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In This Issue
Happy Summer!

"Life, now, was unfolding before me, constantly and visibly, like the flowers of summer that drop fanlike petals on eternal soil."

―Roman Payne, Rooftop Soliloquy

Summer is a busy season full of growth, life, and color. We're in the full swing of it now, with new conservation projects being installed across the county, water monitoring going on in several watersheds, and frequent site visits to answer homeowners' questions about their land. Read on and we'll experience a conservation summer together!

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Meet our NEW Conservation Tech

Mollie Annen, a Shakopee native, is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology with emphasis in Ecology and Evolution. Mollie worked for the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa in 2016 and assisted the MNDNR,Three Rivers Parks District, Scott SWCD, and others with invasive species removal, prairie restorations, raingarden installations/maintenance, AIS and GIS mapping.

From 2017 to 2019, she worked for Applied Ecological Services doing prairie and wetland installations, prescribed burns, erosion control, tree plantings, and herbicide treatments of invasive species. Mollie just spent the last six months completing her initial entry training into the United States Army, becoming a water treatment specialist for the Minnesota National Guard.
While with the Dakota County SWCD, Mollie will be hard at work collecting water samples for several partner organizations, as well as assisting with the Landscaping for Clean Water and Native Prairie Restoration Program field tasks! Please help us in welcoming Mollie to the team!

Raingardens Galore!

Every year, we hold educational workshops and provide grants for raingardens, native plantings, and shoreline restorations as part of our Landscaping for Clean Water program

Attendance and interest in this program has been growing steadily over the past few years. This year, 409 people attended the hour-long Introduction Workshop, and an additional 86 people received a special version of the presentation specific to Master Gardeners. 

From there, workshop attendees could sign up for a Design Course. During this class, they worked hands-on with experts to remotely design a raingarden, native garden, or shoreline project on their yard or property. Projects were designed for 216 residences during classes this year.

Attendees can apply for grants for these projects, which include on-site technical assistance and a $250 reimbursement towards the overall cost of the project. The grant application rounds for 2019 just concluded and we are close to 100 grant applications this summer, and of that twenty-eight gardens have already been installed! 
You could join these numbers next spring or summer! Check our website this winter for next year's workshop dates. Get in on the fun, plant for pollinators -
and landscape for clean water! 

(Past participants can skip the Intro and return to design a new project
and apply for additional grants!)
MAJOR ALERT! One of those gardens was our five hundredth project (!!)
installed through Landscaping for Clean Water (which began in 2011!) 

Chris and Lisa completed their raingarden in West Saint Paul this June - you can see the before and after photos below! This raingarden will collect runoff from half of their roof and hold it on the land, where it can be naturally filtered by the soil and taken up by the native plants. 
"The Dakota SWCD rain garden program was the perfect solution to our water challenge," they said. "The design workshops and technical advice helped us create a beautiful garden and solve our problems with torrential rains."
Learn more about the program!
Landscaping for Clean Water is just one of the education and outreach efforts led by the Dakota County SWCD. Our board recently approved a three-year Education & Outreach Plan. Read it here. 

Cooperative Weed Management

In 2018, the Dakota County SWCD received funding from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) to fund a Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) in the county.
A CWMA is a "a partnership of federal, state, and local government agencies, tribes, individuals, and interested groups that manage noxious weeds
and invasive plants in a defined area."

Invasive species can impact the success of native plants and agricultural crops.
Some invasive weeds are detrimental to human or animal health. In a survey of 22 city and township staff from across Dakota County, wild parsnip, common buckthorn, and Canada thistle were ranked as top concern, but species like palmer amaranth, which haven't become established in the county yet, are also on people's (especially farmers') radar.

Staff from the Dakota SWCD have begun convening city and township partners from across the county to develop goals and plans for cooperatively controlling problematic invasive weeds.

The big-picture goals over time are to "provide effective weed mapping, education, outreach and management; control emerging and established invasive species; work effectively across geographic and ownership boundaries; and develop strong partnerships to
leverage expertise and funding."

The first meeting of the new Dakota County CWMA Steering Committee was on July 16th. Future meetings will be scheduled as the planning process continues.

For more information, contact

Ask a Resource Conservationist!

This week, we're answering one of the questions we received through our newsletter survey.


Dear Dakota SWCD,

What are the best practices for removing buckthorn? And what should I plant in its place once it's gone? 

Thank you,
Frustrated with Buckthorn


Dear Frustrated with Buckthorn,

Thanks for your timely question! You are definitely on top of it because late summer and fall are great times to remove and treat buckthorn patches as this is when an herbicide application will be most effective!

