Meet Morrison SWCD’s new forester

NRCS-supported position expands ability to work with private landowners throughout county, Camp Ripley Sentinel Landscape

A man sits in front of a grassy hill with Camp Ripley spelled out in white letters.
“A lot of my job is to guide people in the right direction,” said Morrison SWCD forester New Noska, who spends part of his time at Camp Ripley. Photo Credit: Ann Wessel, BWSR

When the Morrison Soil & Water Conservation District hired forester Lew Noska, it expanded the capacity to provide expertise — and one more point of contact — for landowners throughout Morrison County and the Camp Ripley Sentinel Landscape.

“There is a large chunk of Morrison County that is forested,” said Morrison SWCD Manager Shannon Wettstein. “To have someone that can specifically help landowners with their questions and how to manage lands is priceless.”

Noska earned a biology degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2006, and then worked for an uncle’s Browerville-based heating, ventilation and air conditioning business for 12 years. Most recently, he worked for five years as Todd County SWCD’s wetland coordinator and buffer specialist. Noska joined the Morrison SWCD staff in November 2021. He remains a certified wetland delineator, and is the Walk-In Access coordinator for that DNR program in Morrison, Cass and Crow Wing counties.

Wettstein said Noska will be one more person landowners can get to know, trust and work with directly. The three-year NRCS contribution agreement requires Noska to complete 45 field visits with landowners and write 30 management plans. Most of the Sentinel Landscape’s forestlands lie in Cass, Crow Wing, northern Morrison and part of Todd counties.

Army Compatible Use Buffer Map Courtesy of Morrison SWCD

“It’s just getting them that first initial contact where they can take that first step and get comfortable working with us, and then we can direct them in the right direction for what their objectives are, be it wildlife habitat, be it timber management — even if they want to harvest timber,” Noska said.

Management plans that identify resource concerns are the basis for landowners to apply for assistance through NRCS’ Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

Noska spends some of his time at Camp Ripley, where he earned a firefighter certification that allows him to work on its prescribed burn crew, and where he is working toward NRCS job approval authority. He facilitates Camp Ripley-hosted events for landowners and conservation professionals — including Forest Stewards Guild learn-and-burn workshops, and a planned Oct. 1 forestry field day.

“We’re trying to create more opportunities for landowners to learn alongside of us, and bring in more dollars so they can do the management if they’re so inspired after they learn more about what they can do on their land,” said NRCS District Conservationist Josh Hanson.

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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.