The 3.8 billion year old rocks featured at the Gneiss Outcrop Scientific and Natural Area seem to be the only things that have remained the same there. The rest of the SNA has seen some big changes recently and is bound to see some more in the near future. About fifteen local explorers gathered on Saturday to learn more about the work being done and to see it firsthand.
Brad Bolduan, part of the Minnesota DNR (Department of Natural Resources), led the tour with the help of Mark Cleveland, an SNA manager from the Twin Cities. They explained the recent problems that the site has been battling - the most prominent being controlling the non-native plants that have taken over the area. Just recently, hundreds of buckthorn, ash, and cedar trees were cut down in the SNA because they were taking the sunlight and nutrients from some native plants. Thanks to aerial photographs taken over the last seventy-five years, Brad was able to show the group how these trees had gradually taken over. He repeatedly said that, going forward, “the big thing is keeping the buckthorn regrowth in check.”
Some of the other invasive plants, like reed canary grass, can be as stubborn as the buckthorn when it comes to being removed. Often it takes burning and using herbicides, but then there’s the risk of losing native plants, too. Cleveland himself mused, “Can we manage and protect these intact communities?”
It’s a fine line to walk, but there are already some signs of hope popping up throughout the outcroppings. One native plant that was spotted growing among the other grasses was Hoary Vervain. Cleveland referred to it as a “pioneering species” because it’s one that can help with the restoration of the land. The group also had the chance to see several prickly pear cacti, another native species, blooming on a large outcropping in the SNA.
Of course, the area has a long way to go before it’s back to its natural state, but progress is definitely being made.
“The whole process of restoration is a long one,” Cleveland said upon seeing the piles of trees that had been chopped down. Thankfully, there are people like Brad and Mark with a passion for returning the land back to normal, so the rest of us can learn from and enjoy the beauty that’s hidden right beneath our noses.
The Gneiss Outcrop SNA is open to the public, so feel free to go see for yourself the great strides being made to restore the land, or just head out there to relax in a stunning part of nature. Long time visitor, Virginia Homme, promises that each time you go, you’ll find something new.
“You may see a plant one week, then find something else coming up in its place the next,” she said.
Page 2 of 2 - Just grab bug spray, a water bottle, and a plant identification book then get ready to spend a little quality time with the great outdoors.