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Izaak Walton League of America

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  • 07/25/2020 2:55 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Louise Segreto

    More tethered to home during this Covid-19 Pandemic, I have been out in the field doing daily nature observations.  I find comfort in the natural rhythms, sounds and sights of nature.  Perhaps you do too?  Here are some tips from years of trail walking and bushwacking to see more on your outdoor ramblings:

    SLOW DOWN.  Walk quietly and wear soft shoes that minimize noise. Think moccasins or very soft soled shoes. Stop periodically, sit quietly and listen.  You will be amazed about how many critters will come to check you out. And, you will notice things you would likely have missed had you rushed.

    LEAVE  FIDO  HOME.  This is a really hard one for me.  I have two dogs, a Newf and Aussie, that give me the betrayed “sad eye” when I head out.  But, dogs are distracting in the field. They scare and chase wild critters.  Marching through the woods with a “large predator,” AKA your dog, even if he/she is trained well, is at best problematic for nature sightings.

    THINK HABITAT. Consciously think about what habitat you are headed to and what you might see. I often leave home with an intent to look for a specific species or happening that I know may be present where I am walking that day. And, while frequently I will not find what I originally set out to see, I am always pleasantly surprised to stumble upon something wonderfully unexpected!

    VARY THE TIME OF DAY that you go out into the field. There is a lot going on in nature not only during dawn and dusk, but also at night.  Yes, I know mosquitos and gnats in Minnesota are annoying at night.  So, find an insect repellent that works for you. You will be rewarded with night calls, starry skies, and after-hours happenings that you have been missing.

    VISIT THE SAME AREA FREQUENTLY especially in the Spring and Fall.  What you see unfold over the course of several weeks or months can be amazing.  There is nothing more beautiful than watching woodland patches of spring ephemerals bloom over several weeks, disappearing  after the tree canopy fills in and casts them in shade.  Or, seeing prairie flowers taking their turns blooming over the course of several months at a nearby restored prairie.  Knowing a place intimately, helps you know where to look and gives you a sense of phenological/seasonal changes.

    USE TECHNOLOGY as it suits you. I have a love/hate relationship with technology.  It tends to take me out of the moment unless I know how to use it without futzing around.  However, I always have my iPhone handy for photos, recordings and reference.  Experiment with some phone apps that you can take into the field.  I use these three:  “PictureThis”  for plant, shrub and tree identifications (free trial); “Audubon Bird Guide”, been using for years, but there are several other bird apps you might check out and “iNaturalist” a citizen science phone app that helps with identification with whatever you find in the field, let’s you document their locations and create a list, and connects you to other naturalists.  (More about phone apps in a future article.)

    I am headed out into the field after I finish editing this article!  Here’s what I have in my back pack ready to go when I dash out the door:

    • *Water * Insect Repellent* Sun Block *Binocs *Small Journal and 2 Mechanical Pencils *Several Plastic Zip Lock Bags *Sunglasses *Small Magnifying Glass *Field Guide to  Mushrooms *Swiss Army Knife *Benadryl Spray *First Aid Kit *Phone/Camera
    • Lastly, sharing what you find in the field with others, helps all of us stay more connected with our natural world!  Knowing about the fungi, plants, birds and animals that live in your community is the first step towards advocating towards ensuring that they be here for our children and grandchildren.  Have you seen something cool?  Let me know and we may share on Facebook, Instagram, or our newsletter.

  • 06/21/2020 6:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Louise Segreto.  Art by Ricardo Levins Morales

    The tragically unjust death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month has raised a global consciousness about equity and justice. In the wake of his death, even environmental/conservation organizations like our Bush Lake Chapter Izaak Walton League have stepped back to examine what “Environmental Equity” and “Environmental Justice” mean and should look like as we move forward.

    While these are not new terms, they are often confused and incorrectly used interchangeably. The fundamental conceptual principle is that we are all entitled, despite who we are, what color we happen to be, how much money we make, how old we are, or any other demographic we can be identified as belonging, to safe drinking water, healthy air quality, and a clean environment. These environmental entitlements are basic human rights. And, the Izaak Walton League (“IWL”) has been proudly involved in Environmental Equity issues and Environmental Justice long before these terms were even used. The IWL has been doing Environmental Justice work years before it came to be referred to as a social movement.

    What is the difference between “Environmental Equity” and “Environmental Justice”?

    “Environmental Equity” refers to how environmental risks are distributed across diverse population groups and how our policies create or respond to the equitable or unequal distribution of environmental risk. There are many different types of equity, but in recent months we have been focused on inequities that affect racial minorities and low-income populations. Similarly, environmental risks can be wide ranging from broader environmental disasters such as flooding, wildfires, mudslides caused by climate change to more localized environmental hazards such as contaminated water from industrial agriculture or factory effluent pollution, to changes in hunting and fishing regulations that disproportionately affect a disadvantaged northern Minnesota Native American Tribe. The simple fact of the matter is that people that lack economic power or political clout usually bear the brunt of carrying the risks of environmental downsides associated with industrial and capitalistic “progress”.

    The term “Environmental Justice” refers to the actions and activism necessary to highlight the inequalities in environmental risk distribution across populations and pave the way to leveling the playing field in achieving environmental equity. Environmental Justice activism can take many forms. For example, advocating for proper oversight and review of Federal, State and local agencies, ensuring proper permitting and licensing, and advocating for changes in rules, regulations and statutes are different strategies. Ideally, Environmental Equity is the outcome of Environmental Justice.

    But, striving for Environmental Equity & Environmental Justice are just lofty aspirational words, unless we really focus on these concepts and integrate them into every aspect of our lives and work. As members of the Bush Lake Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, let us all pause and think what each of us might do to contribute to achieving Environmental Equity through our work in Environmental Justice today and in years to come.

  • 06/21/2020 6:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by John Crampton

    The Bush Lake Izaak Walton League’s 2020 Watershed and Climate Summit on Sat. March 7th at Normandale College was a terrific success.  Below are descriptions and links to the videos of the presentations.

    Grant & Dawn Breitkreutz of Stoney Creek Farm near Redwood Falls presented Growing a Resilient Farm & Ranch Ecosystem, about using cover crops, rotational grazing and no-till to restore the health of their soils, sequester carbon and limit storm water run-off while dramatically cutting costs.


    Holly Hatlewick of the Renville County Soil and Water Conservation District did a Soil Health Demonstration of how healthy soils work to hold nutrients, sequester carbon, and prevent run-off and flooding.


    Duane Hovorka, Agriculture Program Director, National Izaak Walton League talked about Leveraging Federal Dollars to Promote Soil Health in Minnesota.


