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Alex Roth

Harnessing fire as a conservation tool

Crews work to carefully manage a burn at the Sand Coulee Scientific & Natural Area. Fire helps reduce invasive species while benefiting fire-adapted native prairie plants. Photo by Karen Schik

Fire was once commonplace on the American landscape. After nearly a century of suppression, it’s making a comeback. Find out why fires are on the rise, and how FMR uses fire as a tool to restore habitat on many of our restoration sites.

April 11

FMR restoration efforts emphasize pollinator health

A yellow sulphur butterfly in the bluff prairie at River Oaks park in Cottage Grove, an FMR restoration site. Photo: Joe Walton

Pollinators have had a rough go of things lately, with habitat loss and overabundant pesticide use leading to declines in many bee and butterfly species. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. These declines have sparked a renewed interest in pollinators, leading to new initiatives and funding for the conservation of these species. Find out what FMR and others are doing to protect pollinators in Minnesota.

March 7

Oh, deer. Whitetails and Minnesota's future forests

Unfortunately, deer don't enjoy munching on invasive plant species.

A healthy whitetail deer will eat around five pounds of food per day. Photo from www.northamericanwhitetail.com.

Perhaps drinking from the river or bounding through blufflands, deer are a welcome sight on any oudoor excursion. From an ecological perspective, however, an overabundance of deer are creating problems. It turns out many uncommon native plants are especially tasty. But invasive species such as buckthorn and garlic mustard? Not so much. Compounded by earthworms and climate change, our treasured whitetails may play a large role in the future of our forests. 

January 11

Restoring prairie and savanna in an old rail yard

After a summer of planning, restoration is in full swing at Ole Olson Park. So far, the transformation at the site north of downtown Minneapolis has been dramatic. Restoration will continue in 2016 with the installation of roughly two acres of native prairie.

December 9

The green amidst the gray: the distinctive phenology of non-native shrubs

A layer of green on an otherwise gray and brown backdrop is evidence of buckthorn’s distinctive phenology.

A layer of green on an otherwise gray and brown backdrop is evidence of buckthorn’s distinctive phenology.

It’s finally (or already!) November and the leaves have fallen from the trees. Well, not quite all of them. If you take a close look at a nearby forest, you’ll likely notice a dense layer of green still present in the shrub layer. What are these shrubs and why are they still green when other species have all dropped their leaves? In and around the Twin Cities, it’s a good bet that these shrubs are either common buckthorn or one of a few species of bush honeysuckles, and their “distinctive phenology” actually plays a large part in their success in Minnesota’s forest ecosystems.

November 9

Restoring a blank slate at Houlton Farm

The Mississippi River runs along the southern edge of the Houlton Farm property, and the islands of the Mississippi River Islands SNA (left) already provide important protected habitat in the area.
The Mississippi River runs along the southern edge of the Houlton Farm property, and the islands of the Mississippi River Islands SNA (left) already provide important protected habitat in the area.

FMR ecologist Alex Roth is knee-deep into writing the Natural Resources Management Plan at Houlton Farm in Elk River. The property presents a variety of challenges, but is an incredible opportunity to conduct large-scale habitat restoration.

August 17

July: Goldenrod or ragweed?

Many people suffer from allergies during mid to late summer, but few know exactly what causes them. Folks usually chalk these allergies up to hay fever, and rightly so, but are all plants to blame? Goldenrod, a prolific flowering plant with masses of golden flowers, is often mistakenly blamed for causing the itchy eyes, runny nose and other symptoms that many of us suffer from. However, for most of us, ragweed is the true culprit.

July 20

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