Category Archives: Environment

Beaver training facility discovered along the Minnesota River bottoms

Bucky Bill Nelson IMG_20120216_170856 IMG_20120216_170842 IMG_20120216_170609
I went mountain biking with Bill Nelson along the Minnesota River bottoms this week and he showed me an area just east of Cedar Ave. where beavers have been gnawing away at a dozen or more large trees.

The Wikipedia entry for beaver says:

Beavers fell trees for several reasons. They fell large mature trees, usually in strategic locations, to form the basis of a dam, but European beavers tend to use small diameter (<10 cm) trees for this purpose. Beavers fell small trees, especially young second-growth trees, for food.

But it’s puzzling because the trees above are not in place where the logs could be used to "form the basis of a dam" and they’re much too large for beavers to move.

So Bill and I have a formulated a theory: it’s a training facility.  Prove us wrong if you dare.

Are Northfield schools helping to make students climate literate?

Explorer Will Steger  had a commentary in last week’s Strib titled, Make America climate-literate. Here’s an excerpt:

Will Steger, photo by Amanda OdeskiIt wasn’t until 2002, when the Larsen B ice shelf disintegrated from western Antarctica — an ice shelf formed more than 12,000 years ago that my expedition team took a full month to ski across — that the facts of global warming prompted me to take action. In 2006, I decided to establish the Will Steger Foundation, where we support educators, students and the general public with science-based interdisciplinary resources on climate change, its implications and its solutions. Our goal is for educators and students to achieve climate literacy.

If the nation is to address climate change, it must begin with a public that is climate-literate. Starting with our educational system is critical. Teaching and understanding climate change is a process involving scientific inquiry and educational pedagogy; it is not about politics or partisanship. There is virtually unanimous scientific agreement about climate change. Yet due to both the inherent complexity of the topic and the social controversies surrounding it, confusion and doubt often persist. Climate change is now ultrapoliticized in the United States.

I’m curious to know what Northfield’s schools (district, charter, parochial) are doing in the classrooms on this ‘ultrapoliticized’ issue of climate change.  Are our educators using materials like those available on the Steger Foundation’s education page, are they ducking the issue, or doing something in between?

Some personal background:

Continue reading Are Northfield schools helping to make students climate literate?

Trout reproducing, but high nutrients still pose threat

Interns from Dakota County assisted with netting and keeping the fish content with buckets of fresh, cool water until they could be counted and released.Last week, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) stream biologists sampled fish in Rice Creek near Northfield and Trout Brook near Miesville.

Saint Olaf professors and students, along with interns with Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), aided the biologists with the sampling. Together, the group netted and counted over 600 brook trout and 150 brown trout in five small reaches along the streams.

Of significance, some of the trout counted were 2-inch, young-of-year trout, indicating that stream conditions are adequate for trout reproduction. MPCA stream biologist Brenda Asmus:

I was quite surprised and impressed by the number of healthy adult fish and small young-of-the-year brook and brown trout that we found in these two streams.

Some observations were not indicative of good stream health, however. The group noticed large amounts of filamentous algae, an indication of high nutrient levels in the streams. Asmus:

Small amounts of algae are normal, but high amounts of algae can cause conditions that are stressful to fish. [This is especially the case] during warm summer days when the algae decomposes and competes with trout and aquatic insects for oxygen.

In August, MPCA stream biologists will return to Rice Creek and Trout Brook to sample insects and snails and to collect water chemistry information.

The biologists will be looking for the presence or absence of pollution sensitive fish and insects. Based on what fish and aquatic insects are found, they can get a general picture of the health of the streams. If pollution sensitive species are missing from a stream, it will be rated “impaired” and follow-up work will done to determine the specific problem.

Photo album: ribbon cutting for Lashbrook Park’s new woodland trail

I got this email from Councilor Erica Zweifel earlier this week:

Hi Griff, I am attaching some information and pictures regarding the volunteer awards that I will be giving out at the May 17th council meeting at 7PM.  Please let me know if you would like any further information. Also you are invited to join the ribbon cutting at Lashbrook Park to celebrate the new woodland trail.

I got there for the woodland trail opening and was delighted to meet Helen Lashbrook Olson whose parents owned a farm in the area.

See my album of 10 photos, view the large slideshow (recommended), or slow click on this small slideshow:

Erica’s press release on the volunteer awards (PDF) includes this about the trail opening:

Volunteer Awards 2011St Olaf Environmental Studies majors Mary Coulson, Lisa De Guire, Mary Morris, Katelyn DeRuyter are receiving an award for their work planning and building a woodland trail in Lashbrook Park.

These students worked with The Friends of Lashbrook Park, The Northfield Park Board, and the City of Northfield to design the trail, get approval for their plan and arrange for help with brush and tree removal.

The path is located in the wooded section at the North end of the park. This project is an excellent model of collaboration and community volunteerism.

For more, see Nfld News: Take a walk in Lashbrook Park

St. Olaf students studying social work or environmental studies have been working to develop the new path this semester, designing the trail, weeding the area and picking up garbage. Erica Zweifel, research assistant at St. Olaf and City Council member whose district includes the park, is directing the environmental studies students. She said the project enables students to get out of the classroom and apply what they have learned in the classroom in a practical setting.

Friends of Lashbrook Park has become the Northfield Prairie Partners Chapter according to this March article in the Northfield News, Wild ones take root in Northfield:

Around five years ago, a handful of locals with a mission to keep native plants intact in our city organized themselves into the group, Friends of Lashbrook Park, which later changed over to Prairie Partners of Cannon Valley. Now, with the backing of a larger national organization called Wild Ones, this still small, yet growing group has become Northfield Prairie Partners Chapter of the Wild Ones.