    All the morning presenters held a free-wheeling Q and A on the basics of soil health and regenerative farming as a solution to flooding, soil loss and climate change. Discussion: How Functioning Ecosystems Are Providing Climate Solutions


    Lissa Pawlisch of CERTs (Clean Energy Resource Teams) talked about the explosive growth of Renewable Energy in Minnesota including many examples form farming and grazing operations statewide.


    Jukka Kukkonen of the MN EV Owners Association and Switch2Electric charted the dramatic growth of Electric Vehicles, EV Chargers and Clean Car Standards in our state.


    The session wrapped up with presentations by Chris Conry of the 100% Campaign and Rep. Patty Acomb (D-Minnetonka) of the MN House Climate Caucus on the drive to pass 100% Clean Energy in Minnesota by 2050 in the 2020 or 2021 Minnesota Legislature. This crucial effort has been stalled by the COVID-19 Pandemic.


    Thanks to our partners at CURE (Clean Up Our River Environment) and the Minnesota Soil Health Coalition. Thanks to the Bush Lake volunteers including Jill Crafton, John Crampton, Paul Erdmann, Ben Johnson, Rick Wheeler, Paul Raymaker, John Servais, Jim Roen, Pdon Pinkham, Gregg Thompson and Patrick O’Leary. You were awesome! A special thanks to all of our presenters and to everyone that attended.

    The Bush Lake Ikes plan to work with other chapter and environmental groups around the state to put on more in-depth education in all areas of agriculture, timber, mining, renewable energy, clean cars and civic/corporate sustainability.  

  • 05/15/2020 9:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Louise Segreto, Chapter Historian

    Editorials can be powerful tools for environmental advocacy. We all have strong opinions on environmental issues and policy, but when was the last time you wrote an editorial to a newspaper or on-line news service and got it published? Now is the time to step out of your comfort zone on a topic or issue that you are impassioned about and spark a conversation in a public forum.

    Here are 7 tips for writing editorials from Andrew Rosenthal, former New York Times Editorial Page Editor from 1997-2016:

    1. Take a Clear Position. Choose an issue/topic that you have a strong opinion about. Know what you want to say and say it. Be bold in your declaration. You are stating your opinion and trying to persuade others to see the issue from your perspective. Capture your readers’ interest by opening with something that makes them want to read more. Be timely and current with the topic you chose to write about.

    2. Be Concise. Laser in on what you want to get out. Get rid of fluff, useless information and archaic language. Anticipate “yeah but” arguments and preemptively refute them. Limit your editorial to 500 words or less. Consider your audience in crafting your writing. Remember that most people’s attention spans are very short. Further, there is limited space allocated to an editorial page.

    3. Either Propose a Solution to a Specific Problem or Express a Clear Opinion to an Issue. These are the two most published types of editorials.

    4. Research Your Facts. You must prove up your claims and position with credible sources. Triple check your facts. There is nothing that will undermine your writing more than facts that are wrong.

    5. Good Writing. Editorials do not need to be in overly formal language, but there is no excuse for poor grammar, misspelling, run-on sentences, or misused punctuation. Do not use slang. Use examples and analogies to support your position. And, avoid writing in the first person; try not to use “I” in stating your opinion.

    6. Get an Editor. Every writer needs an editor. Give your editorial to someone you trust to read. Take their suggestions and criticisms to heart.

    7. Be Prepared for a Response. A well-thought-out editorial is bound to solicit a response and discussion. So, be ready to defend your position in a respectful and positive way. There is never a reason to be rude. And, insults are counter-productive and not at all persuasive.

    The biggest challenge of writing a great editorial is compressing your thoughts into a persuasive argument that others can easily understand. Editorial writing is not for shrinking violets! Most editorial editors require that writers identify themselves by name and provide address and contact information. And, depending on the publication, you may or may not have the ability to submit an image or a headline for your editorial.

    The next time you find yourself pontificating to your friends and family about an environmental or climate change related issue, instead consider sitting down and writing an editorial. Well-reasoned and respectful discussions about how to solve complex environmental problems that confront our world are the first step towards solving them. Why not write an editorial and be part of the solution? Not ready to write an editorial? Contact your elected representatives on current important issues that are important to you. They are there for you and need to hear from their constituents.

  • 02/16/2020 4:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    *This page will be updated as new items are added.  Please check back regularly.*

    Enter Comments by Clicking Here

    Bloomington is blessed with many parks and open spaces. They City is creating a new Master Plan for the parks. The purpose of the Park System Master Plan is to establish a clear, 20-year vision for the Bloomington park, trail, recreation, and open space systems. There are nearly 9,000 acres of parkland and open space in Bloomington, of which 3,882 acres are City-owned. Nearly 36% of the City’s 38.3 square miles is parkland or open space. 

    The Bush Lake Chapter will be advocating for the following.  If you support these items, click on the link above and send in your comments:

    Parks and Open Space in General

    Overall, the City needs to provide more funding for restoration and wildlife habitat. Given all of our parks and open spaces, wouldn't it be great if we had a Natural Resources Manager to oversee all of this, and paid staff committed to natural resources, similar to what Minnetonka and other cities have?  The City needs to provide funding for ecological restoration and maintenance. There's also many areas of turf that are not needed/not used that could be converted to habitat. 

    Bush Lake Area

    Bush Lake and its surrounding lands and waters are still in good shape, others need a lot of work.  The area is a critically important piece of habitat given its location by Hyland and Tierney's Woods and Anderson Lake. We have documented some rare species in the area- the endangered rusty patched bumblebee, state threatened kittentails, as well as prairie mimosa (Illinois bundleflower, possibly a Hennepin County record), American lotus, and red headed woodpecker to name a few.

    Bush Lake is threatened by the spread of invasive species such as Eurasian water milfoil, curly leaf pondweed, and hybrid and narrow-leaved cattail.  More should be done to manage these species and to prevent the introduction of zebra mussels into the lake.

    The area north of the Chapter and East Bay pond is former oak savanna habitat with several ponds scattered throughout and trails running through it.  This 17 acres of City land is overrun with buckthorn.  The City should seek grants and partner with the Bush Lake Chapter Izaak Walton League to restore this area for wildlife and to increase the area's conservation corridor.

    The City should create better turtle nesting habitat, both on the public beach as well as on the west side of Bush Lake.  Three Rivers Park District has done similar work in parks they manage.  

    The City and Watershed District need to improve the maintenance that is being done around the Bush Lake vegetative buffer in order to control invasive plants, expand native plants, improve aesthetics and to protect water quality.

    Ikes Creek and Kelly Farm

    Did you know a coldwater stream comes bubbling out of the ground, not far from the Mall of America?  And thanks to the Izaak Walton League and others, it is the only stream left in Hennepin County known to support trout.  Officially called "Unnamed Creek" is has been known as Ikes Creek since the 1940s when Ike volunteers reared fish in the nearby Bass Ponds to repopulate area lakes and rivers with game fish that had been lost to pollution, over-fishing, and industrialization. 

