Congratulations to Jacqui Baker, recipient of the 2020 Isanti Soil and Water Conservation District’s Outstanding Conservationist Award.

Each year, the SWCD recognizes individuals and/or organizations for outstanding accomplishments in implementing conservation practices and improving Minnesota’s natural resources.

“In early October I spent the better half of a morning trekking with Jacqui on her 80 plus acres located in Isanti Township,” said Tiffany Determan, SWCD District Manager. “After listening to her talk about her land and passion for trees, prairie grasses, wetlands, beetles, pigeons (Ok, Ok, all things natural) I reflected on something that Aldo Leopold, the father of wildlife management, once said. He said: ‘Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching—even when doing the wrong thing is legal.’ My thought was, it must have been people like her that he was reflecting on. It is clear to the SWCD that Jacqui whole-heatedly believes in conservation. After purchasing her property over 20 years ago she began an extensive effort to rehabilitate the land and has done an amazing job.”

A few of Baker’s great conservation efforts include:

• A permanent conservation easement on 80 acres: Baker was one of the first in Isanti County to protect private land with a conservation easement through a program offered by The Minnesota Land Trust. She donated the entire value of the easement. Her easement protects wetlands, prairie, and “Big Woods Forest” perpetually.

• Wetland rehabilitation: Baker has removed years of tires, garbage, shingles and appliances which were dumped in a wetland by the previous owners. The wetland was restored and is now filled with native wetland plants and happy critters.

• Invasive species management: Baker has worked tirelessly to eradicate and control numerous large infestations of Buckthorn. Native orchids, lilies, and ferns have replaced the buckthorn. She also manages invasive knapweed with the aid of knapweed root and seedhead weevils. Additionally, thistles on Baker’s property and along the township road leading to her home are disappearing because of her efforts. Baker even gets permission from her neighbors to enter their land to remove rogue buckthorn and thistle.

• Wildlife rehabilitation: Injured animals of all kinds are also rehabilitated by her and returned to the wild.

• Natural art: Baker salvages naturally downed trees and turns them into bowls and other woodworking projects.

All this work is done with her own blood, sweat, tears and money. The SWCD board and staff feel proud to have a connection with someone that has the land ethics that Baker clearly has. Baker’s passion has the potential to inspire action of others.

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