It is spring in Minnesota, and we are all watching the changes unfold outside as we sip our warm drinks and page through our now tattered seed catalogs.
We are anxious to begin growing things. In this year of social distancing, many of us will plant trees, and though that seems like a small act, its impact on our collective community is hopeful and huge.
Trees connect the resources of the sky with the resources of the earth. Even small trees reach upward with their leaves to transform photonic energy from the sun into food, which is always destined to provide shelter and food for thousands of other types of life.
In the forest, the roots of all trees grow woven and interconnected so that the giants, with their extensive canopies and roots, can draw up water and nutrients from afar to share with their youthful counterparts. This mechanism of water retention and redistribution is what makes the collective forest so good at improving both water quantity and water quality.
Imagine this with me. We are standing in a forest. The roots below our feet extend through the soil in a web that is as extensive as the canopy above. It is raining. Drops stick to the branches and needles above and drip one by one to the leaf covered ground. We are barely wet.
The network of roots below our feet takes the fallen water up, holds it and moves it like a slow seeping river to wherever the forest needs it most. As the water moves through the cellular pathways of the trees, the trees transport and harvest nutrients that the forest needs while cleaning the water. Passing through cells is something like passing through thousands of tiny filters. When the trees are done, those with the deepest roots deposit the now pure water into the groundwater aquifers that we use for our wells.
Forested watersheds around the world manage to exhibit a slower flow of water during wet seasons and increased flow during dry seasons compared to non-forested watersheds. This is because trees are able to both hold and move water. They also reduce erosion and improve the overall water quality in the watershed when considering both surface water and groundwater.
We have a unique situation in Hubbard County: the only water that flows into our county flows in drops from the sky. We have the source waters here, so we also have a significant amount of control over the quality of our water and the water that flows out of our county to other parts of the state.
That’s why the Hubbard County and Hubbard County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) have worked hard to collaborate with other local partners to ensure that the new Leech Lake River, Mississippi Headwaters and Crow Wing River One Watershed One Plans bring funds into our county to help us plant more trees and manage our forests for the health of our waters and our communities.