    Several years ago, the City, Great River Greening, and volunteers did restoration work in the area- removing buckthorn and seeding native species.  Little to no follow up was done, and the area quickly reverted to buckthorn, garlic mustard, and other invasive species.  Maintenance is critical the first 3-5 years after restoration to manage the invasive seedbank and let natives establish. A 5-10 year management plan that focuses on this unique resource should be created and enacted.  Collaborate/partner with the USFWS.

    Nearby, the last farm in Bloomington still operates.  This is also the largest remaining open space within the City.  It is currently for sale. Should the property sell, the City should consider preserving at least a portion of the area as a City park- starting with the area closest to the bluff and National Wildlife Refuge.  Preserving land in this highly developed area will be important for both people and wildlife in the future.

    Normandale Lake area

    Lots of money and attention has been focused on Normandale Lake the last few years- with a City and Watershed project that brought down the lake in an attempt to improve the water quality and aquatic vegetation in this once a wetland-now shallow lake.  Little to no attention is paid to the land surrounding the lake which is overrun by invasive species or is turf grass.  Hundreds of people walk around the lake daily.  It could be a great example of pollinator and wildlife habitat in an urban area.  Buckthorn was removed from areas north of the lake a few years ago, but again- little to no maintenance was done and it is reverting to buckthorn.  The City and Watershed District should consider partnering on restoring the land around Normandale lake, for both people and wildlife. 

  • 12/01/2019 11:23 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Louise Segreto

    Looking across Burntside Lake from Sigurd Olson’s weathered wood cabin at “Listening Point”, located just outside of Ely, I think about the fate of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in light of northern Minnesota’s most recent threat: Copper-Sulfide Ore Mining. What would Sig Olson say about opening the door to copper-sulfide mining? No doubt, he would vehemently oppose it, and work tirelessly to educate us about why copper-sulfide mining would be a catastrophic mistake, not only for the Boundary Waters, but for all of Minnesota.

    Advocacy work to protect the Boundary Waters has been a long road of hard-fought successive battles. The first fight, undertaken by the newly formed Izaak Walton League (“IWL”) in the 1920s, was to halt the construction of roads through the area. Since then, the IWL, joined by many others, have continued for almost 100 years to fight for protections against: logging, damming, air traffic, private property ownership, cell tower construction, snowmobiling and motorboating. The IWL has always been at the head of the charge to protect the Boundary Waters. Herculean efforts of IWL leaders such as Bud Heinselman, Raymond Haik, Wes Libbey and Dave Zentner, to name just a few, are legendary. Finally, in 1978- success! The Boundary Waters was declared a Wilderness Area under the federal Wilderness Act.

    But, despite the Boundary Waters being a federally protected Wilderness Area, this alone is not enough to put an immediate halt to the newest threat of copper-sulfide mining. What makes this threat more difficult to fend off, is that both proposed mine locations lie outside of the boundaries of the designated BWCAW. The Twin Metals site is in the Rainy River Watershed, a sub-watershed of the greater Boundary Waters’ Watershed; and the Poly Met site is located just south of Babbitt in the St. Louis River Watershed which flows ultimately into Lake Superior.

    Geographical arguments aside, both proposed mining operations nevertheless pose a serious threat to the clean waters of Minnesota. So, why are we opening the door to copper-sulfide mining? Copper-sulfide mines are not like iron ore mining. Vast piles of waste rock are produced in copper-sulfide mining, because of the extremely low percentage of copper contained in the ore. When rain falls on sulfide ore waste, it produces sulfuric acid, which is the same as battery acid. Making matters worse, sulfuric acid leaches out heavy metals such as mercury, lead and arsenic. Because of the unique hydrology of the Boundary Waters, there is a high risk that contaminated water will infiltrate into its watershed and Lake Superior. Furthermore, there is the real risk of tailing wastewater ponding areas that can fail over time and contaminate lakes, rivers and groundwater. If these copper-sulfide mines are allowed to proceed, they will pave the way to other mining operations in the region. Hundreds of prospecting permits have already been filed waiting on the decisions in the Twin Metals and Poly Met cases.

    Combine all of this with the fact that there has never been a copper-sulfide mine anywhere that did not pollute surrounding waters. Throw into this toxic mix that both mining operation proposals are largely owned by thinly capitalized foreign national conglomerates who cannot offer sufficient financial assurances for safeguarding the mine areas after they are pillaged and exhausted. We already know that the major owners behind both mines are notorious for their dismal track records of environmental degradation and corruption. Sig Olson would be outraged and demand answers to how these mining proposals ever got as far as they have!

    The BWCAW is the most frequently visited wilderness area in the U.S. It is Minnesota’s crown jewel. All Minnesota residents have a stake in the future of the BWCA. For that matter, the Boundary Waters are public lands and belong to every Minnesotan. How we manage and protect our public lands should not be dictated by local interests. Especially in light of the fact that mining has never proven in the past to be the solution to northern Minnesota’s economic health.

    The IWL and other environmental groups are fighting back. The Minnesota IWL has signed on as a Plaintiff with the Minnesota Environmental Partnership (“MEP”) to challenge the Department of Interior’s reinstatement of Twin Metals’ mineral leases. Another suit is pending in the Minnesota Court of Appeals brought by MEP and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to reverse Poly Met Minings’ permits to mine. Until a final decision in this appeal, the DNR permits to Poly Met are temporarily on hold. Additionally, the Friends of the Boundary Waters has challenged the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s recent cancellation of a Forest Study that had placed a 20-year moratorium on mineral exploration in the watershed of the Superior National Forest.

    As this litigation drags on, it is easy to lose track of what is going on and get confused by the technical arguments upon which these cases will pivot.

    A great book which provides a detailed account of what it took to gain Wilderness status for the Boundary Waters:

    “Troubled Waters-The Fight for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness” by Kevin Proescholdt, Rip Rapson and Miron L. Heinselman, published by North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc. (1995) 324pp

    Contact your legislators and Senators Amy Klobuchar & Tina Smith, and Governor Tim Walz and let them know that you oppose copper sulfide mining in northern Minnesota and explain why.

    Do your best to stay informed. For further background and updates, check out:

    Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness @ www.friends-BWCA.org

    Save the Boundary Waters @ www.savetheboundarywaters.org

    Photo courtesy Dave Freeman, Save the Boundary Waters

  • 11/01/2019 11:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Since 2017 we have been giving out awards to our members and others for their outstanding contributions to the Chapter and conservation.  Below is a list of the awards and award winners.

    Chapter Awards 2020

    1) Chapter Volunteer of the Year Award- for member with outstanding contributions to the chapter in 2020.