Update 10 am: I got an email from Erica, correcting the info in the above Nfld News article re: the Friends of Lashbrook Park and the Prairie Partners of Northfield:

The Friends of Lashbrook Park is alive and well and is a very separate group from the Prairie Partners of Northfield.  The Prairie Partners did not have anything to do with the path project, but they are responsible for the work being done at GLONA near Greenvale School.  About two years ago two members of the "Friends" group split off because they wanted to focus more on the prairie specific issues and the "Friends" group remains committed to the entire Lashbrook Park.

Cannon River Peddle Paddle coming up on June 4th: a benefit for CRWP

Cannon River Peddle PaddleCelebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Cannon Valley Trail and the beauty of the Wild & Scenic Cannon River by taking part in the Cannon River Peddle Paddle on June 4th from 8:30 AM – 2:00 PM.

Bike from the trail head off Hwy 19 in Cannon Falls to Welch and back, a 20 mile round trip, on the Cannon Valley Trail. Or enjoy a 3-4 hour paddle on the Wild & Scenic Cannon River from Cannon Falls to Welch. 

Put your canoes in the Cannon River at Riverside Park (North 4th Street in Cannon Falls) and take out at Welch.  Parking is available next to the river at Riverside Park and the Cannon Valley Trail site in Welch.

Don’t have a canoe?  Rentals are available at Welch Mill Canoe and Tubing.  Refreshments and other activities will be going on at the Welch rest area as part of the Cannon Valley Trail 25th Anniversary Celebration. 

To register or for more information call (507) 786-8400 or  Proceeds benefit the Cannon River Watershed Partnership.  CRWP and Cannon Valley Trail Members receive a discount.

4th Annual Earth Day Contra Dance at the Northfield Ballroom

Jim Bohnhoff and Suzie NakasianJim Bohnhoff and Suzie Nakasian were practicing their contra dance moves today on Bridge Square, in preparation for tonight’s 4th Annual Earth Day Contra Dance at the Northfield Ballroom, where everyone will be dancing to the music of Contratopia.

See this blog post for details: Celebrate the Season with the 4th Annual Northfield Earth Day Contra Dance.

What’s a contra dance all about?

See my album of the 2008 Winter Stomp Contra Dance, the large slideshow, or this small slideshow, and below, a one-minute video.


Cows, Colleges, and Compost: Northfield’s Earth Day celebration is next Saturday, April 30th

Arlo Cristofaro-Hark and Will Haslett  Arlo Cristofaro-Hark and Will Haslett ARTech greenhouse
I stopped by ARTech last week to visit with two students, Arlo Cristofaro-Hark and Will Haslett. They and other students at the Northfield High School are members of Transition Youth/ Youth Energy Summit (YES) and will have a booth at next Saturday’s Earth Day Celebration in Northfield, 12-4 pm downtown.

I got this info via email but see the Transition Northfield Earth Day page and Earth Day Celebration poster for more:

Earth Day Celebration 2011 posterOther attractions include a rain barrel workshop by Cannon River Watershed Partnership (call 507-786-8400 to register), a dance clinic with the NAG’s Mexican Folkloric dancers, wool spinning demos, a compost exhibit by Prairie Creek Community School, local music and more.

Local exhibitors include Transition Northfield, Just Food Co-op, Cannon River Watershed Partnership, Waste Management, The Sustainable Farming Association, Rice County Soil and Water Conservation, Innovative Power Systems, Community Supported Agriculture and many others! If you are interested in being an exhibitor by sharing something sustainable that you are doing- down load the registration form at

Enjoy break dancers, music, and local food.  There’s something for everyone! This is a zero waste and carbon-offset event.  We encourage you to walk, bike, or rollerblade down to the river. Rain Location: First United Church of Christ- 300 Union St.

Sponsored by: Transition Northfield, Cannon River Watershed Partnership, Just Food Co-op, Carleton’s ACT Center, Prairie Creek Community School in partnership with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Healthy Community Initiative, First United Church of Christ and the Center for Sustainable Living. ASL interpreter will be present at this event.

And for more about the ARTech greenhouse in the photos above, see:

CRWP to host rain barrel building workshops

CRWP rain barrel building workshopJoin the Cannon River Watershed Partnership to learn about runoff and the benefits of using rain barrels for water conservation and gardening.  Go home with a fully assembled 55 gallon plastic rain barrel and the knowledge that you are doing something for clean water.

Through the generous support of the Beim Foundation, CRWP will begin hosting rain barrel building workshops in the cities of Owatonna, Faribault, Northfield, Waseca and Red Wing in 2011. 

At the workshops, participants will learn about water conservation, runoff and how they can reduce the pollution that reaches our lakes and rivers by capturing roof runoff in a rain barrel.  The barrels also provide a free source of water for your outdoor watering needs. We will assemble 55 -gallon plastic drums with the attachments needed to make them rain barrels. 

Northfield rain barrel building workshops

Pre-registration is required!

  • Just Food Co-op: April 21– 7:00 PM; Cost—$42 (Coop owners) $45 (non-Co-op owners); register by calling the Co-op at (507) 650-0106.
  • Northfield Perennial Earth Day Celebration: April 30—1:00 PM; River Walk/Water Street between 4th and 5th St. Rain location is First United Church of Christ, 300 Union St. Cost—$40; register by calling CRWP at (507) 786-3915 or emailing

Cannon River Watershed Partnership