and slot-sized fish are responding to spinners drifted west of Little Oak. Hammered gold and silver blades remain strong. Some walleye can be found on the structure, while others are holding over the mud. Fishing is still strong for smallmouth bass, large northern pike and muskie. 800-382-FISH; www.lakeofthewoodsmn.com

Walker – Leech Lake

Some days have been good for walleye anglers on Leech Lake, but overall, walleye fishing has been inconsistent now that we’re in the midst of summer. There is still a lot of bait in the water as the yearly bug hatches drag on. Anglers having the most success are trolling crank baits in a perch or crayfish pattern over the 12 to 17 foot flats. Pay attention to your locator and fish the areas where bait is coming up off the bottom. In the evenings, slide up to the shorelines in 7 to 10 feet of water and continue to pull crank baits to catch actively feeding walleye.

Some of the weedlines are still producing some walleye. Pulling spinner rigs tipped with a crawler or leech has been producing walleye, as well as perch, northern pike panfish and bass. Green, yellow and gold spinners or a plain live bait rig are good choices. The cabbage and coon tail weeds in 9 to 15 foot depths are almost certain to produce some sort of action.

Muskie fishing is still a bit slow, but some anglers are starting to turn lookers into biters. Buck tails and jerk baits seem to be the best baits, and the cabbage beds are giving up a few more fish than the rock.

Panfish are being pulled from the cabbage beds on 1/32 ounce jig stipped with a leech, crawler or plastic. Please release the large 9.5 to 10 plus inch fish as they are the prime spawners — the 8 to 9 inches are perfect for a fish fry. 800-833-1118; www.leech-lake.com

Park Rapids

Mid-summer crappie action is in full swing. Crappies can be found schooled in and around the heavy, shallow weed beds in 8 to 12 feet of water. Anglers using 1/16 ounce tube jigs about halfway down along the weed edges or through the weed tops are taking lots of fish. In the middle of the day, these fish can be grouped tight together inside the weeds.

Walleye are being caught on the weed lines and secondary breaks in water ranging from 12 to 25 feet deep. Fast-moving live bait rigs such as a crawler/spinner combination worked along the weed edges will put fish in the boat, along with some really nice bluegills.

Largemouth bass are also schooling on the deep weedlines found on the points or inside turns in depths of 15 to 20 feet. It’s hard to beat a black 7 inch power worm rigged Texas-style. 800-247-0054; www.parkrapids.com

Detroit Lakes

Walleye are holding in 13 to 28 feet of water in Detroit Lakes area lakes. The walleye are shallower on the stained lakes. The clear lakes are giving up walleye at the deeper weed edges. Long bars, extending points and sunken islands are all holding fish. Fish the windswept structure whenever possible. Rigging, jigging, pulling spinners and crank baits, and jigging raps have all turned fish.

Crappies have been roaming the flats in 9 to 13 feet of water, with many relating to the cabbage weeds. Sunfish are active at the weed patches, but some of the bigger bluegill are coming from water as deep as 24 feet off the sharp beaks.

Bass are also relating to the weeds out on the edges of the large flats or extending shoreline points.

Northern pike action remains mostly shallow, but some of the larger pike have come from deeper water off the edges and on the first breaks to deep water and basin areas. Muskie catches have improved over the last week or so with more summerlike temperatures. Fish are active and chasing high-action baits. 800-542-3992; www.visitdetroitlakes.com

Central Region

Otter Tail Area Lakes

Hot summer temperatures have kicked the bass action into high gear!  Lots of presentations, including stick worms on jigs, wacky rigs and swim jigs are turning fish on the deep weed edges on nearly every lake in the county. This is also a great time of year to try some topwater fishing. Frogs fished on top of the slop and in the lily pads will trigger bass.

Even some large bluegills are responding to the topwater lures, but the best way to catch them is by vertically jigging and casting bobbers at the deep weed edges. The points and inside turns at the deep weeds, cabbage and coontail are generally best.

Crappies are heavily related to the cabbage, especially on the main lake humps. Try working tubes over the tops of the cabbage leaves, as well as under deep swim rafts.

The walleye bite seems to be best when the wind blows. Walleye can be found stacked up on the main lake saddles, and at the deep weed edges. Spinner rigs and snells with a half a night crawler fished on a bottom bouncer is a great way to cover water and take your limit. 800-423-4571; www.ottertailcountry.com

Brainerd Area Lakes

Most species are biting in the Brainerd Lakes area! Despite the heat wave, the majority remain fairly shallow.

