Healthy Ecosystems, Land, and Rivers
A healthy and diverse ecosystem is one that provides abundant and beneficial services to its constituents, such as food, water, shelter, economic livelihood, recreation, and natural beauty.
Why focus on healthy ecosystems, land, and rivers?
Working to support the ecological health of Moorhead is an important part of bolstering resilience and providing an environment that supports human well-being. Healthy ecosystems, with ecologically diverse landscapes, improve the well-being of residents while also mitigating and helping to protect against climate change. A healthy natural environment supports human well-being in many other ways, including by providing a rich, aesthetically pleasing tableau of places in which to recharge and refresh.
The idea of “Ecosystem Services” refers to the benefits provided by the healthy functioning of ecosystems within the community, and includes natural assets, such as tree canopy or a clean river, as well as aspects of ecosystem health, such as biodiversity and pollinator habitat. It also includes the systems in place to govern or protect these assets. Protecting and strengthening these assets makes Moorhead more resilient in the face of challenges.
The Red River of the North is a priceless asset, supporting diverse ecosystems, providing drinking water, and offering recreational opportunities. A healthy and protected Red River is foundational to community resilience in Moorhead.
Our Ecosystem Health Working Group is comprised of individuals representing multiple organizations in the community. We work collaboratively to set goals and take advantage of opportunities to act. Indeed, our focus is on action. We initiate and support projects aimed at improving ecological health and connecting residents with Moorhead’s natural assets. Our approach to the work puts equity concerns at the center, recognizing that improving our natural environment and addressing inequities go hand in hand. An example of this is our 2022 project that involved Native American kids planting pollinator gardens in their neighborhoods.
Photo courtesy of Chelsea Joy Photography
What We Focus On
We’ve identified the following as key strategies and actions that we can pursue in the short term:
Increase pollinator habitat
Improve water quality
Increase tree canopy
Incorporate climate-suited vegetation
Planning of green spaces
Increasing access to local food
M.B. Johnson Food Forest
In May of 2021, The City of Moorhead and Resilient Moorhead planted a Food Forest at M.B. Johnson Park. Over 100 fruit trees and berry bushes were planted with the help of 70 volunteers and staff, organized by River Keepers. This Food Forest will take several years to start producing, but the community is encouraged to utilize it on a first come, first served basis when it is established. Each tree has fencing and tree guards to keep animals at bay, which will be removed when the trees are larger. No chemicals were used in the site prep for this planting. Furthermore, the fruit species were selected to optimize pest and disease resistance, with the intent to not utilize herbicides for pest management. Tree and berry varieties were also chosen for taste, nutritional profile (some of the berries are healthier than blueberries), plant longevity, and ability to harvest based on information from the Northern Plains Botanic Society and the North Dakota State University Carrington Research Extension Center. To assess community support, a survey was conducted that showed most residents were interested in the idea of adding a food forest to M.B. Johnson park.
Photo courtesy of Chelsea Joy Photography
Southside Regional Stormwater Pond Prairie Planting
In 2021-2022, the City of Moorhead and Resilient Moorhead partnered with Wildlife Forever and the United Prairie Foundation to obtain a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Partners Legacy Grant. Resilient Moorhead contributed an in-kind match to purchase the majority of the native “plugs” (small potted plants), that were planted to help create a more established border along the plantings, which will be over four acres around the stormwater pond at Southside Regional and over nine acres at M.B. Johnson when the project is complete. 2,800 plants were planted at Southside Regional. As part of the funding, about 2,500 square feet were also planted in key spots at M.B. Johnson park areas to be converted into prairie. Volunteers assisted with the planting in July, completing the Southside Regional plantings in about six hours with the help of United Prairie Foundation and a few City of Moorhead staff. A Concordia College Greencorps member created a brochure describing the project at Southside Regional. Monarch caterpillars were observed on milkweed plants at Southside Regional within six weeks after planting; providing a very quick benefit to pollinators. Download the brochure below:
Youth Environmental Steward Gardens and Demonstration Garden
In the Summer of 2021, several Resilient Moorhead members partnered with the City of Moorhead to plant a neighborhood demonstration pollinator planting in Moorhead at Rivershore Drive S and 24th Avenue south. In 2022, a Concordia Greencorps member was tasked with fostering collaborative approaches to the development of eco-friendly landscaping sites that are used for environmental education. Thus, the YES program came to be; as a collaboration between Resilient Moorhead, the City of Moorhead, and the Native American Liaisons from Moorhead Public Schools. Three parks were chosen: Arrowhead, Bennett, and Queens parks. The sites were chosen with the intent to make mowing easier and to provide pollinator habitat. All the gardens were between 200-300 square feet in size, and were planted by youth that participated in a workshop series to learn about pollinators; led by the Concordia Green Corps member. The workshops were made to instill a sense of leadership and confidence within youth in their own neighborhoods, as well as appreciation of and accessibility to local pollinators.
See this initiative's website: Pocket Prairies and Pollinators Summer Camp
An asset mapping project in 2021 inventoried the types of greenspace available in Moorhead. The resulting Greenspace Map shows opportunities for future eco-friendly landscaping such as pollinator gardens, rain gardens, and pocket prairies. A separate map gives information about access to parks by residents. The project was carried out by University of Minnesota graduate student Trey Harsch, with funding from the Regional Sustainable Development Partnership of University of Minnesota Extension.