Conservation Minnesota

Stewardship Towards a Better Minnesota

Pulling Buckthorn

One of the stewardship events we do with Dakota County Park and Lebanon Hills Regional Park is pulling buckthorn from the landscape. Photo: Avery Hildebrand

This year I’ve been promoting and participating in volunteer stewardship events with Dakota County Parks at Lebanon Hills Regional Park. I’ve also joined with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Twin Cities Trout Unlimited for their Vermillion Stewards project where they cut and removed invasive buckthorn from the banks of the South Branch of the Vermillion River. Throughout these experiences one thing has become very clear to me: a team of volunteers can accomplish more than I ever imagined.

Each time I participate in this type of events we all start off very intimidated by the task at hand and think to ourselves, “how is this going to be possible?” Then, just a few short hours later, everything is done. The endless fields of invasive species like Japanese hedge parsley, garlic mustard, or acres of pre-cut buckthorn are gone before we know what hit us. Afterwards, everything looks more natural and healthy. The Vermillion buckthorn removal was one of the best examples of this. Before we started you couldn’t even see the river from ten feet away. But with 50 volunteers and three short hours later, the landscape was completely changed and you could see the river, access the river, and even walk the length of its banks.

None of this would be possible without the passionate and dedicated individuals who volunteer, organize volunteers, plan for the events, manage our natural resources, and provide funding for these events. It’s not easy work and yet I’d see the same faces coming back event after event. Each for a different reason but all for a common cause. This is only my second year participating in these stewardship events and I honestly can’t wait for my third year. To be able to go back to the landscapes we worked on and to see the progress is a really good feeling.

Some of the folks I talk with about invasive species feel, understandably, overwhelmed. It is a large and complex problem. However, I can tell you that I’ve seen the results of volunteer efforts, and I’ve never felt more optimistic about our chances for successfully managing or eliminating invasive species from some of our most valued landscapes here in Minnesota. The key to this challenge is consistency and the will to stick with the management until the natural ecosystem can become strong enough to hold invasive plants at bay.

One thing that can make sure this great work continues is by supporting the programs and elected officials who make funding for these volunteer efforts possible. Another surefire way to keep these efforts moving forward is to volunteer some of your time. Trust me, it’s worth it! If we stop supporting this work now, it will be left to return to the invasive plants and we will have wasted hundreds of hours of hard work.

If you would like to be involved in volunteer efforts at Lebanon Hills Regional Park next year, please do drop me a line at or 612-767-1572.

About Avery Hildebrand

Avery Hildebrand

Born in Minnesota, Hildebrand earned his degree in Environmental Science and Management from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls. He has an extensive background in canvassing and organizing. An avid fisherman, who once worked as an aquatic invasive species watercraft inspector, his perfect day in Minnesota includes good friends and fishing, which pairs nicely with his favorite place in the state, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

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