Walleye can be found in 6 to 20 feet of water on the larger lakes, and in 12 to 25 feet of water on the smaller lakes.  For the most fish, check the green weeds on the points and inside turns. Some fish can also 0be found on the tips of points on the gradual sloping areas.

Panfish remain very active, hitting crawlers and leeches worked in 10-15 feet of water. The largemouth bass are very aggressive in the shallows. Some of the best bites are early in the morning on top water lures.  Northern pike are active and feeding mostly during low light periods at the dense, weed-covered sharp edges. 800-450-7247; www.visitbrainerd.com

Isle/Onamia – Lake Mille Lacs

Late last week, roughly 17 people head out on a night launch on Lake Mille Lacs. The group took lots of large 18 to 20 inch bass, along with roughly 50 walleye. Crayfish-colored lures have been good for the smallmouth. 888-350-2692; www.millelacs.com

Minneapolis-St. Paul Area

Three Rivers Park District – Carver, Hennepin, Ramsey and Scott counties

The Three Rivers Park District offers fishing at 18 parks in the Twin Cities area with a chance to reel in muskie, northern pike, sunfish, bass and walleye. Launch your boat at a lake access site, rent a boat or stay on land as you fish from a pier or on shore. There are also free fishing adventures. Learn more.

Stillwater – St. Croix River

A number of large catfish were pulled from the St. Croix River this week. For most, a 10 pound channel cat is a big cat, and the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers are filled with them. These daytime fish are feeding heavily and they don’t play games when they strike. Fishing for catfish is always fun, especially when the cats are biting like they are right now. 651/351-1717; www.discoverstillwater.com

Southern Minnesota

Lanesboro – Southeast Bluff Country Rivers and Streams

Water temperatures near the springs in the spring fed streams are in the high 50s. The larger streams are in the mid- to upper 60s so it has been really refreshing to wade in the cold water at the end of a hot day.

Some areas did not receive heavy rainfall this week. Streams and rivers roughly 10 miles north and south of I90 had much less rain and not much runoff to spoil the fishing conditions. As always look for the small spring fed streams that don’t get as much runoff and that clear quickly. The North Branch Whitewater and South Branch Root River at Carimona are good examples.

Muddy waters have slowed many hatches but little midges, a few caddis, and an occasional large mayfly are still being seen. The trout fry are growing so larger crank baits and spinners are a more realistic mimic for the large bite items and frogs and toads are dropping into the streams attracting larger fish. The first grasshoppers are also being seen so hopper patterns should be considered as well.

Consider attending the Twin Cities Trout Unlimited Fish Camp at Whitewater State Park, August 2-4. Participants will enjoy fishing, as well as lessons and instruction, camping, children’s activities, snacks and four meals.

For years, the MN DNR has maintained assessable fishing sites in Whitewater State Park, near the Lanesboro Hatchery on Duschee Creek, and at the Lanesboro Park and Dam. Online maps are available.

Check out the DNR’s Stream Flow Report for the most current conditions. Before you go, check out the “Area Highlights” section of the Lanesboro Area Fisheries web page for stream maps. 800-944-2670; www.lanesboro.com

Herbicide applications help reforestation efforts in Remer area

News release comes from the Minnesota DNR: http://news.dnr.state.mn.us/2019/07/16/herbicide-applications-to-help-reforestation-efforts-in-the-remer-area/

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will begin herbicide applications on select state lands to improve reforestation efforts. Applications will begin around August 15 and continue through approximately September 20 on select parcels in the Remer State Forest in the vicinity of the Pine Tree Hunter Walking Trail.

Signs will be posted on all herbicide treatment sites. Adjacent landowners within a quarter mile of the treatment sites have already been notified. Herbicides will not be applied within 100 feet of any waterbody, following DNR herbicide application guidelines.

The DNR plants trees on state lands to reforest harvested areas, provide wildlife habitat, protect watersheds, and maintain healthy forests. Part of the reforestation process involves applying herbicides to the harvested areas prior to or following tree planting.

Herbicides are sprayed on the ground after reforestation to reduce competing woody vegetation.

This gives tree seedlings a better chance to grow and survive. In smaller treatment areas, herbicides are sprayed from the ground.  In large treatment areas, helicopters do aerial spraying using precise GPS-guided mapping. The DNR uses minimal amounts of herbicide only when absolutely necessary. The DNR uses a non-neonicotinoid herbicide that has been proven safe for bees and other pollinators.

