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An 18,000-Acre Classroom

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UMD Connects to Boulder Lake

Last year alone, Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center (ELC) engaged 224 UMD participants through internships, assistantships, May-term classes, field trips, undergraduate research projects, workshops, presentations, organized recreation events, and more.

Boulder Lake

This March 9 and 10, more than 500 Minnesota landowners will flock to the DECC to participate in the third Minnesota Family Woodlands Conference (MFWC), a convention held through the support and funding of MN DNR, University of Minnesota Extension, Minnesota Forestry Association, US Forest Service and Saint John’s Arboretum.

UMD is participating in this event as well. On Friday, March 9, in the UMD Library, the “Mapping your land with GPS” workshop will be held. It focuses on informing landowners about GPS receivers and free, online GIS software tools to learn more about their property. John Geissler, UMD employee and director of the Boulder Lake ELC, will lead the workshop which covers using GPS and free software available online for property owners. Geissler is excited by the potential of programs such as Google Earth. “It is easy to get relatively high resolution aerial photos of your land,” said Geissler, "and many layers of data such as soils, property line estimates, and historical photos are available.”

The MFWC features more than 65 different workshops, presentations, and field trips planned and conducted by professionals from such organizations as the Department of Natural Resources, Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center, the Minnesota Forests Association, and the US Forests Service. Subjects taught include Chainsaw Safety and Maintenance, Nature Photography, Tree Management, and Pest Deterrence, among dozens of other topics.

Large-scale conventions are not the primary focus of Boulder Lake ELC’s efforts, however. Created as a group effort by the University of Minnesota Duluth- Center for Environmental Education, St. Louis County, and Minnesota Power, the 18,000- acre classroom of Boulder Lake ELC provides unique opportunities for UMD students and the surrounding community to participate in education, research, and recreation, centered around sustainable natural resource management. UMD classes use Boulder Lake as an outdoor destination to temper skills in the field. Outdoor education/recreation, biology, and anthropology students practice teaching outdoor skills, taking surveys of animal and plant life, and identifying and excavating dig sites. UMD’s Recreational Sports Outdoor Program (RSOP) often makes use of Boulder Lake’s terrain for events such as skiing lessons, snow kiting,
and staff retreats.

Annually, many take advantage of Boulder Lake’s numerous workshops and field trips. Boulder Lake holds a variety of activities for outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels. “It's a nice mix of high-end and general community offerings available,” Geissler said. With programs varying from the extensive ‘Master Naturalist’ course to workshops focused on maple syrup and mushrooms, there is something at Boulder Lake's Website for every nature enthusiast.

Written by Zach Lunderberg. February 2012

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