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Articles written by Chris Gass


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  • The Green Guy: I'm leaving, but SWCD works goes on

    Chris Gass|May 8, 2020

    Goodbye. Maybe it’s just me, but “goodbye” seems reserved for formal occasions with suits and ties or when the end just can’t come soon enough. I much prefer the intentionally vague “until next time” which carries with it a likelihood, or at least opportunity, for paths to cross once more. With that in mind, I say to you readers of Carlton County, “until next time.” I am leaving the SWCD. This will be my last report to you on the happenings of the Carlton Soil and Water Conservation Di...

  • The Green Guy: Kits will help you create a pollinator-friendly habitat

    Chris Gass|Apr 24, 2020

    Every year, there seems to be more and more buzz about bees, butterflies, and pollinators. More information seems to come out about their benefits, pesticide alternatives for your plants, or the “top 5” things you can do encourage more visits to your flower or vegetable garden. Great as it is to have an abundance of resources, it can turn into quite the task to sift through and turn it into action. It’s understandable that for many, the process of picking out plants that are well-suited for thei...

  • The Green Guy: Earth Day was an inspiration

    Chris Gass|Apr 17, 2020

    Anniversaries are special occasions. And next week we celebrate 50 years from when we experienced one of the greatest shifts in values in the U.S. and across the globe: Earth Day. The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970. It followed on the heels of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill in California that remains the third largest in U.S. history after the 1989 Exxon Valdez and 2010 Deepwater Horizon spills. Oil killed more than 10,000 large sea animals (dolphins, seals) and devastated a cherished... Full story

  • The Green Guy: Recycling has many parts

    Chris Gass|Mar 13, 2020

    Reduce, reuse, recycle … it’s stated so much that you probably give it little actual thought and instead just let it go in one ear and out the other. Now there is nothing I have negative to say about the three R’s, as it outlines the exact concepts and hierarchy we need to strive for: giving greatest priority to reducing our overall waste creation in the first place then looking toward responsible management through reuse and recycling. But the three R’s don’t explain the benefits gained by...

  • Students capture work of SWCD land practices

    Chris Gass|Feb 28, 2020

    Esko High School students partnered with the Carlton County Soil and Water Conservation District to create six videos highlighting conservation programs. The competition addressed the challenges of outreach and public awareness by using the talents of local students in technology and creativity to create the videos. Sophomores in Chris Evavold's and Laura Zimny's science classes got word in October about the competition. Interested students then joined for a tour of a local conservation...

  • The Green Guy: Recycling hits a snag, but residents can help

    Chris Gass|Jan 31, 2020

    Two years ago, some serious waves crashed in on recycling circles: China would no longer accept our reclaimed materials, especially plastics. It established what was labeled an all-out halt on incoming foreign waste, leaving many frantic. News stories echoed the point about high rates of contaminated recycled material that make it a challenge to fashion raw-grade material from it and raises financial barriers. Today, you likely are still recycling or have the option to. It hasn’t vanished, b... Full story

  • Local culvert efforts recognized statewide

    Chris Gass|Jan 31, 2020

    Carlton County department members and the Carlton Soil and Water Conservation District earned statewide recognition recently for efforts on culverts the past several years. The Carlton County Department of Transportation team received the County Conservation Award from the Association of Minnesota Counties at its annual meeting in December. It was for right-sized culvert replacement practices. The approach focuses on sizing pipes to site-specific stream characteristics to avoid high-energy...

  • The Green Guy: Getting a green message to students

    Chris Gass|Dec 20, 2019

    In offering workshops and programs at Cloquet Library, the Carlton County Soil and Water Conservation District seeks to better connect with residents with the goal of building up an understanding of all the conservation possibilities and growing community knowledge. This is mostly a new avenue for us. We do host events through the year, like watershed tours or Walk in the Woods, but they vary and typically are specific to grants or a project. These are great, but have limited scope. And...

  • Kids, adults invited to learn about keeping salt out of water at library classes Dec. 9, 18

    Chris Gass|Dec 6, 2019

    And just like that, Thanksgiving whizzes by and the holiday season begins. To add to the long list of seasonal happenings such as Bentleyville and holiday plays and visits with Santa, the Carlton SWCD will be hosting two events in partnership with the Cloquet Public Library. Our focus here is to provide interactive and informative sessions on conservation topics and to better share our resources with you and your neighbors. For December, we are focusing on the seasonal topic of salt and its... Full story

  • The Green Guy: Now is the time to tackle buckthorn

    Chris Gass|Nov 29, 2019

    Believe it or not, fall is the best time of year to tackle buckthorn. The pesky and intrusive invasive is most vulnerable when cooler weather rolls in for a couple reasons. One, it is one of the easiest times to identify the small tree because its leaves persist into winter. Two, like the rest of the plants, it’s pulling nutrients down into the roots for winter storage. That makes it susceptible to chemical treatment that has high chance ending any further growth. Here’s how easy buckthorn rem...

  • The Green Guy: Leaves are pretty in the fall, pretty dangerous for water

    Chris Gass|Oct 25, 2019

    The recent wind and rain have taken a toll on the leaves. In turn, the crinkly debris is strewn all over, leading to the debate on collecting or ignoring them. Whatever side of the fence you sit on regarding handling the leaves, one place they most assuredly shouldn’t be is the street. Why? Because the end destination, come the next rain, is a nearby storm drain leading to a nearby water feature. “What’s the big deal?” you might ask. Let me explain. When fall approaches, trees begin taking...