This past spring in the DNR’s Deer River work area, the Forestry Division planted more than 14,000 seedlings on 60 acres, and an additional 118 acres were seeded. Statewide, more than 1.9 million seedlings were planted on state forest lands and more than 5,300 acres were seeded this year.

For additional information on sites treated with herbicide in the Deer River work area, contact John Segari at 218-246-8343.

More information about the DNR’s Forestry Division can be found on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/forestry.

DNR seeks input on managing Mille Lacs fishery

Credit to Kirsti Marohn of MPR News for the article: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/07/16/dnr-seeks-input-on-mille-lacs-lake-management

Mille Lacs Lake

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is using acoustic telemetry technology to study the walleye population on Lake Mille Lacs. Researchers launched the study from Shah-bush-kung Bay in Vineland, Minn., in July 2018.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News 2018

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is gathering public input on its first management plan for Lake Mille Lacs.

About two dozen people gathered at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park Tuesday evening to hear about the lake’s changing fish population and share their opinions about how it should be managed.

DNR fisheries chief Tom Heinrich said the agency’s goal is to get input from anglers, business owners and others with an interest in the lake’s fishery. A draft plan is expected to be complete by this fall or winter.

It will be the first such management plan for Mille Lacs, which is co-managed by eight Ojibwe bands that retain fishing rights on the lake. The DNR has completed similar plans for other large Minnesota lakes.

The DNR sets the amount of fish anglers are permitted to harvest each year, using estimates of the number of fish in the lake. In recent years, anglers on Mille Lacs have faced tighter restrictions on when and whether they’re allowed to keep walleye they catch as the DNR has sought to boost the walleye population.

Heinrich said a management plan should help reduce surprise regulations.

“The types of management actions that we’re going to take on the lake are going to be much more predictable than they’ve been in the past,” he said. “Without any really clear guidance, we don’t really know how people want us to manage things.”

Heinrich said there are several factors behind the lake’s changing fishery. Among them is the fact that water clarity on the lake has improved over the past few decades. It began in the 1990s, likely due to sewage treatment improvements.

It happened again after zebra mussels infested the lake in 2005. Increased clarity is a problem for walleye, because the fish prefer low light and cooler water. But zebra mussels are filter feeders: They clear the water and strain out microscopic algae important to the food web.

Beyond walleye, which Mille Lacs has become known for, Heinrich said the lake’s smallmouth bass population has increased, and northern pike also remain plentiful. But yellow perch numbers are very low.

Heinrich said the management plan won’t just focus on the lake’s signature fish.

“We recognize that walleye are the big player on Mille Lacs Lake and probably always will be,” he said. “But this plan is really designed to give us some guidance in how we manage a variety of fish species.”

A similar community meeting was held last week in Brainerd, Minn. The DNR’s third and final meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Indian Mounds Regional Park pavilion in St. Paul.

People who can’t attend one of the meetings can fill out an online questionnaire on the DNR’s website.

 

Zebra mussels confirmed in Hand Lake in Cass County; Upper Cormorant Lake in Becker County

Credit to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for the source: http://news.dnr.state.mn.us/2019/07/11/zebra-mussels-confirmed-in-hand-lake-in-cass-county-upper-cormorant-lake-in-becker-county/

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has confirmed reports of zebra mussels in Hand Lake in Cass County and Upper Cormorant Lake in Becker County. Two smaller lakes and an unnamed wetland connected to Upper Cormorant Lake will also be listed for zebra mussels.b

A Cass County watercraft inspector found a plant with attached zebra mussels on a boat coming from Hand Lake. Divers then found a 1-inch, adult zebra mussel in Hand Lake. The DNR is conducting further analyses to better determine the distribution of zebra mussels in the lake.

DNR divers conducted a search of Upper Cormorant Lake and found seven adult zebra mussels in four locations. Nelson Lake, Middle Cormorant Lake and an unnamed wetland connected to and downstream of Upper Cormorant Lake will also be listed for zebra mussels. The wetland flows into Big Cormorant Lake, where zebra mussels were confirmed in July of 2015.

Whether or not a lake is listed as infested, Minnesota law requires boaters and anglers to:
  • Clean watercraft and trailers of aquatic plants and prohibited invasive species.
  • Drain all water by removing drain plugs and keeping them out during transport.
  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.
Some invasive species are small and difficult to see at the water access. To remove or kill them, take one or more of the following precautions before moving to another waterbody:
  • Spray with high-pressure water.
  • Rinse with very hot water (120 degrees for at least two minutes or 140 degrees for at least 10 seconds).
  • Dry for at least five days.

