Project Highlight: Matt Rassett

By: Megan Zeiher, Recruitment Coordinator—June 22, 2018

Matt Rassett serves as a Crew Member based out of Andover/Anoka, Minnesota. A typical day on this crew starts with members groggily sipping coffee at the shop location before the jokes start flying. They go over their plans for the day of work, gather their tools and then head to the work site. Recently Matt’s crew completed a rewarding project on Coon Lake in Anoka County.  

“We learned how to lay sod, we learned a lot about each other and we learned how to utilize our specific backgrounds to make a solid team.”

Matt and his crew worked alongside Anoka Parks & Recreation staff to create a Veteran’s Memorial site to honor the service of the United States Armed Forces. The site provides space for families to remember those who have served and gather around a paver with the name of a loved one.

“It was pretty cool to see the two teams working together so seamlessly. The county workers even took the time to chat with us as we worked and gave us advice on the next steps in our careers.”

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Soggy noodle camping trip

By: Kelsey Brock—June 20, 2018

Our crew is finishing our first camping trip in Redwood Falls. During this trip we worked for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Department on Aquatic Management Areas (AMAs). We got to break out the backpack sprayers and spray thistles that were invading some reclaimed prairie lands.

The method to take out this invasive species was to line up with our backpack sprayers and do grid patterns through the prairie, pivoting at the end of each transect, and repeating back down to the other end. This could get repetitive after awhile, but we made sure to have music playing so we could dance and spray at the same time to keep ourselves entertained. We also had a few good scares from snakes and pheasants jumping out at us! To keep things interesting, we even got to meet a baby fawn that was taking a nap nearby—which made my day.

On the days it was too rainy to spray chemical, we removed parsnip instead, and found out that the Corps boots can also double as swimming pools for your feet.

These rainy days made our first camping trip a very soggy one to begin with but by midweek, it stopped raining long enough for us to hammock, cook s’mores, and start to feel a little bit less like soggy noodles and a little bit more like happy campers.

The Ones Who Go Outside

By: Caroline Fazzio

While swinging by the grocery store after work one day, a lady noticed my Conservation Corps shirt and stopped me briefly.

“My daughter would run the other way if she saw your shirt,” she laughed, “She tried the Corps, but didn’t realize how much she’d have to be outside with the bugs and everything. ‘Never again, Mom’ she told me.”

I chuckled along with the woman before we went our separate ways, imagining the shock of joining a Corps crew if you weren’t “outdoorsy.” Most CCMI positions require some kind of outdoor spirit as they spend a majority of their time outside. As someone who recharges with a healthy dose of outdoors, I’d started getting stir-crazy sitting in the office all day. I was therefore duly excited when May swept in with plenty of opportunities to get outside and get dirty (or wet).

The month started with a blast of the North Shore as the IPs traveled to Tettegouche State Park for three days of camping, hiking, and questionable wild rice burgers. Nestled in the rolling hills of Lake Superior’s northern shore, Tettegouche offered a great place for reuniting and unwinding, as well as hiking 14 miles in one day and successfully not dying while scrambling down a muddy gorge (I promise it was part of the trail!).

After Tettegouche, the streak of outdoor trips continued with a trail camera installation adventure—an adventure that included discovering a mysterious cabbage-like plant (turned out to be skunk cabbage), investigating a deer carcass, and tracking deer paths through the prairie.

After trail cameras came boats and aquatics as I joined fellow Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) specialists conducting AIS surveys. These surveys primarily involve sampling for aquatic vegetation densities. Basically this means we throw a rake in the lake and see what we pull up. Common finds include coontail, Canadian elodea, northern watermilfoil, and pondweeds—all native species; and curly-leaf pondweed and Eurasian watermilfoil—two invasive species. Both of these invasives have similar MOs—grow voraciously, outcompete and displace native species, interfere with water recreation, litter the shoreline, and just be general nuisances. At this time of year, you’re more likely to find curly-leaf pondweed, as it pops up quickly post-winter. Later in the summer, curly-leaf will die back and Eurasian watermilfoil will take the stage. It almost seems like they planned it out that way in some calculated scheme. Or perhaps (probably more likely) it’s just a reflection of ecology and the capacity of species to occupy specific niches. Either way, knowing where these various species exist helps inform management decisions, and offers a great chance to get out on the water.

Looking back on the month and all the opportunities I got to go out-of-doors, I’m both happy and confident to assuage all doubts that we, CCMI members, are indeed the ones who go outside

Hello, goodbye to burn season

By: Kelsey Brock

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Our crew has been working with a Scientific Natural Area crew in Windom, MN for the last few weeks. The majority of the work we’ve been doing here has been chainsaw work, clearing invasive species of Buckthorn, Honeysuckle, and Cedar at sites in or around Windom. But luckily, the weather cooperated long enough for us to get in a few days of burning too.

When I tell people that prescribed burning is one of the things we do in the Corps, they usually ask the obvious question: “What’s the purpose?” It’s really cool that we get to set things on fire, but why do we do this?

For certain areas, fire has historically been a natural element of maintaining the land and what grows there. It has helped those areas thrive by clearing out invasive species of plants and regenerating the growth of species that are native and that have adapted to the presence of fire. Intentionally setting fire to these areas allows us to restore them back to their natural state in a more controlled way. My personal favorite part of prescribed burning is that it keeps me nice and warm, which is always such a difficult task to accomplish for someone who is forever cold. If you’re looking for me on a burn, I’m probably the one standing as close as possible to the flames.

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But as beneficial as the heat is to my internal body temperature, and the land, the control part is just as important. To achieve the aspect of control, there’s many things that go into the process, including the use of water, hand tools, drip torches, and the awareness of weather conditions. Factors like temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, and precipitation all play into the success of a burn. We learned this on our last burn that was done on an SNA unit located near Pipestone, MN. All was going well until we got towards the end of the afternoon, at which point it started raining us out. Because the weather needs to cooperate a certain way, burning is safest during short periods in spring and then again in fall. So while it seems like we have only just began our burn season, it is quickly ending, and soon we will have to settle for lighting campfires instead of setting acres of land on fire.