As the population in Pine County has continued to grow, some concerned landowners are working hard to protect the county’s important natural lands and waters from expanding development. Dave Odendahl is one such landowner. Dave grew up on the family farm, eventually taking it over and working the fields himself. And now, as he hangs up his farming hat, he’s making sure that the legacy his family created on the land lives on forever through a conservation easement with the Minnesota Land Trust.
Resting just outside of Pine City, the 154-acre property protects the shoreline and waters of Rock Lake, adding to the public benefits created by another Minnesota Land Trust easement on the north side of the lake.
First purchased by Dave’s grandfather in 1920, the family farm has been in the Odendahl family for nearly 100 years. The family raised sheep, poultry, and a dairy herd and also maintained a vineyard and orchard that provided grapes, plums, and apples. After returning from military service, Dave was drawn back to the peacefulness of the family farm.
“It’s been a good home for myself and the family,” says Dave. “There were eight of us children raised here, and we had a good, sustainable life – with strong feelings for conservation.”
A lifelong conservationist, Dave has worked to restore balance to the natural systems on the land by restoring prairie and wetlands. Having worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on restoration for a number of years, Dave was introduced to the Land Trust by USFWS as a way for him to protect all his hard work forever.
“I enjoy nature to a great degree, and somehow I could never see this property being developed,” says Dave. “It’s unique – the lakeshore, the glacial esker along the lake – all of it.”
John Riens of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agrees. “Dave has had a conservation mindset throughout his life and career. We’ve done a number of wetland restoration and prairie enhancements on his property, and this summer we are restoring three more wetlands on the property.”
“Being located in the headwaters of the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers, this is a priority area for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” adds Riens. “We do a large number of wetland restorations, pollinator habitats, and early successional forest habitat enhancements in the area.”
More than just a beautiful parcel of land, the property plays an important role in protecting the water quality of Rock Lake, groundwater supplies of the area and ultimately the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers.
“By keeping the shoreline in its natural state and protecting it from future development, Dave Odendahl is reducing runoff pollution and filtering the water local communities rely on,” says Ruurd Schoolderman, program manager at the Minnesota Land Trust. “The work private landowners like Dave are doing with USFWS to restore natural lands in the St. Croix watershed is part of a bigger partnership effort that will reap benefits for the whole community as these lands are healed.”
Long term, Dave hopes the land will continue to benefit the local community and the fish and wildlife that depend on the land. Through his conservation vision, these public benefits will continue to grow as he actively restores the property and returns it to wildlife habitat. But while he might be retired from farming, he’s still finding ways to explore and enjoy the land.
“This has been the perfect home for me. I can roam the hills, do a little hunting, go down to the lake and go fishing,” says Dave. “And I’ll be helped now with the Land Trust here, and into the future.”