Managing a wooded area on your property is an ongoing process. Removing buckthorn will benefit the environment, as well as provide opportunities to create wildlife habitat and redesign the area (have you heard about our Landscaping for Clean Water program?? hint hint :)) to create a beautiful landscape for you to enjoy!

**Before undertaking any sort of digging project in your yard (plant removal, deck install, etc), be sure to contact Gopher One to have them come out and mark your utilities. For your safety, you want to make sure there are no buried utilities in the area that you are working in.

Before getting started on buckthorn removal, brush up on your plant identification skills as there are other shrubs that are easily mistaken for buckthorn and we wouldn’t want to remove a good native shrub. Our native cherries trees and shrubs can be one of those species that becomes collateral damage in buckthorn removal projects. Completing buckthorn removal in the late fall or early spring can reduce the risk of mistaken identity as buckthorn is one of the first plants to grow leaves in spring and one of the last to lose leaves in the fall making it easy to pick out from native species.

Now to the fun stuff! Removing buckthorn from your property can seem like a daunting task, but it is definitely doable. Plant size and extent of the buckthorn spread will most likely dictate which treatment method you chose to use:
  • Hand pulling - If the plant is less than 3/8 inch in diameter, it can be removed by hand. Any plant larger than 3/8 inch should be dealt with using a hand tool. Be mindful of soil disturbance while hand-pulling and work to minimize disturbance whenever possible! Too much soil disturbance can open up the soil to germinate more invasive species. Pulling when the soil is moist, will make it easier on you and reduce disturbance.
  • Cutting - Buckthorn plants that are two inches in diameter or larger are best controlled by cutting off the stem right at ground level  and then covering (non-chemical) or treating the stump (chemical) to prevent re-sprouting. Depending on size, cutting can be done using hand tools, but if you are trying to remove a large amount of buckthorn, you may want to consider using chain saws or brush cutters to save both time and energy!
Treatment is important and should be immediate as untreated stumps can continue to propagate and all of your hard work can be for nothing as the buckthorn can grow back even worse than before! Non-chemical control options to prevent cut stumps from re-sprouting include covering the cut stump with a tin can or a black plastic garbage bag. Chemical treatment options include treating the stump after cutting (within 2 hours) with an herbicide containing triclopyr or glyphosate to prevent re-sprouting. If opting to go the chemical route - always follow label instructions for herbicides, wear recommended protective clothing, and avoid contact with non-target plants.

Management of buckthorn in the months and years following removal are key to the success of your project! Buckthorn seeds in the soil can remain viable for up to five years making follow-up management efforts essential. Follow-up control options include treating the buckthorn seedlings and saplings using the same removal and treatment methods described above.

After buckthorn control, many sites will benefit from replanting of desirable tree, shrub, and herbaceous species. This will minimize bare ground which is often colonized by invasive species. The University of Minnesota  recommends planting different grass mixes to help with erosion issues on sloped areas and a variety of native shrubs. Both are great options for the newly barren landscape you just worked to create.

Want more information? Check out the MNDNR’s buckthorn webpage or their brochure on buckthorn removal strategies. We at the Dakota County SWCD are always happy to help answer any questions that you may have, particularly in regards to your plant selection needs. Through our Landscaping for Clean Water program, workshop attendees design native plantings that both fit their aesthetic desires, as well as benefit pollinators and wildlife. Workshops will be happening again in late winter/spring 2020, so head to our website for more information and get signed up for email notifications for workshops!

Good luck and enjoy these cooler summer days!
 - Your friendly local resource conservationist
Submit Your Question for a Resource Conservationist!

Little Prairies by the House

This year we introduced a new cost-share program for residents of Dakota County -
our Native Prairie Restoration program! 

Planting native prairie plants offers a wide-range of benefits. Native prairie species tend to have deep roots that help water infiltrate through the ground (recharging our groundwater supplies) and stabilize the soil, reducing erosion. This in turn protects local water quality, as stormwater runoff is naturally treated and filtered before reaching bodies of water.
Native plants’ seeds and stems provide food and habitat for birds and wildlife throughout the seasons. In addition, planting native wildflowers provides valuable pollinator habitat. Pollinators are necessary for human life (fun fact: they pollinate the majority of the crops that we eat) and for stable ecosystems, but many pollinator species in Minnesota are at risk. Planting diverse swaths of native plants is crucial for the recovery and long-term survival of healthy pollinator populations.
Restored native prairies are also beautiful, and they require fewer inputs and labor over time once they are established.