    Duayne Wincell, with help from his wife Cindy, spent numerous hours repairing the Chapter’s informational kiosks by constructing new roofs for them. He donated all his time, materials, labor, and travel costs. This was a significant donation and contribution by Duayne and Cindy. The kiosks look better than ever, and Duayne plans to continue improving them. Duayne and Cindy are long time members of the Chapter, and frequently attend our events and support the Chapter. In the past, Duayne made some pollinator houses for the Chapter and has helped with other Chapter improvement and activities, such as the canoe race. He is also the undefeated (in modern times) Annual Canoe Race champion. Due to Covid, we are not having the canoe race this year- so we are happy to give Duayne this award instead! Thank you Duayne for all of your great work, and Cindy, for your support.

    2) Gordy Bratsch Award- named after our old neighbor Gordy Bratsch that was the unofficial caretaker- he was committed to keeping Bush Lake clean- this award is given to a member that contributes to the chapter and the environment, year after year.

    John Crampton has been involved with the Bush Lake Chapter for many years. He, Jill, and Gregg were part of the “new guard” that came to the Chapter some 20 years ago to find a board of directors that didn’t recite the pledge/our commitment to conservation “because they didn’t believe in it.” Through John’s determination and leadership, the Bush Lake Chapter became a conservation organization again.

    John has advanced our conservation mission in many ways. In recent years, his focus has been on climate change, and he came up with the Clean Energy Grant for the Minnesota Division Izaak Walton League that is used by Chapters to implement practices that help combat climate change. He has been an integral part of our Annual Watershed Summit and helps with planning and videography. In 2019 he and Jill Crafton put together the Watershed & Climate Summit, which brought together people from around the state and beyond to discuss protecting our water resources while also combatting climate change. John is also active with environmental advocacy at his church, Oak Grove Presbyterian, creating environmental programs and implementing green infrastructure such as solar panels and raingardens. Thanks to John, the Church has hosted several Izaak Walton League events and a semi-annual Electric Vehicle Expos.

    John is always quick to volunteer and help the Chapter and our cause. He comes to most of our volunteer events, and last year he put on our first KidsWind event- which brough kids out to the Chapter to build mini-wind turbines and taught them all about renewable energy. The current board considers John as an “honorary board member” as he attends many of our long meetings and helps to remind of us our mission and what is at stake. John is also good at spreading our environmental message to the public that he does with both passion and a sense of humor. He has a “fire in the belly” that is contagious with all that interact with him. John has served as both Chapter president as well as Division president. We thank John for his commitment to the Izaak Walton League and our environment. We would also like to thank John’s wife, Mary, for all the support she provides John to allow him to do these things- and for keeping him from going off the rails!

    Paul Raymaker Thanks to Nancy Carlson, Paul and his family joined the Chapter a few years ago. Also, thanks to Nancy, Paul soon joined our board of directors and has been an integral part of our Chapter ever since! Paul is our official chapter photographer- his incredible images have allowed us to spread our conservation message more effectively on social media and beyond. He runs our Instagram page that is full of awesome content about nature and why it is important to protect. Along with Nancy, Paul plans and manages most of our youth programming, and getting kids outdoors in nature is more important than ever. Paul also put together an excellent virtual Chapter orientation video that we will be unveiling soon. He attends most Chapter events and is not afraid of getting his hands dirty. A busy husband and father of two boys- Paul is always quick to lend a hand and has been a tremendous help to Paul Erdmann the caretaker, and the Chapter in recent years. We thank Paul for his dedication and all his great work! We of course also thank his wife Jackie, and sons Wesley and Waylon for all the support they give Paul!

    3) Public Good Award- Award given to non-profit, city or public staff for their contributions to water quality, conservation, and/or the environment.

    Patty Acomb represents Minnetonka, Plymouth, and Woodland in the Minnesota House of Representative. She is the leader of the Minnesota House Climate Action Caucus which has 59 members. As chair she has led the drive to pass 100% Clean Energy in Minnesota by 2050 mandate along with other clean energy transportation, renewable energy, carbon sequestration, and public health initiatives in the 2020 and now the 2021 Minnesota House of Representatives. Patty has served on the Park Board and City Council of Minnetonka as a staunch advocate for sustainable land and water conservation practices. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in natural resources. Patty presented at our Watershed and Climate Summit back in March. We thank Patty for her contributions to conservation and the great state of Minnesota!

    4) Bush Lake Commitment to Conservation Award- Given to an individual or organization inside or outside the organization that has contributed to restoration, habitat, and conservation in Minnesota.

    Lisa McEntire is a one-woman army, defending Tierney’s Woods, Hyland Park, and other Bloomington parks and open spaces from alien invaders. Each year, Lisa spends countless hours pulling and managing garlic mustard, narrow leaf bittercress, and other invasive plants to ensure they do not take over our most important wildlife habitat areas. She also reports new invasions of invasive plants, so the proper authorities are aware. She also educates the public on invasive species issues and collaborates with others to protect our natural areas. She monitors bluebird houses and helps wildlife and our natural world in numerous other ways. We thank Lisa for all her great work!

    5) Youth Conservation Award- awarded to youth under the age of 21 for their outstanding contribution to the Chapter, conservation, or the environment.

    Yanyan (Xiaoxin Zeng) (pronounced “Yan Yan Zeng”) is a co-founder and president of the newly re-envisioned Jefferson High School Earth Corps. This was once called HOPE (Help Our Planet Earth) Club, but the group said it is too late for hope--that people need to actually get to work. Yanyan is not afraid to do the work. She has continued to serve on the City of Bloomington Sustainability Commission, focusing on climate, getting youth involved, and asking the hard questions. Yanyan's interest in the environment is thoughtful and passionate. She spends her time fighting for climate justice and social justice, behind the screen of her computer or with boots on the ground, even in a pandemic. She practices what she preaches in her diet and daily routines. She was recently recognized as an Earth Action Hero and featured in a City video. She continues this work as she plans for college and her future. She wants her future to be healthy and happy, and she is not going to wait for someone else to make the world a better place. She is going to change the world for herself.

    Bush Lake Chapter IWLA Awards 2019

    Chapter Volunteer of the Year Award- for member with outstanding contributions to the chapter in 2019. 

