Threats to Preservation

The Snake River has survived glaciers, floods, droughts, fires–but man is another matter.  The following are environmental issues that jeopardize the present and future of our enjoyment of the Snake River.

Off-Road Vehicle Trails Adjacent to Snake River

In 1999 the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources created a trails task force to prepare recommendations for trails on state lands for OHM (motorcycle), OHV (off highway vehicles) and ORV (off road vehicles or trucks) in Mille Lacs and Kanabec Counties.  Among the recommendations made by this task force was the development of truck trails in Section 16, Ford Township, Kanabec County.  This recommendation has been viewed as an environmental threat by area residents.  The Ford Township Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution opposing development of truck trails in Section 16 of Ford Township on October 12, 1999.  During the first two weekends of deer hunting in November, Tom Mortenson contacted deer hunters hunting in Section 16 and adjacent Sections 15 and 14.  All 69 deer hunters that were contacted enthusiastically signed a petition opposing the development of ORV or mudder truck trails in Section 16.  To see who signed, check the deer hunter’s petition to DNR opposing truck trail development on state lands in Kanabec County.

Check out the petition signed by 69 deer hunters opposing the development of truck trails in Section 16 of Ford Township, Kanabec County.  This petition was presented to deer hunters who were hunting in Section 16 during the first two weekends of the November 1999 deer hunting season.  All hunters enthusiastically opposed the development of truck trails on state lands in Kanabec County.  Deer hunters petition.

Click here to view the deer hunter’s petition as a .PDF file.

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Water Quality

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has conducted an Assessment of Stream Water Quality in the St. Croix River basin, including the Snake River and its tributaries.  You will need free Adobe Acrobat software installed on your computer to download, view and print this PDF spreadsheet.  The PCA has also ranked Minnesota watersheds in Need of Restoration and in Need of Action to Sustain Water Quality.  This is also a PDF file that requires free Adobe Acrobat software to use.

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The U.S. Geological Survey also reports nutrient and sediment data for the Snake River that is supplied my the MnPCA.  See USGS St. Croix Water Quality.

Off-Road-Vehicles

A serious recent threat to the Snake River is the development of off-highway-vehicle (OHV) trails on state lands in the Snake River watershed, particularly on lands adjacent to the Snake River.

In 1998 the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources created a DNR OHV System Planning Team for Kanabec and Mille Lacs Counties consisting of interested DNR staff from the Hinckley, Moose Lake, Cambridge and St. Cloud, plus nominated citizens.  This planning team met until October 1999 when it finalized its recommendations for trail development on state lands in these two counties.  We are told that the Planning Team’s Report will be finalized by February 1, 2000.  Recommendations adopted by the Planning Team include trail development recommendations for all terrain vehicles (ATV), off highway motorcycles (OHM) and off road vehicles (ORV).

One of the recommendations made by the Planning Team was the development of on ORV site in Section 16, Ford Township, Kanabec County.  ORVs are 4-wheel drive pickup trucks, sometimes called mudder trucks.  The Snake River flows through this section of land, and seepage areas that flow into the River cut diagonally across most of the land.

The Ford Township Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted on October 12, 1999, a resolution opposing the Planning Team’s recommendation for the development of an ORV site in Section 16.  During the firearms deer hunting season in November, a petition opposing the development of ORV trails in Section 16 was signed by 67 deer hunters, most of whom were deer hunting in Section 16 and the rest in Sections 15 or 14 nearby.  Every deer hunter contacted signed the petition, and none had heard of any plans for the development of ORV trails on the land they had been hunting on that day.  So far neither the grouse hunters in Section 16 nor the canoeists have been asked their opinions about truck trail development.  For that matter, adjacent landowners–all of whom oppose truck trail development in Section 16–were not asked their opinions until after the Task force had selected the site.

Truck trail development on forest lands remains a threat to the Snake River.  DNR will soon consider its Planning Team reports for motorized vehicle trail development on state lands.

Meanwhile, the Wilderness Society has launched a national campaign aimed at restricting off road vehicle use on federal land.  See Our Campaign on the website of the Wilderness Society.

In 1979 the White House Council on Environmental Quality issued a report which stated:

ORVs have damaged every kind of ecosystem found in the United States: sand dunes covered with American beach grass on Cape Cod; pine and cypress woodlands in Florida; hardwood forests in Indiana; prairie grasslands in Montana; chaparral and sagebrush hills in Arizona; alpine meadows in Colorado; conifer forests in Washington (State); arctic tundras in Alaska.  In some cases the wounds will heal naturally; in others they will not, at least not for millenia.

The trail motorized vehicle trail development in the Snake River watershed poses distinct threats to the lands and water we hold dear.


The July-August 2000 issue of the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer has an article called “Mussel Bound” by DNR malacologist Dan Kelner on mussels in Minnesota rivers–including our Snake River.  It is worth reading because Kelner describes mussels at “sentinels of our rivers’ health.”

Kelner and his colleagues are studying the Snake River as a part of their studies.  Last January Kelner e-mailed us: “We have sampled most of the Snake River for mussels and I have to admit it is a remarkable river.  We plan on sampling Pokegema and Cross Lakes this summer.  I don’t know if you know this but many years ago there was a mussel camp on Pokegema where mussels were commercially harvested and processed for the Pearl button industry.”

“Mussels are excellent indicators of water quality because they are long lived, sessile benthis organisms that filter water for food.  Any drastic decline or change in the mussel fauna of the Snake River for example would definitely be cause for alarm.”

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Check out the petition signed by 69 deer hunters opposing the development of truck trails in Section 16 of Ford Township, Kanabec County.  This petition was presented to deer hunters who were hunting in Section 16 during the first two weekends of the November 1999 deer hunting season.  All hunters enthusiastically opposed the development of truck trails on state lands in Kanabec County.  Deer hunters petition.