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Great Lakes Article:

Volunteers plant trees to help water quality
By Shelley Nelson
Duluth News Tribune
Published May 3, 2006

Ken Benoit of the Gitche Gumee Chapter of Trout Unlimited was building infrastructure, kind of, on Saturday.

Benoit and his son, Nathan, were among 25 volunteers who turned out to start planting about 800 trees in an effort to help restore water quality in the Amity Creek watershed.

"It takes a long time for trees to grow -- what I call infrastructure," Benoit said. "You come back 15 to 20 years from now and the stream will actually have tree cover. You can't get it done overnight, so you have to get it done little by little."

Volunteers weathered cold and rainy conditions Saturday morning to start planting cedar, spruce, white pine and tamarack in the watershed. And they'll be back this weekend to finish the job.

The trees are being planted as part of the Weber Stream Restoration Initiative, an endowed project to raise public awareness of the effect of development on the local tributaries to Lake Superior.

Ron Weber, the maker of Rapala fishing gear, grew up fishing the trout streams of Duluth. He donated $100,000 to the Natural Resource Research Institute at the University of Minnesota Duluth to help restore the impaired Lester River, which is part of the Amity Creek watershed.

Weber's donation was matched by an anonymous donor. In addition to the institute's benefactors, NRRI has received $166,000 from the Minnesota Great Lakes Coastal Program, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Minnesota Lake Superior Coastal Program.

NRRI will monitor the trees to determine survival rates and the cost of restoring the watershed. The project cost is about $10,000, not including staff time for planting and subsequent monitoring.

"(Weber's) concern was just some of the North Shore streams and some of the impacts they'd been seeing over the years," said Dan Breneman, NRRI project coordinator. "Hopefully what we can learn from here can be applied to North Shore streams. We anticipate they're going to see a lot of development in the future."

However, he said, better planning could be the solution to protecting sensitive areas.

"You really can't undo what development has done," said June Kallestad, a spokeswoman for NRRI.

Vegetation growing next to a stream is important for stream health, because it can capture sediment and other pollutants before they enter the stream, said Lucinda Johnson, associate director at NRRI. She said the trees also provide shade and food for fish and insects in the stream.

"The more people that do it little by little," Benoit said, "when our kids grow up, they'll have a better resource."


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