    • 1-      Paul Cress- Paul has been a member for several years and has been a huge asset to the Chapter. He built the paddleboard rack several years ago and always turns out for volunteer events and takes on special projects.  He almost single-handedly prepped the South Woodland Restoration in 2019- as others have said “He’s a beast!”  He’s been an integral member of the Dock Team as well as the Beaver Dam Team!  His attitude, skills, and demeanor are exemplary, and we thank him for all of his great work!
    • 2-      Bush Lake Board of Directors- for their outstanding contributions and volunteering the last several years. Special recognition should go to:  Paul Raymaker (photos, signs, Kids Crafts, Instagram- Check It Out!), Nancy Carlson (Canoes, Kids Crafts, Graphic Design), Rafael Bustos (signs and lodge/grounds help), Gregg Thompson (website, membership, Canoes, outlet, caretaker assistance/therapy and more), Louise Segreto (newsletter articles, history research, advocacy), Jill Crafton (treasurer, advocacy, watershed summit), Doug Claycomb (AIS monitoring, advocacy, education) Rick Wheeler (leadership, calming the ship, Chapter work), Tim Olish (Neighborhood Watch) and Paul Erdmann (misc).

    Gordy Bratsch Award- named after our old neighbor Gordy Bratsch that was the unofficial caretaker- he was committed to keeping Bush Lake clean- this award is given to a member that contributes to the chapter and the environment, year after year.

    Marilynn and Tom Torkelson.  They have been members of the Chapter for a few years and are always willing to help.  Marilynn has been active with our Plant Posse, this summer she helped out in the South Woodland Restoration, single-handedly removing a patch of non-native/invasive lily of the valley.  Marilynn is the President of the Wild Ones Prairie Edge Chapter in the west Metro.  Wild Ones works to educate others on native plant landscapes and gardening.  Marilynn and Tom have a beautiful yard in Eden Prairie that is almost entirely (if not entirely) native plants that also features rain gardens to improve water quality.  They frequently hold tours to educate others on how they can implement environmental practices in their own yards. They are active in their community, advocating for conservation.  Marilynn is also a Master Water Steward who works to improve water quality in her community.  She is also on the Citizens Advisory Committee at the Riley Purgatory Creek Watershed District, where she has been working on a restoration project at the Scenic Heights Elementary School, involving students and community members in this process.  Tom, I'm sure, helps Marilynn with all of this stuff and provides great support!  There are also probably quite a few other great things that they do that we don’t know about.  Please thank them for being great Defenders and all they do for conservation!

    Public Good Award- Award given to non-profit, city or public staff for their contributions to water quality, conservation, and/or the environment.

    Three Rivers Park District Natural Resource Staff and Richardson Nature Center Staff who are involved with restoration activities and prairie maintenance at Hyland Park/Richardson Nature Center as well as environmental education in our community.  Our Chapter caretakers frequently hike and bike in the park (as a nice get away from work at the Chapter) and are always excited and inspired by the beauty and diversity of the prairie and other lands in the park.  They have been especially impressed with and happy to see lots of work being done in the woodlands and with buckthorn removal in recent years. Other Chapter members enjoy Hyland and the Nature Center as well. The Bush Lake Chapter is fortunate to have this wonderful oasis of habitat not far from the Chapter, as it acts as anchor and conservation corridor for wildlife and helps to protect water quality. Additionally, Nature Center staff provide excellent nature and natural resources education to our community year-round, another very important asset for conservation!  We thank them for all of their great work!

    Bush Lake Commitment to Conservation Award- Given to an individual or organization inside or outside the organization that has contributed to restoration, habitat, and conservation in Minnesota.

    Ron Erdmann  He has played a huge role in restoring the Chapter property, from removing buckthorn and tree work and building and maintaining wildlife structures. For our Chapter’s wildlife he has built and donated bluebird houses, Great crested flycatcher houses, wren houses, bat houses, and even woodpecker bongos! In the summer he works for the MN DNR doing similar work at St. Croix State Park, and has worked throughout the state restoring the land, putting conservation in the ground, and creating wildlife habitat.  He’s planted thousands of trees, shrubs, and native plants, and has killed just as many invasive plants.  We often offer to pay him for his great work at the Chapter, but he always refuses and says that he is working for “Ike”- Izaak Walton.  Ron has been an inspiration to his brother, Paul, our caretaker, and without Ron, Paul would probably be an accountant or shoveling coal somewhere, and not our caretaker.  Let’s all thank Ron for his great contributions to the Chapter and to conservation!

    Youth Conservation Award- awarded to youth under the age of 21 for their outstanding contribution to the Chapter, conservation or the environment.

    Sam Hodges, whose family belongs to the Chapter, who repaired and renovated the Chapter playground for this Boy Scout Eagle Scout Project.  He has been a good communicator and took the initiative to approach the board and propose the idea.  This project was really, really needed.  He and his crew have did an excellent job on the playground in a very expedient fashion.  We thank Sam for his contributions and hope that he remembers the Chapter and conservation in his future plans. Thank you, Sam!

    Claire Carlson- Claire is a recent Jefferson High School graduate.  She served on the Bloomington Sustainability Commission and recently worked to revive Jefferson's Environmental Club.  She came to our planting day and brought friends with! She worked on recycling and solid waste issues at both the Commission and at Jefferson, making some cool videos that teach people the importance of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Repurpose.  She is a good communicator and has a contagious passion that makes others want to get involved in environmental issues.  It’s encouraging to know that there are young people that are working to protect our planet and all of its creatures.  Let’s thank Claire for her great work!

    Bush Lake Chapter IWLA Awards 2018

    1) Chapter Volunteer of the Year Award- for member with outstanding contributions to the chapter in 2018.

    Rafael Bustos- he is a new member, but was quick to offer a hand and work on tasks around the chapter.

    Worked on bathouses- woodpeckers had pecked holes in all of them, he put aluminum sheeting on all of them.

    This is good because Paul and Liz counted 30 bats come out of 1 bathouse this year!

    (DOCK STORY)- Paul

    He’s more than happy to help any time we ask. Members that are always willing to help and spring into action is exactly what we need!

    2) Gordy Bratsch Award- named after our old neighbor Gordy Bratsch that was the unofficial caretaker- he was committed to keeping Bush Lake clean- this award is given to a member that contributes to the chapter and the environment, year after year.

    Louise Segreto- Kick started our fundraising campaign, serves as delegate to the State Division, serves as State Director alternate, is our Chapter historian, has written many great articles for our blog/newsletter, serves as our Wilderness advocate- has been working on the Utah Red Rocks Wilderness issue, and has put together a great Ikes Green Reads Book Club.

    Donated the historic sign.

    Jill Crafton- Jill Crafton is the treasurer of the Minnesota Division-Izaak Walton and Bush Lake Izaak Walton in which she has served for 15 years....hundreds and hundreds of hours every year.

    She is a National Director in the National Izaak Walton League. She served on the Executive Board E-Board of National for several years. And she is a leader in the "progressive" wing of the IKES (the people who actually believe in conservation) .

    She is on the board of the UMRI Upper Mississippi River Initiative, funded by MN IKEs and McKnight Foundation.

