Keeping animals out of our state parks does not sound like Minnesota DNR work, but that’s exactly what the Division of Parks and Trails has been doing for 20 years, at least on small parcels of land within the parks. To restore white pine and other forest cover to natural areas, the DNR began building exclosures ― essentially fenced areas of different sizes ― to protect the seedlings from browsing wildlife, primarily white-tailed deer and snowshoe hare.
With state budgets tightening, Corps field crews have become vital to the maintenance of the exclosures within state parks along the North Shore. This fall, several crews have been repairing fencing and pruning young trees to reduce blister rust infections. The first week of November, with 35 crew members called out to East Coast disaster relief, the Northeast District pulled together a crew with two corps members each from Tower (John Greiner and Caleb Cowden) and Moose Lake (Grace Parikh and Alex DeMaioribus), led by Moose Lake Field Specialist Darian Motamed. Working in Jay Cooke State Park under the direction of DNR Resource Specialist Harley Hanson (a Corps alumnus), they made repairs to a 21-acre exclosure and pruned hundreds of saplings to protect the regenerating forest stand.
“Conservation Corps Minnesota has become an invaluable part of maintaining state park exclosures,” says Hanson. “Without sustained and regular maintenance, exclosures become ineffective and significant forest restoration gains are quickly lost.”
Read an MPR feature about the declining birch population on the North Shore, and Harley Hanson's efforts to restore native resources.