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County seeks help monitoring wetlands

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Area wetlands need your help.

Dakota County is seeking people to help monitor the health of community wetlands, include those in Rosemount, through the Wetland Health Evaluation Program.

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Volunteers work with people in the community to collect information that will be used to help protect area wetlands. A science background or previous monitoring experience is not required. All training and equipment is provided.

WHEP volunteers gather data on macroinvertebrates, such as beetles and dragonflies, and plants in wetlands. They are identified, counted, and then used to measure the wetland health. Cities use the data to better manage wetlands and surrounding areas.

The volunteers receive training in field methods, insect collection and identification, and plant survey techniques. Teams work under the direction of a team leader and are grouped by city. Each city WHEP team takes samples from three to five wetlands between June and August. Volunteers are expected to contribute between 10 and 30 hours. That includes training, field work and lab analysis.

Both plants and more than half of the total wetland area of the United States has been lost since European settlement. Wetlands have been drained for farming, residential development, business development and roads. The remaining wetlands are often impacted by human activities.

In Minnesota, 80 percent of the state's surface water is classified as a wetland. However, most of the state resources are directed to lakes and streams.

Wetlands provide a wide variety of functions that protect the quality of all water. They act to filter pollutants and excess nutrients out of water as it soaks into the ground, it acts as a sponge, absorbing storm water and heavy snow melt, reducing the risk of flood.

Many species of amphibians, mammals, reptiles and birds rely on the safe wetland environment to raise their young. Many migrating waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds rely on stopping at wetlands during their migrations in the spring and fall. The wetlands offer a wide variety of high protein organisms for them to feed on.

Many smaller organisms such as insects, worms and snails make wetlands their home.

The wetlands also provide beautiful views and many opportunities for recreation, including bird-watching, canoeing, hunting and exploring.

For more information about volunteering, visit www.mnwhep.org or call the Dakota County Water Resources Department at 952-891-7000.

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