Zebra mussels can compete with native species for food and habitat, cut the feet of swimmers, reduce the performance of boat motors, and cause expensive damage to water intake pipes.

People should contact an area DNR aquatic invasive species specialist if they think they have found zebra mussels or any other invasive species that has not already been confirmed in a lake.

More information is available at mndnr.gov/ais.

Once-threatened peregrines flying high across Minnesota

Original article written by Euan Kerr at MPR News: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/07/11/peregrines-make-a-remarkable-comeback-in-minnesota

Two adult peregrine falcons pestered climbers Mark Mussell and Cody Benz as they prepared to rappel down the cliff at Shovel Point, near the birds’ nest in Tettegouche State Park. The birds flew by screeching, putting on high-speed aerobatic displays just feet from the climbers’ heads.

It was a remarkable sight, considering the peregrine was wiped out in Minnesota in 1964, a victim of widespread use of the pesticide DDT after World War II.

“In less than 20 years’ time they went from endangered to fully recovered,” said Jackie Fallon, vice chair of field operations for the Midwest Peregrine Society. “And there is no other endangered species program worldwide that has had that amount of success in such a short time period.”

Staff and volunteers at Tettegouche State Park, on Lake Superior’s north shore, just wrapped up their peregrine banding program.

That’s what Mussell and Benz were doing cliffside, temporarily kidnapping a pair of chicks to take them up top to Fallon who would attach bands that would allow them to be tracked over time.

Tettegouche’s interpretive naturalist Kurt Mead enjoys meeting each new batch of peregrine chicks. “It gives me goosebumps every time,” he said. “It does not get old.”

Last year Tettegouche celebrated the 30th anniversary of its first wild peregrine nesting post-recovery. This year there are two peregrine pairs nesting in the park, and possibly three, although Mead said no one had actually located that nest.

Peregrine falcons are the fastest moving living things on the planet. While hunting they can dive at 150 mph.

But they weren’t equipped to deal with DDT, which made its way up the food chain from bugs eaten by small birds, then to the falcons and eagles that consumed the smaller prey.

“It was a wonderful pesticide which did what it was supposed to,” Fallon said. But, “the eggshells became so thin that just the adult birds sitting on the eggs would cause the shells to crack and therefore the birds weren’t able to replace themselves.”

“So by the 1960s peregrines were completely extirpated east of the Mississippi,” she said.

The government banned DDT in 1972, and the next year peregrines made the endangered species list. In 1982 efforts began to reintroduce the peregrine on cliffs along the Mississippi.

In time organizers began releasing birds elsewhere around the state. They included downtown Minneapolis and St Paul, and on the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, all places where Fallon says the tall buildings mimicked cliff habitat.

“And then in 1987 we had our very first successful wild peregrine fledge off of City Center or Multifoods,” Fallon said.

That bird was banded as a chick and named Maude. She headed north to Canada and helped establish a new peregrine colony there.

Releases in northern Minnesota established birds here at Tettegouche, as well as at some iron ore pits in the area.

This is a busy time of year for Fallon, moving between nesting sites around the state, to count and band as many chicks as possible. She estimates between 120 to 135 baby peregrines have been produced this season.

The two newly banded chicks at Tettegouche should be flying off the cliffs and skimming the pristine waters of Lake Superior by the end of this month.

One of the climbers who rappelled down the cliff wore a GoPro video camera on his helmet. During the climb, the camera fell off and into Lake Superior. (See the end of the video to watch the plunge!)

“As soon as his head emerged above the ledge, I noticed the GoPro was gone,” wrote the camera’s owner, photographer Derek Montgomery in an email to MPR News. “Nervously I told myself ‘Don’t worry. He just put it in a bag on his side.’ But then when I approached him after he was topside, he went to retrieve the GoPro and when it wasn’t there the look on his face told me all I needed to know.”

Montgomery immediately thought to ask Christian Dalbec for help. Dalbec is a well-known underwater photographer, and Montgomery saw news reports that he had just reunited a couple with a camera and photos they lost off the Two Harbors breakwater three years ago.

Montgomery sent Dalbec a Facebook message and received a quick response: He would try to find the camera.

“So I went home hopeful it would be found, but not too confident because the lake is big and a GoPro is really tiny,” Montgomery said.

