Climate data tracked around the state shows that Minnesota has warmed by 3°F since 1895 and has gained an average of 3.4 inches of annual precipitation (See Minnesota DNR – Climate Trends). This warming trend is most pronounced during the winter, when average minimum daily temperatures have increased by 6°F between 1896 and 2021. This fall, a Community Forestry Initiative developed by AmeriCorps will place 50 members around the state to help communities increase their urban tree canopies and build resiliency within existing forests for changing climate conditions.
One major concern for Minnesota’s trees and forests is emerald ash borer, a non-native, invasive insect that attacks and kills ash trees. The first emerald ash borer in Minnesota was found in St. Paul in 2009, and the insect has since migrated to 34 counties in the state. Warmer winters make it easier for emerald ash borer and other invasive pests to survive and travel further north. Minnesota has more than 1 billion ash trees, mostly in forests, and one in five city trees are also ash.
Another concern is lack of trees within developed areas, which contributes to runoff pollution and an urban “heat island” effect. The Metropolitan Council also notes that there is a strong correlation between race, income, and tree canopy cover. Wealthier neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul, where historic redlining prevented people of color from purchasing homes, tend to have more trees than poorer neighborhoods where there is more racial diversity. For example, St. Paul’s Summit Hill neighborhood has a median household income of $118,625, 91% of its residents are white, and it has a tree canopy cover of 42%. In contrast, Minneapolis’s Camden neighborhood has a median household income of $46,528, 59% of its residents are people of color, and the neighborhood only has a 16% tree canopy cover.
To help address these challenges, the AmeriCorps Community Forestry program will help local government and nonprofit organizations around Minnesota to conduct tree inventories; develop emerald ash borer (EAB) management plans; design, construct and manage gravel bed tree nurseries; develop educational materials for forest landowners; and work with volunteer groups on tree planting, habitat restoration, and climate resiliency projects. The program offers 11-month long positions and is geared toward recent high school and college graduates. Unlike most entry level jobs, however, these positions also include health insurance, child care assistance, Federal student loan forbearance and interest repayment, and up to $6,495 for tuition or student loans.
For forest and woodland landowners, the Minnesota DNR also offers cost-share grants to support projects including reforestation and tree planting, removing invasive species, planting a native prairie to improve habitat, or developing a woodland stewardship plan. There is no minimum acreage required to apply for grants, but you do need to have at least 20 acres to receive support for a woodland management plan. Learn more at www.dnr.state.mn.us/woodlands/cost-share.html or contact Madisson Masucci at Madisson.Masucci@state.mn.us or 651-539-3316.
In addition, there are numerous woodland management resources, including contact information for local service providers, at www.mystcroixwoods.org.
To learn more about the AmeriCorps Community Forestry program, go to www.ampact.us/community-forestry. Locally, Washington Conservation District will host a position, beginning in late August: www.mnwcd.org/employment-opportunities.