By Amy Rager, Extension Educator, Extension Professor
Saturday, September 25 was one of those perfect fall days in Minnesota. You were able to work outside in a t-shirt and jeans and work we did! All across the state Minnesota Master Naturalist volunteers were out doing volunteer service for National Public Lands Day. It was first held in 1994 and is sponsored annually by the National Environmental Education Foundation. Minnesota Master Naturalist joins in the day by arranging localized volunteering opportunities. These projects are with federal agencies such as US Fish & Wildlife Service, MN DNR-Scientific & Natural Areas, County and City park departments, Minnesota Historical Society, and Soil & Water Conservation Districts. Some of the projects this year included: hand harvesting prairie seed, painting historic structures, removal of invasive species, and leading a bioQuest at a local festival. We also started allowing volunteers to do work on their own property in 2020, due to COVID. We kept that option available for 2021 too. We believe that by encouraging property owners to be good stewards of their own land has a positive impact on public lands. This year we had 266 participants in 40 counties across the state who contributed a combined total of 1033 hours on September 25. The total cash value of this single day of service is $32,002.34 (independentsector.org).
Minnesota Master Naturalist is engaging well trained volunteers to do conservation volunteer service work all around the state. Partners tell us that these activities provide benefits to the environment by ensuring local genetic diversity and providing very local genetic diversity in our newly restored urban parks. One partner reported that “Our NPLD seed harvest events have been a huge asset to our prairie reconstruction efforts. There are many native species that are not available or are very expensive on the commercial market, and having a dedicated group of volunteers ensures we can put diverse seed mixes on the ground. We appreciate the enthusiasm and curiosity the volunteers share with us, and have even made some great long term connections with volunteers!”
More information on University of Minnesota Extension Minnesota Master Naturalist program.