  • The Green Guy: Walk in the woods shows how management works

    Chris Gass|Oct 4, 2019

    Fall is my favorite time of the year, or at least it’s a tie for first with spring. The weather is favorable and the pestering insects are well suppressed thanks to the mild temps. All this adds up to the great outdoors being a welcoming getaway, especially for a walk in the woods with the abundant colors. Lucky me, I had such an opportunity on Sept. 24 when Carlton SWCD hosted a “Walk in the Woods” event with our highly knowledgeable forester and the local Kettle River forestry chapter. The e...

  • Green guy: It's easy to be bee-friendly

    Chris Gass|Aug 9, 2019

    Just a few weeks ago on a fine July Saturday afternoon, I had the pleasure of taking part in the Oldenburg’s “Bee Friendly Day.” The event, centered around capturing the importance of pollinators in our local region, hosted a variety of pollinator-themed activities with something for everyone. For the garden buffs and flower advocates, I gave a short presentation on behalf of the Carlton SWCD and highlighted a little bit about our pollinators and how we can invite them into our landscape. No su...

  • Volunteering is part of a strong community

    Chris Gass|Jul 19, 2019

    The season of giving. When is it? I’d argue that the season never truly ends, as giving can be, and should be, year-round. One can give in many ways, through either resources or time; each is important in advancing the social good. I’d wager that giving $20 to a national organization won’t carry the same benefit as getting involved within your community. It just doesn’t connect you with the issue the way volunteering does. An organization benefits from its volunteers’ time and efforts in many wa... Full story

  • Green guy: Trees, in the end, are a real bargain

    Chris Gass|Jun 21, 2019

    We’ve all heard the adage “Money doesn’t grow on trees” at some point, especially as children. Granted, we can point out that fruit, timber and other such goods are indeed abundant in our economy, suggesting that money really does grow on trees, so long as one can sell those products. And because those products have a market price, we can readily make decisions about purchasing them; e.g., you might buy apples when they are $1 per pound, but at $3 per pound, you might not. But what about values...

  • Trees have benefits beyond the aesthetic

    Chris Gass, The Green Guy|Jun 7, 2019

    If you're like me, late spring and early summer is a favorite time of the year. It's a treat to get outdoors, and I'm of the opinion that you don't need to travel beyond city limits for the delightful opportunity to do so. For me, nearby neighborhoods are where I make my rounds, passing through those I both know and don't know, all part of the fun of getting some fresh air and taking some time to observe. Of all the streets I've walked, I find that those I come back to are always abundant in...

  • Controlling runoff at home can be easy

    Chris Gass, The Green Guy|May 24, 2019

    Last week, I was able to attend a two-day workshop on stormwater practices geared towards teaching the best ways to inspect and maintain green stormwater infrastructure. No doubt, the workshop is tailored to a niche community which I happily take interest in but understand that many others do not. This meant getting deep into the weeds about various runoff management devices and techniques that help us alleviate the problems with uncontrolled runoff while also examining the nuances between...

  • Dog poop adds up to more than a dirty shoe

    Chris Gass, The Green Guy|May 17, 2019

    I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but the morning routine outside sure has changed from just a month ago. No more does it seem to be solemn and dark, and still past 6:30 a.m. Far from it, in fact, as I’m getting woken up by bickering birds and the intruding sun comes much earlier. Indeed, everything is stirring sooner than before, and hues of green are taking back the landscape. A welcomed invitation to me, and others, to get outside for morning activities, with going for a run or wal...

  • Adopt a Drain program

    Chris Gass, The Green Guy|Apr 26, 2019

    It’s official, ice-out season is in, and open waters are coming our way! Dedicated water enthusiasts are ready to pry their way out the door and itching for their chance to get out to enjoy the season. But with all the time we spend enjoying our waterways, how many of us think to give back to help preserve our favorite escapes? Cliché as it might sound, with great enjoyment comes great responsibility. And, more than ever, we really need everybody’s participation to help maintain our wate...

  • Try something new this spring: Adopt a drain

    Chris Gass, The Green Guy|Apr 5, 2019

    The season of spring may well be considered the season of new. As the latest-model boats and motorcycles hit the market, grills and other summertime recreation equipment fill the stores, and the newest offerings for gardening, camping, backyard get-togethers or home renovation and yard care pour in, it stands to reason that producers know we are wide-eyed after being holed up for the long cold spell. On top of all that, lawn care, tree maintenance and stump removal businesses will soon be in...

  • Do your part to cleanup stormwater runoff

    Chris Gass, The Green Guy|Mar 29, 2019

    We have now officially entered spring! Shouts of “Hooray!” and sighs of relief can be heard from warm-weather fans all through the area (I know most of our office is Team Summer). Still, even if you’re cheering this opening act of a warmer season, a damaging reality almost always goes with it — flooding. It is one of the greatest threats to homeowners in our state and looking to be a formidable foe this year. With a wet fall sparking a deep winter soil freeze and a snowy February, it’s li...

  • The ripple effect of salt in our water

    Chris Gass, The Green Guy|Mar 8, 2019

    Last week, I touched on the growing problem of chloride (salt) pollution in our waterways, and steps that we can all take to help slow the increase of this substance. This time, we are going to dive a little deeper into the trauma that salt pollution has on a natural landscape and why this is important. Before anything else, I want to mention again that chloride is a permanent pollutant in water. Yes, we can purify and remove contaminants. But by no means can we do so to treat all the water in...

  • Mother Earth needs a low-salt diet, too

    Chris Gass, The Green Guy|Mar 1, 2019

    Low-salt diets are a common recommendation for many adults these days. Doctors have individuals adjust the consumption of foods and seasonings to limit their intake of sodium and in turn have healthier lives. Recently, a similar diet is being recommended for Minnesota water bodies. Professionals from organizations like the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Freshwater Society, who keep a close watch on the quality of water in the state, are advocating for waterways to have a low-salt...

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