    She is the organizer and champion of the annual Izaak Walton Watershed Summit held every year at Normandale College, which attract the region's top ag water quality experts as presenters.

    She serves on the boards of the Riley Purgatory Watershed District in W. Bloomington and Eden Prairie, and BWSR, Minnesota Bureau of Water and Soil Resources, a state agency that has done much to protect Minnesota's waters.

    Jill is on the board of the Great Lakes Committee which is fighting against the introduction of invasive species into the Great Lakes.

    She also serves on the board of Green Step Cities, a coalition of over 130 Minnesota cities that are pledged to becoming more sustainable. She is also in the leadership of the Minnesota Division Energy and Climate Committee.

    Jill has a beautiful prairie in her front yard, and is working on restoring her backyard to provide habitat for birds, pollinators and other wildlife. She has solar panels on the roof of her house, and drives a Prius. She walks the talk and leads by example.

    From John Crampton- Above all, she is a warm and loving grandmother of beautiful grandkids in Michigan, the oldest of which she took to Camp Izaak Walton at Deep Portage a year ago. And Jill is a dear friend of mine and has been since we urged the Bush Lake board to say the Izaak Walton pledge at the meeting many years ago..... When they refused, we got rid of them. And Jill went on to replace them all by her work ethic and tremendous passion for protecting our earth.

    3) Public Good Award- Award given to city or public staff for their contributions to water quality, conservation, and/or the environment.

    Bloomington Sustainability Commission- (being accepted by Steve Flagg who is on the commission and is a member of our chapter) this is a new commission for the City of Bloomington that has made great strides within the city on sustainability issues (Energy, Solid Waste, Water Quality/Conservation, and Ecological Land Stewardship). Here’s a few of the commission’s initiatives it has worked on in less than 2 years-

    Created the organics dropoff system- residents of Bloomington are able to drop off their organics at 3 sites across the city- this material is recycled into mulch instead of going to the landfill or being incinerated.

    Created an Energy Action Plan- this is a plan that works to reduce energy consumption across the City and reduce our carbon emissions

    Working on Water Conservation and Water Quality- the Commission is working to reduce water use across the City- because Bloomington’s water is too great to waste! They are also working to improve water quality in our lakes, creek, wetlands and ponds.

    Working on restoring the MN River Valley and other parks and open spaces within the City.

    The Bush Lake Chapter would like to thank the Bloomington Sustainability Commission for all of their great work!

    Commission Members:

    Mary Hurliman- City Staff Liaison

    Rob Bouta, Claire Carlson, Paul Erdmann, Steve Flagg, John Jaimez, Dwayne Lowmann, Bob Reid, Tim Sandry, Joe Strommen, and Deanna White.

    4) Bush Lake Commitment to Conservation Award- Given to an individual or organization inside or outside the organization that has contributed to restoration, habitat, and conservation in Minnesota.

    Heather and Brent Holm- Heather is an author and educator that has educated hundreds across the country on native pollinator decline and conservation. Her two books have won awards and are revered by both experts and newbies alike. She leads our pollinator field days and has helped us with our pollinator habitat restoration. She has identified several unique pollinator species that live at our chapter. She is one of the founding members of Wild Ones, Prairie Edge chapter, which is a native plant landscaping advocacy group in the West Metro. Heather of course couldn’t do all of this great work without a great partner- Brent was just here for our planting event last weekend. Heather and Brent are members of our chapter and have helped us kill buckthorn and restore habitat. They also volunteer on their own time to restore forgotten City parks in Minnetonka- (story about big hill and other project). Over the last 10 years, Heather and Brent have restored their home landscape by removing invasive species and impervious surface and planting native plants and creating habitat for wildlife. We thank Heather and Brent for their Commitment to Conservation!

    2017 Chapter Awards

    1) Chapter Volunteer of the Year Award- for member with outstanding contributions to the chapter in 2017.

    Esau Underhill, for his work on the lodge, commitment to the board, and other activities

    2) Gordy Bratsch Award- given to a member that contributes to the chapter and the environment, year after year.

    Dick Duerre- Dick has turned out for many events, has worked on the lodge, and has worked on his own to protect the environment

    3) Public Good Award- Award given to city or public staff for their contributions to water quality, conservation, and/or the environment.

    Nine Mile Creek Watershed District- (Erica Sniegowski, Gael Zembal, Randy Anhorn)

    4) Bush Lake Commitment to Conservation Award- Given to an individual or organization inside or outside the organization that has contributed to restoration, habitat, and conservation in Minnesota.

    Bill Bartodziej- Bill is one of the leading restoration ecologists in the metro, has played a leading role in the Lake Phalen shoreline restoration and numerous other restoration and water quality improvement projects (and is a potential new member!)

    5) Youth Conservation Award- awarded to youth for their outstanding contribution to conservation or the environment.

    Camille Jones- Camille is one of the few young people that regularly turn out for volunteer events. She is on the Environmental Club at Jefferson High School

  • 09/20/2019 12:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Louise Segreto

    There is a housing crisis brewing among birds and critters who make their homes in dead and dying trees. Countless bird and animal species are finding it increasingly difficult locating suitable tree cavities for nesting and caching food. Leading the list of species suffering habitat tree loss are woodpeckers. Red-headed woodpeckers, once an abundant bird, have been severely impacted by the loss of suitable habitat. (We were excited to see one of these beautiful birds at the Chapter this year!) Many other bird species also make their homes in tree cavities including owls, chickadees, nuthatches, tree swallows, flycatchers, wrens, brown creepers, bluebirds; and of course, our much-loved wood ducks. Additionally, numerous small mammals such as bats, squirrels and racoons, and reptiles, amphibians and insects are opportunists, utilizing pre-excavated cavities for food, caching and shelter. Many species of pollinators also utilize dead wood in their life cycles.

    Dead and dying trees are essential to forest ecology. They are the condominiums, nurseries and cafeterias of the forest. Such trees are often referred to as “habitat trees.” Other people call them “snags” or “wildlife trees.” Most cavities in trees begin by the work of fungus. Over time, fungus decays wood and makes it soft enough for woodpeckers to excavate. Woodpeckers have reinforced skulls and chisel-sharp beaks. They can work like jack hammers pecking 100-300 times per minute! Smaller woodpecker species need softer decayed wood to excavate. Tree cavities are also created in fire and wind damaged trees which are susceptible to successful fungal growth which in turn leads to exposed soft rotting wood. The Bush Lake Chapter has several habitat trees on the property, and we often leave logs and woody debris on the ground and build brush piles for wildlife.

