Of Pines, Prairies, Sandy Soils, and Potatoes: The Natural History of the Pineland Sands

Nov 22, 2019

A stretch of the Mississippi Headwaters as it flows threw northern Minnesota
Credit Nature Conservancy

Forest Ecologist, John Almendinger, tells us how the landscape of the Pineland Sands region of north central Minnesota has changed over thousands of years. Today the region is a patchwork of good and poor soils, and high and low water tables that affect groundwater, lakes and streams. 

The Pineland Sands is also part of the prime potato growing region in northern Minnesota.  There is a growing demand from Offutt Farms of Fargo and other potato growers for well water permits to irrigate farmland.  In the Straight River Watershed within the Pineland Sands region near Park Rapids, agriculture accounts for more than 80 per cent of all groundwater use.  This demand for water, fertilizer and herbicide use have raised concerns about the impact of agriculture on the quantity and quality of groundwater in the region.

We also hear from freshwater ecologist, Kristen Blann of the Nature Conservancy.  Her projects focus on forest and freshwater protection in the Mississippi Headwaters area, which includes the Pineland Sands region.  The Pineland Sands region covers parts of west central Cass County, southern Hubbard County and parts of Becker and Wadena counties too.