Cedar sapling
Cedar sapling Cedar sapling © Fauna Creative

Stories in Minnesota

Trees for Trout

Working Together to Save a Minnesota Pastime

Here in Minnesota, we are affectionately known as the land of 10,000 lakes. But what we might not be as commonly known for are our many coldwater streams and rivers that are ideal for trout fishing, most notably in the northeastern corner of our state.

A Habitat at Risk

Trout streams in Minnesota attract anglers from far and wide to try their hand at fly-fishing. But historic logging and deforestation, coupled with Minnesota’s warming climate, have taken a toll on the forests that protect our more than 1,200 miles of trout water in northeastern Minnesota. Our coldwater streams are warming fast and are at risk of becoming uninhabitable to the many species that rely on them for food and spawning grounds.

As our forests age out and our climate warms, we arrive at a defining moment for northeastern Minnesota. Much of our northern forests lack diversity, both in species and age, which leaves them vulnerable if we don’t help them along. Without big forests to shade the streams and rivers, the waters that brook trout and other fish species rely on for habitat will soon be too warm to support them. That’s just one reason why we’re working in concert with partners across the North Shore to restore our iconic Northwoods.

Millions of Trees

Minnesotans take fishing seriously. Our tourism economy reels in billons each year from fishing trips alone, and Minnesota’s North Shore remains an extremely popular destination for visitors. Not only that, activities like fishing and hunting have been part of our collective traditions for generations. In order to save this amazing place, and the fish and wildlife who call it home, The Nature Conservancy is hard at work to plant millions of trees on the North Shore as a centerpiece of our forest restoration work in Minnesota.

And we're doing a lot more than simply replacing the trees we're losing. 

 

Coldwater Legacy We are teaming up with conservation partners to grow resilient forests for the future and preserve brook trout habitat.

Resilient Reforestation

By planting a diverse mix of species like red oak, yellow birch and white pine, species which have been predicted to do well as our climate warms, we’re not just rebuilding our existing forests. We are building up forests for a successful future in a part of Minnesota that has been most dramatically affected by climate change.

The climate in northeastern Minnesota has already warmed significantly, about 5°F, and that trend is expected to continue. Our scientists recognize that in order to plan (and plant!) for an uncertain future, we need to be in adaptation mode right now and plant species that will be able to survive as the North Shore continues to warm. By the time many of these saplings grow up to be mature trees, we can expect the climate of northeastern Minnesota to be very different than it’s been in years past.

But one thing we’re hopeful will remain the same: that everyone will have the opportunity to cast their rod into one of our trout streams and enjoy this quintessentially Minnesotan experience.