The next day, Dalbec took a boat to the area below the cliff where it was lost. He was able to find it sitting on a ledge about 18 feet down — a lucky break since if it had shifted a few more feet, it would have fallen to an area that was 80 feet deep.

“I was lucky on a lot of fronts that day and extremely thankful for Christian being willing to search for it on such short notice,” Montgomery said.

A peregrine falcon flies over Lake Superior near its nesting site.A peregrine falcon flies over Lake Superior near its nesting site July 1 as climbers retrieve two chicks from its nest at Tettegouche State Park near Silver Bay, Minn. Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Volunteer climber Mark Mussell prepares to descend onto the cliffs.Volunteer climber Mark Mussell prepares to descend onto the cliffs at Tettegouche State Park while a sign warns visitors about a peregrine falcon nesting site in the area. Below Mussell is fellow climber Cody Benz, wearing the blue helmet. Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Ropes supporting two climbers descend off the cliffs toward Lake Superior.Ropes supporting two climbers descend off the cliffs toward Lake Superior July 1 at Tettegouche State Park near Silver Bay, Minn. Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Jackie Fallon applies a band to the leg of a peregrine falcon chick.Kurt Mead, interpretive naturalist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, holds a peregrine falcon chick while Jackie Fallon, vice president of field operations with the Midwest Peregrine Society, applies a band to the chick’s leg. Derek Montgomery for MPR News

A peregrine falcon flies over Lake Superior near its nesting site.A peregrine falcon flies over Lake Superior near its nesting site. Tettegouche State Park has been the site of up to three nesting pairs in any given year, which researchers say is significant. Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Cody Benz lifts a black box containing two peregrine falcon chicks.Volunteer climber Cody Benz lifts a black box containing two peregrine falcon chicks. Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Kurt Mead holds a chick while Jackie Fallon applies a band to its leg.Kurt Mead (left) holds a peregrine falcon chick while Jackie Fallon (right) applies a band to the chick’s leg. Bands cannot be applied if the chicks are younger than 14 days old and they try to avoid banding chicks older than 22 or 23 days old. Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Erin Hall holds a rope for climbers Mark Mussell and Cody Benz.Erin Hall, a naturalist intern at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, holds a rope for climbers Mark Mussell and Cody Benz (not pictured because they were on the cliffs). Derek Montgomery for MPR News

A sign warns visitors about a peregrine falcon nesting site in the area.Volunteer climber Cody Benz prepares to descend onto the cliffs at Tettegouche State Park while a sign warns visitors about a peregrine falcon nesting site. Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Two peregrine falcon chicks rest on the ground after getting banded.Two peregrine falcon chicks rest on the ground after researchers placed bands on them. The banding is part of an ongoing effort to monitor the peregrine falcons, which had disappeared from the region by the mid 1960s due to the pesticide DDT. Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Birding Update

Credit to Explore Minnesota for this Birding Update.

Trumpeter swans with cygnets / Travis Novitsky

July Nature Notes

This is a special time of year when abundant warm and sunny days are enhanced by the sights and sounds of birds with their fledglings. Birders and non-birders alike are delighted by the sight of common loon parents with chicks on their backs. While loon chicks can swim just after hatching, they usually ride on their parents’ backs where they are most safe. Listen for the distinctive calls echoing across large Minnesota lakes. Haunting wails are used to communicate and relay location, and the laughter-like tremolos are used as an alarm call and to defend territory. Hear these and other calls at All About Birds’ Common Loon Sounds.


Common loon with chick / Don Dammert

Minnesota lakes, rivers and wetlands offer the sights and sounds of many waterbird species and their young. Look and listen for ducksgrebesswansgeesemergansersherons and egrets. Also enjoy the interesting antics of the American white pelican. These graceful fliers work together to corral fish into the shallows of southern and western Minnesota’s prairie pothole lakes. Some of the better locations to view pelicans are within the Western Minnesota Prairie Waters region such as the spillway on Marsh Lake near Appleton, the dam near Watson and the Minnesota River dam in Granite Falls.


Great blue heron / Liz Stanley

If you find yourself near a floodplain forest (low-lying areas at the bottom of river valleys), look upward and scan the tree canopies for rookeries where great blue herons, great egrets and double-crested cormorants nest. The Friends of the Mississippi River explain more about rookeries and great blue herons at Now Showing at a Rookery Near You.


