Knife River Watershed Education Project
Laurentian Resource Conservation and Development Council
Basin Program Funds:
Tree planting, seeding and other habitat enhancement activities in the Knife
River Watershed are occurring as a result of a Forest Stewardship Watershed
Project initiated in 1992. For these activities to continue, develop, and endure
over the long-term, an educational program targeting the citizens in the watershed
is also needed. To address this need, the Larentian Resource Conservation and
Development Council initiated the Knife River Watershed Education Project.
The Knife River Watershed is a unique system among Minnesota's Lake Superior/North
Shore tributaries. It encompasses an area of approximately 60,000 acres split
evenly between private and public ownership. The Knife River has the North Shore's
only naturalized wild steelhead population and is the only North Shore tributary
that has no natural barriers preventing fish migration. However, the river is
also a major source of sedimentation to Lake Superior. According to the North
Shore Steelhead Plan, land use changes have resulted in the acceleration of
stream bank erosion and sedimentation, excessive fluctuations in stream flow
and water temperature. Furthermore, cumulative hydrologic effects have combined
to produce a negative impact on the Knife River system's quality and quantity.
The goal of this project was to minimize and/or prevent soil
erosion and sedimentation in the Knife River Watershed, which directly impacts
Lake Superior, and thus protect and improve water quality as well as wildlife
and fish habitat. This goal was reached through information and education activities.
The project goal was accomplished by meeting both short-term and long-term objectives.
The short-term objectives completed include four Edge of the Knife newsletters
during the project year. These newsletters educated readers about the necessity
of riparian tree establishment, existing tree species, historical data on the
Knife River, protection of wildlife and fisheries habitat in the Knife, as well
as acknowledging landowners that have currently implemented stewardship plans
in the watershed.
The project has been disseminated to over 1,000 landowners, residents,
students and elected officials through two tree plantings, two tours of the
watershed projects and four Edge of the Knife newsletters. Over 600 people in
the watershed received the newsletters. One edition of the newsletter included
a pull-out Knife River Watershed factsheet that was also distributed by other
means. Educational signs were developed and posted at six strategic locations
throughout the watershed. These signs attract attention year-round, as they
are placed at popular fishing, swimming, and picnic spots, as well as along
hiking, skiing, and snowmobile trails.
Over 1,700 trees were planted on private and public lands to
stabilize streambanks and prevent erosion. This is well over the 750 trees originally
proposed. A total of 31 acres of public and private land were planted as part
of the "Riparian Tree Cost Share" program, where landowners received 50 percent
cost share for trees, mats, and mulch. Furthermore, eight landowners received
Forest Stewardship Plans.
The long-term goal of creating a Geographic Information System (GIS) is underway.
Maps of political boundaries, national wetlands, highways and roads, rivers
and streams, and/or watershed boundaries can already be generated. GIS maps
have been produced and included in the Edge of the Knife newsletters. So far,
the GIS has been a tool to give the landowners a visual idea on how large the
watershed is, where beaver dam sites are located, the location of tributaries
and sub-tributaries, and property boundaries in the watershed. The GIS will
eventually be used for community-wide, landscape-level planning purposes and
will generate important information about the watershed for local professionals,
local units of government, and landowners for future planning and decision-making
An estimated 20 tons of soil will be saved per year as a result of 1,800 feet
of forested filter strips, 300 feet of vegetative stabilization, and 3,000 feet
of riparian tree planting over some 31 acres. Eight editions of the newsletter,
Edge of the Knife, were produced and mailed to 650 landowners, elected officials
and other interested parties. Additionally 2,000 fact sheets were produced and
circulated. Student volunteers also participated in two tree plantings.
Additionally, several smaller watersheds along Lake Superior's
North Shore have started watershed projects based on the information generated
by this project. Thus the potential for improvement and protection of Lake Superior
water quality is ever expanding.
Contact: Kim Samuelson, (218) 720-5225