    If you live in the suburbs, I challenge you to take a walk through your neighborhood. More likely than not, you will find very few dead and dying trees. Unfortunately, most homeowners have been taught to regard trees with dead and dying snag like features such as hollow trunks, excavated cavities and dead branches as eyesores. It is such dead and dying trees that offer birds and other wildlife the best sentry posts and cavity opportunities. Unfortunately, suburban aesthetics combined with the fear of increased risk of tree falls on homes and structures lead to the inevitable sound of chainsaws. Making matters worse, “problematic” trees are cut to the stump and trucked away. Fallen trees or cut tree logs from healthy non-diseased trees seldom are left on the ground to decompose for wildlife habitat and plant nursery logs (other plants take root in the moist conditions of the decomposing wood). These landscape management practices, combined with the lack of natural fire burns in suburban communities, and invasive species such as buckthorn are causing fierce competition for the few tree cavities that are available for wildlife.

    In light of all of this, I have been considering allowing a dying white oak tree at my home to remain as a “habitat tree.” Here are some ideas to consider:

    Trees that are safety hazards to people or structures should generally be removed. Trees that have died from invasive species, such as emerald ash borer, or diseases like oak wilt, should generally be removed in order to keep these problems from spreading to healthy trees. Contact your City forester or certified arborist for help.

    Trees to be made into or left as Habitat Trees should be solid enough to withstand the elements. Certified arborists can help “shape” and diagnose good Habitat Trees.

    “Topping” a tree (cutting the top off, including branches to decrease wind resistance) can pave the way to a high-quality wildlife tree that can stand for many decades and provide habitat for numerous species.

    Unwanted or suitable habitat trees that are still alive can be girdled- use a saw to cut rings around the base of the tree just on the outer bark. Some people remove the bark exposing the living part of the tree. This will effectively kill the tree and in a few years, you may have a habitat tree.

    Finally, there is the issue of explaining your Habitat Tree to your neighbors! Over the years, my neighbors have come to enjoy the increase in wildlife due to our wildlife plantings and habitat projects. And, for those who may still be puzzled, I plan on posting my proud oak with a small yellow and black sign: “Habitat Tree.”

    If you don’t have space, don’t have dead trees, or don’t want habitat trees- you can do the next best thing- buy or build bat houses, wood duck, bluebird, or other bird houses. These bird houses are replicating tree cavities, and many bird species take to them regularly. Visit the links below for more information.





  • 08/23/2019 10:04 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Louise Segreto, Chapter Historian

    We have a lot to be proud of as Bush Lake Chapter Ikes. Our Chapter has always been a recognized leader for great conservation and environmental advocacy work. Here are 6 important things that you should know about our rich Bush Lake Chapter legacy:

    1. Our Chapter was first organized in 1931 by a group of successful south Minneapolis businessmen. Its first meeting place was a 2nd floor space in a building located on the corner of 54th Street and Nicollet Avenue in South in Minneapolis. There were 26 original Charter Members. Our present Lodge on Bush Lake in Bloomington was purchased in 1936. Our original charter hangs on the wall of the lodge and notes we were officially incorporated into the Izaak Walton League of America on November 10th, 1937.

    2. The original name of our Chapter was the “Minnesota Riverbottoms Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA)”, because our first service project was cleaning up the Minnesota River Bottoms. Shortly thereafter, our Chapter name was changed to the “South Minneapolis Chapter of the IWLA” (see our hand painted metal sign inside our Lodge, a replica of the original Chapter sign that likely hung above the gate) and in 1992 our Chapter name was changed again to the “Bush Lake Chapter of the IWLA”.

    3. “South Wind” was the monthly print Chapter bulletin that was published from 1955-1962. (Remember our Chapter name was at the time: “South Minneapolis Chapter” hence the name of the publication) Ed Franey was the newsletter’s editor and Neil Buchanan, who owned a printing company, published it. Members with businesses generously contributed what they could to get things done at the Chapter. South Wind played a prominent role in the “Save Minnesota’s Wetlands” fundraising and advocacy campaign (1951-1954), led by legendary Bush Lake Chapter IWLA member and leaders- Richard J. Dorer and Ed Franey. The publication helped recruit other Minnesota Izaak Walton Chapters to contribute to its cause. The “Save Minnesota’s Wetlands” initiative was instrumental in buying back wetlands that were filled and drained as a result of prior federal subsidies that the U.S. Department of Agriculture set-up to encourage filling and draining wetlands to the detriment of waterfowl habitat.

    4. After the successful “Save our Wetlands” campaign, Richard (“Dick”) J. Dorer and Ed Franey went on to almost single-handedly convince county commissioners and other politicians, the Minnesota State Legislature and DNR, to establish in 1958 the Richard J. Dorer Minnesota Memorial Hardwood Forest (today almost 1,000,000 acres). This designation protects forest lands, bluffs and prairies running about 105 miles along the west shore of the Mississippi River from Hastings to the Iowa border.

    5. The Bush Lake Chapter over the years has led numerous conservation projects. From establishing the Bass Ponds in east Bloomington which were used to stock lakes across the metro area, to our Canada Goose Projects in the 1940s, raising and reintroducing Canada Geese to Rebecca and Hyland Lakes, to our 1950s Over-Winter Pheasant Feeding Projects, Mallard duck rearing projects, and tree planting work at various parks in Bloomington. These projects tied into our first founders’ original motivation for forming the Izaak Walton League. They were avid sportsmen and women trying to preserve hunting and fishing habitat and outdoor recreation for all.

    6. If you would like to learn more about the “Save the Wetlands” Campaign (starring Jill Crafton our Chapter Treasurer) and the establishment of the “Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest,” take the time to view 2 short YouTube Videos produced by John Crampton (Present Bush Lake Chapter Member and past Chapter and Minnesota Division President): Save Our Wetlands Video Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest Video

    Probing into our Chapter’s history has been a messy endeavor: wading through our dusty and moldy file cabinets for old Chapter records and trying to track down boxes of files delivered years ago to the Bloomington Historical Society for safe keeping. If there is anyone out there in our membership who would like to join me to sort through these boxes once they are rediscovered, please contact me. I sure could use some assistance! If you have been a member here for many years, we would love to see your pictures of the Chapter and hear your stories.

    On my journey to uncover some of our Chapter’s history, I found a 1991, 8 -Track Tape interview of past Bush Lake Chapter President Truman Ingersoll. “Tru” was President of our Chapter in 1949. I was moved by Tru’s stories of the social glue that knit our Chapter together during years past. He fondly recounts Ice Fishing Derbies on Bush Lake in the 1950s with color tvs and aluminum boats as prizes, members’ fishing trips to southern and northern Minnesota, annual Corn-Roasts of the 1960/70s, Halloween Parties, Winter Fun Fairs, and of course- Canoe Races on Bush Lake (this tradition continues today- join us on September 29th for our Annual Member Meeting). Tru’s folksy voice from the past could be all too easily be discounted as being from “more simple times”. But, social connectiveness among our members and a sense of shared purpose and community is even more important today than in the past. Join our Chapter in some of our scheduled activities and play a role in writing future Chapter history!

