Ruthann Yaeger has been a volunteer monitor for the Minnesota Land Trust for over a decade, going out annually to ensure that protected properties in the Rochester area were in good shape, and forging relationships with the owners over the years. Recently she decided to retire from volunteering, and shared her experiences with us.

Ruthann first became a monitor in 2008. While taking classes to become a master naturalist, she connected with an employee at the Land Trust who shared her experiences monitoring and convinced Ruthann to give it a try. Volunteer monitors visit properties protected by the Land Trust, talk with the owners about any changes, and document the current status of the property. It’s a great way to get outside and see natural habitat across our state, while at the same time ensuring the integrity of natural lands in Minnesota!

As a Rochester resident, Ruthann started off by monitoring two properties in the area. She would continue to monitor those same properties over the course of her volunteer time at the Land Trust, seeing not just how they changed, but how the area around them became more developed and built out.

“Rochester is growing rapidly… spreading outwards and buying all this land. As it grows, it’s growing around these protected properties, and that makes them even more precious,” said Ruthann of the properties. First protected in 2005 and 2009, the properties had been far from the newest developments at the time. In 2019 though, development has crept ever closer, making their protection all the more important. Monitoring the same properties has also given Ruthann a unique perspective on how management and protection of land go hand in hand.

“When I first went up there it was all overgrown, but the Minnesota DNR recognized the potential for a restored oak savanna. We went out a few years later, and the whole savanna had been cleared – it was fantastic! A whole restored hillside with a savanna and beautiful old oak trees. They even found a little pond when they cleared the savannah – that’s the kind of stuff that had been there all along.”

After monitoring for over a decade, Ruthann decided to hang up her hat this spring. Her experiences and time on the land were inspiring, and she encourages anyone interested in volunteering to give monitoring a go.

“Anyone who really cares about the outdoors and preserving what we have – our heritage here in Minnesota – this is a good way to do it,” said Ruthann. “It’s really a privilege, and you get to see places you’d otherwise never get to!”

Thank you to Ruthann for your many years of volunteering, and to all of our volunteer monitors for all the work you do! Learn more about becoming a monitor at www.mnland.org/monitor/.

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