This new program has been popular - we're working on eight native prairie restoration proposals this summer! These restored prairies will range across the county, from Castle Rock Township to Inver Grove Heights. 
If you have land that you’d like to restore to native prairie, you may be eligible for the Native Prairie Restoration Program. Landowners can receive cost-share funding for up to 75% of the total project costs for the installation or enhancement of native prairie vegetation. Maximums per acre depend on the type of project and planting. Visit the webpage by clicking the button below!
Learn More about Native Prairie Restoration

Starry Trek

Starry Trek is back for a third season! Grab some sunscreen and your plant ID book and join us and your neighbors on Saturday, August 17th for a day of searching for starry stonewort and other aquatic invasive species (AIS). In each of the past two years, volunteers participating in the statewide monitoring effort have discovered new populations of starry stonewort, including at Grand Lake (Stearns County) where rapid response actions have helped
to limit the spread of the population within the lake.
In addition to starry stonewort, volunteers are on the lookout for other AIS in their local waterbodies during Starry Trek. Last year, Dakota County volunteers discovered a new population of zebra mussels in Lake Isabelle (Hastings) while out monitoring!

Register by August 9th to guarantee your complimentary tote bag and boot brush.
This event is open to everyone, and no prior experience is needed.
For more information, contact

Our Cost-Share Programs

We offer cost-share funding and technical assistance for a wide variety of project types and audiences. Check out the chart below for a full summary of all of our cost-share, and information on next steps to take if you're interested in a specific program.

Quiz Yourself: Pollinators!

As flowers abound across our summer landscapes, we also start seeing tons of pollinators!
Can you answer these questions about pollinator fun facts?

1: Mammals can be pollinators: true or false? 
2: ___% of the world's flowering plants rely on animals pollinators to reproduce.
        A) 33%
        B) 50%
        C) 75%

3: Scientists estimate that there are around 400 species of ____ that live in Minnesota (many more than the other two groups on this list.)
        A) Bee
        B) Butterfly
        C) Ant

4: Honeybees are a native species in the United States: true or false?

5: What is this a picture of (on the right)?
        A) A native luna moth caterpillar
        B) A native monarch butterfly caterpillar
        C) An invasive gypsy moth caterpillar

Answers are at the end of the newsletter!
How did you do?
Upcoming Events

July 25: Party in the Park in Hastings | Visit the SWCD and Vermillion River Watershed table at this awesome event in Hastings! Located along the river, there will be food trucks, live music, games, and more! Learn more: 

August 5-11: Dakota County Fair | Come out to the fair for tasty treats, amazing animals, and awesome demonstrations and rides - and visit the SWCD in the Natural Resources building! You can try crafts, get all your land and water questions answered - and take a fun guided tour of the native prairie on the trolley! Learn more: 

August 17: Starry Trek 2019 | Get trained to detect aquatic invasive species and be a hero for our local lakes! Have fun outside with friends or family. Join us in Apple Valley for this year's "Starry Trek" as we look for invasive starry stonewort. Learn more and sign up:  

September 17-26: 5th Grade Outdoor Education Days | Once again, we'll host local fifth grade classrooms in the restored prairie! They'll learn about soil, water quality, prairie plants, insects, and agriculture as they rotate between expert-led stations. Learn more: 

You can now follow us on social media!

Reader Survey

We want to know who's reading our newsletter!

Whether you're a regular reader or this is your first newsletter; whether you read the whole thing or just skim through; help us out by taking a short survey using the button below. It'll take you just 3-5 minutes, and will help us tailor future newsletter content.

Thanks to the many of you who have already taken the survey!
You do not need to take it more than once, unless you have new feedback!
Take the Survey!
Have a wonderful, colorful summer - and stay tuned for
the next newsletter this fall!

Want to share some of these stories or photos with your friends, neighbors, or community? Please do - we love seeing our news traveling throughout the region. 
Subscribe to the SWCD Newsletter

Trivia Answers:

  1. True! Bats are frequently pollinators, for example.
  2. C: 75% of the world’s flowering plants are pollinated by animals!
  3. A: Scientists estimate that there are around 400 species of bee that live in Minnesota! This is far more diversity than that of ants or butterflies.
  4. False: Honeybees are introduced from Europe! They’re great for cultivated farms, but not as useful to our native wildflowers. There are many native bee species in the United States though, some of which are in drastic decline.
  5. B: This is a monarch caterpillar! They eat milkweed plants.
How did you do?

Do you have an idea for a great trivia question for a future newsletter? Share it with us!
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