Conserving Parkland Forests In A Changing Climate

By Cheri Zeppelin, Northeast Regional Information Officer, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources



State parklands, trails, waysides and recreation areas cover some 234,500 acres in Minnesota and include a wide variety of diverse types of habitats and resources from prairies to wetlands, to forests. To manage those resources, the Parks and Trails division has a team of passionate land managers to ensure those lands are managed for pre-settlement conditions in accordance with division’s statutory charge, but also with today’s understanding of climate change and a growing population of diverse users. One of those passionate land managers is North Shore resource specialist Liza McCarthy.

Liza grew up in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood but always enjoyed spending time outdoors. In high school, lessons in environmental sciences piqued her interest and led her the University of Minnesota. There, an overnight trip to the Cloquet Forestry Center for a forestry component lit the fuse and reoriented her career compass to forestry.

Like many college graduates in that decade, a state hiring freeze prompted young talent to leave the state for whatever jobs were available.  The day after her last college final exam, Liza did the same – taking a U.S. Forest Service forester job in the Boise National Forest timber program. The seasonal nature of the job meant a few months off each winter to be a ski bum. After three seasons, Liza and her husband landed back in Minnesota in 2011 when Liza accepted a DNR forester position in Finland and then Grand Marais, before moving to Parks and Trails in 2017.

Resource specialists like Liza perform a wide range of management activities such as prescribing tree planting projects, identifying and managing treatments for invasive species, prescribed burning, native plant community restorations, providing technical assistance and identifying wetlands for park and trail development projects, and working with others to ensure cultural resources are considered.

If you’ve ever talked with Liza about her work, her passion and enthusiasm for forest management in our parks is evident. A recent project to plant climate-adapted trees with the Nature Conservancy at three state parks along the north shore was one of her favorite projects because the partnership allowed them to do great work on a large scale.

“Ensuring that we have healthy forests in our parks for future generations to enjoy – I’m really proud that I get to do that work, and it makes me hopeful for the future,” Liza said.

She has good reason to look forward to the future. With two young boys and her husband who is an ICU nurse, time outdoors as a family helps keep them recharged and connected. Family hikes and an annual trip to the Gunflint Trail each summer are high on their list of favorite things.

Image courtesy of the Minnesota DNR Staff.

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