Conservation Minnesota

A Boy and His River

Imagine for a moment – birds are chirping, insects are buzzing, and a river is bubbling with a fresh sound. On one side you have naturally growing native prairie swooping down to the rivers edge from a large hill. On the other, you can find mixed forest looking down on deep and expansive wetlands. Islands are pocked throughout as the ancient river meanders slowly but abruptly. There are no neighbors as far as the eye can see and the only people you will encounter are those who understand the beauty of this place. People of the river who rarely and quietly pass through with a head nod. As you soak up this scene, an Eagle swoops down right in front of you and catches a white sucker with ease. You look down at the river and notice that the Eagle’s catch is merely one of thousands running to lay their eggs.

Apple River[1]This was the world that I was lucky enough to grow up in. I was born in Minneapolis and lived in the heart of the City for eight years of my life until one day my parents broke the news; pack up your stuff because we are moving to the country. I remember being both excited and terrified. My only experience with true nature at that time was through movies and television. I had no idea what to expect.

Immediately, I embraced my new surroundings and began to create an identity around it. I wanted to be a hunter and an angler who knew our land intimately. I took hunter safety and begged my parents to buy me fishing gear. My first time hunting deer was an epic failure as my buck fever took hold early morning in the woods. A huge buck had been calling around me for an hour and finally the trees parted ways for a perfect shot. Well, it should have been a perfect shot.

Wildlife was so abundant there. Bear were a constant threat to our bird feeders and beehives. We once saw an albino deer across the river from our dinning room window while eating breakfast. I even spotted two martens chasing each other on our property one day and that day only. We would hear rumors of people seeing lynx and bobcats. This place was very special and acted as an oasis for animals that used to be abundant all around us. Outside of the woods was a changing landscape of endless fields and development. I’ll never forget the moment we realized what had truly been lost after we left. The new owners mowed down the native prairie right up to the rivers edge. They mowed down wetland areas and changed the land to meet their esthetic needs. Knowing the current state of the place that fostered my love of nature is what keeps me moving forward.

This is why I care. This is why we need to work hard everyday to make sure our Great Outdoors are healthy and accessible to future generations. Places where your children and grandchildren can see wildlife they have only heard of in books or movies. Places where they too can become connected to the land.

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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