Forestry partnerships focus on private land in 10-mile radius of Camp Ripley

NRCS’ $400,000 contribution agreement with Morrison SWCD and its Regional Conservation Partnership Program renewal focus on the Sentinel Landscape, where management can improve resiliency and habitat, protect the National Guard’s mission

A man walks down a path toward pine and mixed hardwood trees.
Bob Perleberg walked down one of the trails that provide access to 480 acres of managed forestland punctuated by wildlife food plots and ponds. The Perlebergs have planted and harvested trees in an effort to maintain a thinned stand of multi-aged mixed hardwoods. Photo Credits: Ann Wessel, BWSR

“This agreement is really focused on long-term resiliency in the forested northern half of the Camp Ripley Sentinel Landscape. This part of the state has large, intact habitat corridors that are almost entirely privately managed,” said Morrison SWCD Manager Shannon Wettstein.

Seven people stand in front of a tank.
Among those involved in forestry work within Camp Ripley’s Sentinel Landscape made possible by a cooperative agreement between the USDA’s NRCS and the Morrison SWCD are, from left: Camp Ripley Environmental Supervisor Josh Pennington; NRCS District Conservationist Team Lead Josh Hanson; Lt. Col. Steve Hall; Brig. Gen Lowell Kruse, senior commander at Camp Ripley; Morrison SWCD forester Lew Noska; Morrison SWCD Manager Shannon Wettstein; and Camp Ripley Sentinel Landscape Coordinator Todd Holman, who also serves as The Nature Conservancy’s Mississippi Headwaters program director.

“Couple (the agreement) with the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and NRCS dollars to fund practices, and now all of a sudden we’ve got capacity to deliver, the money to do the work, and now it’s engaging with landowners,” Holman said.

A tree grows on the grassy bank of the Mississippi River.
The Mississippi River runs through Camp Ripley, a 52,830-acre regional National Guard training center near Little Falls where about 30,000 military personnel and civilians train every year.

“Having this cooperation with NRCS and having a (Morrison SWCD) forester here gives us another opportunity to partnership, which is the heart of what we do with our environmental programs. We partnership with a lot of different agencies,” said Brig. Gen. Lowell Kruse, “all in an effort to keep the installation from having any kind of problems — problems with an inability for our soldiers to train and do what they want to because of an environmental concern, or actually creating environmental concerns with our training.”

A man in a baseball cap and long-sleeved shirt stands amid pine trees.
Bob Perleberg stands amid the white pines that, with Conservation Stewardship Program assistance from NRCS, he and his wife, Donna, pruned to help control blister rust.

“The biggest obstacle is a pretty easy one: our own egos as landowners,” said Perleberg, who has written stewardship plans for others within the Sentinel Landscape in his role as a private forestry consultant. “We don’t want change. We don’t look forward. We don’t look at the health of the forest. We look at what we want, and we want big, fat over-mature trees.”

Ferns surround a fallen birch tree in front of a stand of birch trees.
Bob Perleberg is enthusiastic about the stand of birch, and about the far less parklike regeneration that followed a successful timber sale on the 480 acres east of Camp Ripley that he and wife Donna have managed.

“Camp Ripley cannot provide the habitat needs for a lot of these species in a vacuum. It really takes a lot of management and protection on private lands surrounding Camp Ripley to really benefit the needs of these species and protect their habitat,” Pennington said. “As habitat fragmentation occurs outside of Camp Ripley, those animals move on to Camp Ripley.”

The Mississippi River flows for 18 miles through Camp Ripley.
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Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources

Our mission is to improve and protect Minnesota’s water and soil resources by working in partnership with local organizations and private landowners.