Little blue heron / David Cahlander

Consider renting a row boat, canoe or kayak to get close-up views of shorebirds, waterfowl and wading birds. This is an excellent way to introduce a child to birding. Explore Minnesota offers a list of businesses and sites that offer boat rental. For watercraft rental at Minnesota’s state and regional parks, check out Minnesota’s Great Outdoors.


Green heron / Al Ferber

Did You Know?

Each summer, following nesting season, most waterfowl lose and replace their feathers. During this molting process, ducks, geese and other waterfowl species are unable to fly. They are also much more vulnerable. But towards the end of July, these birds will be able to fly once again. This is also when their young will be attempting to fly for the first time.


Great egret / Stanley Adrian

While the fall migration seems a long way off, a few shorebird species are already heading to wintering grounds in Central and South America. Some of the earliest species to migrate include lesser yellowlegs, short-billed dowitchers, least sandpipers, solitary sandpipers and pectoral sandpipers. Many of these birds have completed their short nesting period and their young are now self-sufficient. A second migration occurs in September when the young begin their journeys south. To view these early migrants, check the shallow wetlands and mudflats.


Roosting egrets / Liz Stanley

According to The Birding Wire’s Water Attracts All Birds, the best way to draw a variety of birds to your backyard is to provide a reliable source of water. Not only do birds need a consistent source of water to drink from, they need water to maintain healthy feathers. Partially filled bird baths offer a supply of shallow water so all birds, including smaller bird species such as finches and warblers, can drink and bathe. Try to place your birdbath in a shady area near trees and/or shrubs to keep the water cooler on hot summer days and to provide the birds an easy escape if threatened.


American white pelican / John Morrison

Birding Events and Programs

July 6, 13, 20 & 27, Ely
Birding at Bear Head 
Enjoy a guided walk to listen and look for the variety of bird species. A limited number of binoculars will be available for free checkout — please bring your own if possible. Insect repellent is recommended. Bear Head Lake State Park. 218-235-2520


Swans in a row / Wayne Bartz

July 10-24, Minneapolis
Bird Watching: Summertime Songbirds
Get up with the birds during this Wednesday morning series to discover what to look for when identifying birds in the field. Learn about bird songs, calls and other behaviors while strolling through prairie, woodland and along the river with a naturalist and keeping eyes and ears open for our feathered friends. Binoculars available. Coffee, tea and treats provided. Kroening Interpretive Center, part of North Mississippi Regional Park, at 4900 Mississippi Court. 612-230-6400


Canada geese and goslings / David Cahlander

July 13, Altura
Live Eagle Program
Want to see a live bald eagle up close? Staff from the National Eagle Center in Wabasha will be at Whitewater to share the tremendous comeback story of our national bird. They will introduce the bald eagle’s life history and why the Mississippi River and the blufflands are so important to the eagle’s survival. Whitewater State Park. 507-312-2300


Western grebe / Dan Tallman

July 13, Marine on St. Croix
Bird Nest Mystery
Head to the nature station for a chance to see and hear some of the incredible feathered creatures that live at William O’Brien State Park. A naturalist will take you on a journey into the secret lives of these mysterious animals. Binoculars provided. William O’Brien State Park. 651-539-4986


Female hooded merganser / Danielle Porter Born Photography

July 18, Minneapolis
Nightime Nature Fun
Join park ranger Sharon Stiteler and entomologist Jessica Miller as they use black lights and sheets to see what moths and insects visit Coldwater Spring at night. Also look and listen for other night active critters like deer, owls, raccoons or even coyotes. Take the trail from the main entrance at Coldwater toward the dog park. Head toward the big lights. Coldwater Spring, part of the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area. 651-291-8164


Male hooded merganser / Danielle Porter Born Photography

July 20, Meadowlands
Bog BioBlitz: Bog to Ridge BioBlitz VII
Friends of Sax-Zim Bog have made this a populra annual summer event. In 2018, more than 40 folks went in the field to learn about birds, orchids, butterflies, dragonflies, spiders, moths, wildflowers, fish and bog ecology. Over 400 species were recorded on that single day in July! Sax-Zim Bog. 218-341-3350


Cormorants at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge / Cristine Nicholson

July 20, Taylors Falls
Guess That Bird: Investigation Station
Minnesota is filled with a variety of birds of all colors, shapes and sizes. How well do you think you know them? Can you guess based on their looks or their songs? Some of them even sing their own name. Drop by the investigation station near the visitor center and test your skills with a naturalist. Interstate State Park. 651-465-5711


