Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Kim Samuelson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Conservation award winners showing education in action


January 3, 2019

Photo provided

Sharon and Alan Finifrock receiving the 2018 Outstanding Conservationist award and garden stone from Barb Dahl (left), Carlton SWCD Supervisor.

Four landowners were recently chosen by the Carlton County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) as the 2018 Carlton County conservation award winners. All four were honored for the unique projects they have accomplished to conserve and protect natural resources on their properties and in their communities. In addition, all four were honored for their contributions towards another SWCD goal: education, a key component of SWCD work.

These 2018 winners are: Alan and Sharon Finifrock, Outstanding Conservationists; Vicki and Terry Anderson, Pollinator Habitat; Bob Nelson, Urban Forestry; and Steve Risacher, Soil Health Steward. Over the next few weeks, the Carlton SWCD will introduce you to these award winners, starting this week with the Finifrocks and their work in forestry management and education.

Alan Finifrock grew up on a dairy farm near the townsite of Nemadji. At a young age, he learned from his parents how to care for and improve the land. One of his earliest experiences was helping his parents to plant two acres of red pine and white spruce in remote, low-quality hay fields These childhood exposures to conservation have led to a life-long lifestyle of conservation and land management.

Although Sharon Finifrock spent her early years in Duluth, she also spent a lot of time outdoors, especially after she moved to Barnum at age 14. She vividly remembers her first tree-planting experience on a sixth grade outing to Hartley Field, a day that opened her eyes to the awesome beauty of leaves and nature.

Together, they have had great adventures and accomplished more conservation projects on their properties and in their community than many families combined. Some of these projects and activities include:

• Helping Alan's parents register their 160-acre farm as a tree farm in 1967;

• Buying his parents' tree farm in the Nemadji area in 1971 and working with a professional forester to develop their first forest stewardship plan;

• Living and working in Alaska for many years but still coming "home" to plant trees and work on land improvement projects every summer;

• Learning about forest management through Woodland Advisor training workshops;

• Planting about 20,000 trees by hand between 1977 and 1996 during their annual tree plantings with family and friends;

• Working with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in the 1980s to clear aspen patches for wildlife habitat;

• Holding their first timber sale in 1990, harvesting some of the red pine Alan had planted with his parents when he was young;

• Purchasing another 120 acre land parcel with lakeshore on the south side of Bear Lake in Barnum;

• Working with NRCS to stabilize a gully with an earth berm on their Bear Lake property;

• Constructing a wildlife pond with assistance from the Carlton SWCD and financial and engineering help from NRCS;

• Enrolling their 160 acre Nemadji parcel in Minnesota's Sustainable Forestry Incentives Act (SFIA);

• Seeding wildlife food plots;

• Working to stabilize lakeshore and reduce erosion from a breeched dam with anchor logs, tree and shrub planting, shoreline stabilization structures, and upslope forest management;

• Enrolling some of their lakeshore property with the MN Land Trust in a conservation easement;

• Working on buckthorn control activities on their Cloquet property with the SWCD and the Conservation Corps of Minnesota (CCM);

• Harvesting 11 acres of forest in 2018 to set up early successional wildlife habitat (young trees, grasses, and shrubs surrounded by mature forest) for golden-winged warbler and other birds and wildlife through a program with NRCS and the American Bird Conservancy (ABC).

That's quite a list! And that's just the highlights of the work accomplished!

Through the years, the Finifrocks have shared most of these outdoor conservation experiences with their children, foster children and grandchildren, as well as other relatives, friends and neighbors. And along the way, everyone learned more about conservation and forestry management, as well as how to thoroughly enjoy and appreciate nature.

Kelly Smith, Forestry Conservationist with Carlton SWCD, has worked with Alan for many years and admires his dedication to the land. Smith states that "Alan promotes woodland management. He realizes that it not only provides environmental benefits, but also provides income, brings family members together, gives rich experiences, and leaves a conservation legacy."

In addition to informal learning activities, Finifrock has become more involved in reaching out to help teach others. He is a member of the Minnesota Forestry Association (MFA) and the Kettle River Woodland Council (KRWC) where he always learns more and shares what he's learned about forest management. He worked with Smith to develop and lead "Making Money from your Woods" classes held in Carlton and Pine Counties. Finifrock and Smith also coordinated setting up three "Walk in the Woods" tours on several properties in the area to share information about other landowner projects and activities.

According to Smith, "Alan and Sharon have a strong conservation and community ethic" and have been "sharing their appreciation for the outdoors and the forest" for a long time with family, friends, and community. These reasons are why they were honored as the 2018 Carlton County Outstanding Conservationist, the 2018 Minnesota Tree Farmers of the Year, and the SWCD Area III Outstanding Conservationists. Alan also represented Carlton County and Area III at the December 2018 Minnesota Association of SWCDs (MASWCD) conservation awards program.

Thank you, Alan and Sharon, for your dedication to conservation and education! And congratulations on your well-deserved awards!

Kim Samuelson is Carlton SWCD's elected supervisor for District 4. For more information about forest management and the annual Conservation Awards program, contact Carlton SWCD at (218) 384-3891. You can also find more information about Carlton SWCD on Facebook or on their website at


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