  • 06/10/2019 6:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Louise Segreto, Chapter Historian

    The Minnesota River is a remarkable river that deserves more attention and respect than it receives. This Spring, I made a concerted effort to get to know her better. What sparked my interest was a chance encounter with a grizzled fisherman that boasted of catching a 50”, 80-pound flathead catfish that he caught in the River near the Bloomington Ferry Bridge. When I teased and challenged him about the size of the alleged fish, he snail mailed me proud photos from his corkboard to prove it.

    Standing on the River’s bank looking into the swiftly flowing chocolate colored water, I swirled back in time. The Minnesota River Valley was carved by the torrential glacial River Warren (about 12,000 years ago) at the end of the last ice age. The River Warren flowed from the meltwaters of glaciers that once covered most of northwest Minnesota and southern Canada. When the glaciers melted, they formed ancient Lake Agassiz (700 miles long, 200 miles wide). And when Lake Agassiz overfilled its banks, the River Warren was formed, raging through the Minnesota Valley and scouring out a 5-mile swath. Today the Minnesota River flows as just a narrow ribbon down the wide valley. A great place to view the wide Valley is at the overlook parking lot at Eden Prairie’s Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area. The view there will put this geologic history into perspective and take your breath away.

    Fast forward to present. The Minnesota River flows about 370 miles, from its headwaters at the Minnesota/South Dakota border just north of Ortonville and Big Stone Lake to its confluence with the Mississippi River at Ft. Snelling. The landscape of the Minnesota River Valley is naturally vulnerable to erosion. And, being a tributary of the Mississippi, the Minnesota carries and dumps heavy loads of sediment from erosion into the Mississippi and downstream Lake Pepin. Phosphorus from over-fertilized farmlands in the Minnesota Valley fuels excessive algae growth. Herbicide and pesticide contaminants from agricultural runoff flow into the River. Further contributing to the River’s maladies is pollution from contagions and pathogens from failing residential septic systems, and various land uses and commercial development in the watershed. Last but not least, due to climate change, the increased frequency and intensity of rain events make all of the foregoing worse.

    Nevertheless, despite all of its present-day woes, the Minnesota River is a true “Minnesotan”. Geographically it is fully contained within the State of Minnesota. Its huge watershed of approximately 17,000 square miles is responsible for accepting drainage from almost 20% of the total land area of Minnesota. And, despite its impairments, the River continues to sustain strong populations of fish (catfish, sheepshead, northern pike, small mouth bass and bullheads) and is a major migratory flyway for birds. This flyway is even more important to migrating birds in the aftermath of extensive drain tiling of what used to be the expansive prairie pothole lakes region of Minnesota and South Dakota.

    Because of the rich soils of the Minnesota River Valley, agricultural interests have always been strong here. Le Sueur is credited with being the birthplace of the canning industry spokesman, the Jolly Green Giant in 1903. During the 1930s the Valley was the USA’s largest producer of sweet corn. Today, the fields are predominately filled with corn and soybeans. Some good news is that more and more farmers are giving careful thought to innovative farming practices that reduce erosion and the need for over fertilizing. And, there is much discussion about how to increase soil health in the Minnesota River Valley and beyond.

    What’s up with all the French names? One cannot but notice the number of French place names that abound in the Valley: Le Sueur, Belle Plaine, St. Pierre (St. Peter) and Lac Qui Parle. These French names are a lasting tribute to the importance of early French explorers in the 1600s to this area. Prior to the coming of early European explorers and settlements, the Minnesota River Valley was the home of Native Americans stretching back to very early times. The River Valley supplied fish, game, and water to these early peoples. It is not unusual for archeologists to be called in to examine the contents of burial mounds and pottery artifacts discovered in road and construction projects in the area.

    It was along the banks of the Minnesota River just a few miles north of Mankato that the infamous Treaty of Traverse des Sioux was “signed” by Dakota leaders from the Sisseton and Wahpeton tribes ceding nearly 24,000,000 acres of land (including lands ceded under the Treaty of Mendota) west of the Mississippi in 1851 to the US government in exchange for cash, annuities and goods. Sadly, most of these promises were never delivered by the U.S. to the Tribes.  Learn more about Minnesota River History by clicking here.

    What happens to the direction Minnesota River at Mankato is crazy! It is as if Paul Bunyan had a few too many and decided to put a ninety-degree bend in the River. At Mankato, the south easterly flowing River takes a hard bend to the north east and continues on towards Minneapolis. Spoiler: the underlying bedrock around Mankato is responsible for this phenomenon.

    The Minnesota River has several faces, starting at its most northern stretch it is rather straight and steep banked, lined with stately cottonwoods, silver maples, ash and basswood. At Granite Falls the River’s sides are lined with ancient granite gneiss rock outcroppings, over 3.6 billion years old (the Earth is only 4.54 billion years old). And at Redwood Falls to New Ulm, the River becomes passive and windy.

    Lately, there has been a lot written about the water quality challenges facing the Minnesota River. Rising nitrate levels are threatening Mankato’s drinking water which is drawn from shallow wells, water quality is continuing to deteriorate, and the Minnesota River is to blame for dumping excessive amounts of silt and sediment downstream into the Mississippi River causing a whole host of problems.

    Yet, for better or worse, the Minnesota River flows through Bloomington’s back yard. We must care about it. One non-profit group who does cares a lot is the Friends of the Minnesota Valley whose mission is to protect and enhance the natural resources of the Minnesota Valley River Watershed, including the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. According to Ted Suss, President of the Minnesota Valley Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, and someone who is heavily involved in the work of the Friend’s “River Watch” water monitoring program, the Program is “going strong”. The River Watch Program engages high school students to get out and do River water quality monitoring on a long-term consistent basis using Minnesota Pollution Control Agency protocols to build a database that can be used by others working on trying to understand water quality issues and policy. This year, 10 high school teams are sampling River water and 14 teams are committed for next year.

    But, too many of us speed over the River in vehicles as we travel along Hwy 169 or 35W and give the River just a passing thought and nod. Others of us may bike, hike, trail run, x-country ski, snow shoe along the trails along the River and may know the Minnesota River more intimately. But, really understanding this River and challenges that it is facing is complex. Take some time to discover the Minnesota River: from its important role in Minnesota history, to its importance to food production, to its subtle natural beauty. Consider supporting the River Watch Program. Stay informed about political issues that affect the River. The Minnesota River needs our help and full attention. As a member of the Izaak Walton League, think about what you can do to rally behind this unsung heroine of a River.

    Images courtesy: Wikipedia (map) and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (water monitoring photo)

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