Lesser yellowlegs / David Cahlander

July 20, Roseville
Birds and Trees
Join the staff at Langton Lake Park for a stroll to observe and identify birds and trees, and consider their interactions. Meet at the parking lot on County Road C2 at the west side of the lake. Langton Lake Park. 651-636-6475

Least sandpiper / Larry Sirvio

July 23, Bloomington
Bass Ponds Bird Walk 
Attend a bird walk with Craig Mandel, Volunteer Refuge Naturalist, and search the Bass Ponds area for birds that call the Refuge home for the summer. Birders of all skill levels are welcome on these walks. Bring along your binoculars and favorite field guide. Preregistration is not required. For a map of the location and information on the numerous sites within the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge to view birds, check out Birding Spots. Bass Ponds at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. 952-240-7647


Solitary sandpiper / Bruce Lees

July 27, Taylors Falls
Who Soars Here?: Investigation Station
Look up above the river and you’ll see a variety of birds soaring in search of food. Who are these birds. Drop by this ongoing investigation station to find out. Interstate State Park. 651-465-5711


Pectoral sandpiper / Larry Sirvio

Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas Program Biodiversity

Credit to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for their report: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/snap/biodiversity.html

Prairie wildflowers at Mound Prairie SNA with wooded bluffland landscape in the background

Determining the best candidates for Natural Area protection is a complex process. Natural area conservation planning focuses on areas of high biodiversity. We use the following tools, concepts and resources to evaluate and manage sites.

The value of biodiversity (the variety of life and its processes)

Minnesota’s biodiversity has evolved over millennia into complex ecosystems. A myriad of species interact with each other and environmental factors such as soils, topography, hydrology and climate within these ecosystems.

Preserving biodiversity has benefits (ecosystem services) such as:

  • Maintaining healthy, stable plant and animal populations
  • Protecting genetic diversity
  • Protecting water and soil resources
  • Filtering pollution and nutrient recycling
  • Contributing to climate stability and carbon storage
  • Recovering from catastrophic events
  • Providing sources for food, medicine and other products
  • Research, education and monitoring
  • Recreation, tourism and inspiration

In areas where biodiversity is threatened, losing species can affect the ecosystem’s ability to function properly and provide these services. Maintaining biodiversity reduces voids and the entire ecosystem maintains a higher degree of resilience.

Conservation planning for natural areas focuses on areas of high biodiversity as well as habitats for rare species.

Resilience as a strategy

Resilience is the capacity of an ecosystem to cope with disturbance. Resilience is critical to reducing climate change and fragmentation from land development. As climate change affects ecosystems they will face increasing vulnerability. An effective strategy at easing these negative impacts is to build resilience into native communities by:

  • Creating large protected areas and corridors to provide pathways for species to migrate to more suitable habitats
  • Preserving a greater variety of habitats for desirable species

The SNA program is using both strategies for resilience to maintain Minnesota’s biodiversity.

Biodiversity significance rankings

Biodiversity significance is a ranking based on the size and condition of native plant communities and how they fit in an ecological landscape. It also includes the presence or absence of rare species populations. The rankings are ‘outstanding’, ‘high’, ‘moderate’ and ‘below’. Ecologists with the Minnesota Biological Survey determine this status. This ranking is used to help prioritize Natural Area protection efforts.

Minnesota’s Ecological Classification System (ECS)

Ecological landscape classifications are used to identify, describe, and map progressively smaller areas of land with increasingly uniform ecological features. Minnesota’s Ecological Classification System (ECS) uses biotic and environmental factors, including climate, geology, topography, soils, hydrology and vegetation.

The largest units of the ECS are provinces and are defined primarily by climate. Minnesota has four provinces. Provinces are divided into 10 sections based on glacial deposits, topography and plant distributions. The 26 subsections of the ECS are further refined by local vegetation, especially trees, among other factors. Individual Scientific and Natural Areas note the subsection in which they are located. Native plant communities are a finer grading of the classification system.

Minnesota’s Native Plant Communities

Local groupings of trees, shrubs, grasses and forbs that interact with each other and their environment are called native plant communities and are characterized by the kinds and quantities of species they contain. They form recognizable units, such as oak savannas, pine forests, cattail marshes and other communities that tend to repeat over space and time.

Plant communities are subject to change. They form in response to climate and nutrients, as well as catastrophic flooding and fires. In the absence of change, they can be fairly stable over time. However they can also develop into something complete new. For example, a beaver dam can cause significant flooding and as a result, over a period of time, a new community will form in the flooded area. Places where native species have been largely replaced are no longer considered native plant communities.

