Knife River Watershed Education Project
Knife River, MN

Grantee: Laurentian Resource Conservation and Development Council
Basin Program Funds: $9,229
Non-federal Funds: $6,500
Project Duration: 06/1996 - 01/1999
Status: complete

Problem Statement
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.

Edge of the Knife newsletter.

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 activities.

Knife River Watershed GIS

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


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