Native plant communities serve as the basis for evaluating Scientific and Natural Area priorities. The Minnesota Biological Survey has identified, surveyed, and prioritized communities and rare species for research and conservation. Minnesota’s Native Plant Community Classification serves as a standard for ecologists to identify and assess communities. Some individual Scientific and Natural Areas have detail maps showing their native plant communities

Minnesota’s Rare Species

Rare species, are defined under Minnesota law as endangered, threatened, or of special concern. The DNR identifies which species are at greatest risk of disappearance. The law restricts harming those species that are designated as endangered or threatened. Natural Areas protect critical habitat for these rare species.

Pollinator-friendly solar energy becomes the norm in Minnesota

Credit to Elizabeth Dunbar at MPR News for the article, and to Evan Frost for the photograph of the solar panels. Original article link:  https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/06/20/pollinatorfriendly-solar-energy-becomes-the-norm-in-minnesota

The environmental benefits of Connexus Energy’s solar-plus-storage project are obvious enough, but this time of year, you’ll notice something more: prairie grasses and flowers planted under and around the sea of solar panels.

Pollinator-friendly plantings at large solar energy sites have become common in Minnesota in recent years. Not only do they provide habitat for the bee and butterfly populations people have been concerned about, but they also promote soil health and probably even boost the solar panels’ electricity output on warm days.

The National Renewable Energy Lab is using the Ramsey Renewable Station and a couple dozen other sites around the country to test that.

“Their hypothesis is that thicker vegetation under and around solar panels creates a cooler microclimate, which actually generates more electricity from the panels,” said Rob Davis, who directs the Center for Pollinators in Energy at the Minnesota advocacy group Fresh Energy.

The group has promoted pollinator plantings at solar sites for several years. It’s now become mainstream, with the state’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, saying it will require solar developers to include plans for plantings at proposed sites. The practice is common in the U.K., and Connexus was the first to try it in Minnesota with a small solar array at its headquarters in 2014, Davis said.

The project would have been covered with gravel, but Connexus staff intervened. In the years since the pollinator habitat was planted there, pictures of the site has been featured in publications such as National Geographic and Martha Stewart Living, Davis said.

Recently, researchers have found bee and butterfly populations are declining — a trend linked to disease, parasites, decreased biodiversity, agricultural practices such as row-cropping and pesticide use, and climate change.

In some parts of the world, the problem is so serious that work crews pollinate crops by hand.

“There’s so many pollinator-dependent crops that we all love and enjoy — blueberries and apples — but every single apple flower needs to be visited two to three times by a bee,” Davis said.

During a Connexus Energy open house on Wednesday, adults and kids planted milkweed along the fence line at the new solar-plus-storage facility in Ramsey.

“It’s neat to hear that the land is good for more than just the solar panels,” said Michelle Austin-Dehn, of Ramsey, who brought her two sons to the event in the family’s electric car. Last year, she said, the kids grew milkweed and collected caterpillars. They also compost and try to use environmentally friendly products.

“It’s important,” she said. “It’s one big planet and we’re all connected.”

Patricia Rosales was there with some of her English language students from Otsego Elementary, who learned about the importance of pollinators in school.

“It’s their future, and they know if something happens to bees, what would happen, if we didn’t have fruits and vegetables and how the grocery store would look without all the things that are pollinated by bees,” Rosales said.

Under a tent next to the Ramsey Renewable Station, Connexus CEO Greg Ridderbusch described the project to a few dozen people — many of them members of the electric cooperative.

“We all know we need to get to higher and higher levels of carbon-free electricity on the grid, he said, “so our strategy is, if we can find projects that will both save us money and green the electricity that we’re adding to the grid, those are good projects.”

Ridderbusch added on sunny days, power from the panels costs less than power from the electricity grid. In addition, the power saved in the batteries helps the co-op rely less on the grid at times when wholesale electricity is most expensive — at peak times, like when everybody gets home from work and school and turns on the air conditioning.

“Over the next 25 years, the plantings that will be here will improve the soil, and it will be a habitat for pollinators — we actually have a farm next door,” Ridderbusch said.

That farm grows pumpkins and melons. Those plants, plus the pollinator habitat planted alongside the panels make it a good spot to make honey. Connexus is working with Minneapolis-based Bare Honey, which has placed bee hives on the site.