Mille Lacs county apprentice wrangles noxious weeds

Henry Steten
Henry Stelten

Three young men recently started work in Mille Lacs County for the summer doing a variety of seasonal tasks related to the environment.

Henry Stelten works as an apprentice in the Mille Lacs County Soil and Water Conservation District, and his main focus is elimination of noxious weeds and invasive species. Stelten attends St. Cloud State University and is a junior studying earth sciences, geology, meterology and hydrology.
Stelten’s job this summer is to drive and hike around the county to find and map the unwanted weeds, and then he shares the data with the county’s public works department. He said two weeds he’s focused on eradicating are leafy spurge, which is poisonous to cattle, and wild parsnip, which can cause burning and irritation to human skin. The eradication program strives to get rid of weeds that pose an environmental or economic threat.
Weed control might consist of mowing, Stelten with a weed whipper, the placement of spurge-eating beetles or, in limited applications, spraying. He said the beetles don’t eliminate leafy spurge but do control it by eating the plant and its root system.
Stelten comes to the job through the St. Paul-based Conservation Corps, which matches students to work in natural resources, disaster response, energy conservation and volunteer leadership. The corps places young adults at soil and water conservation districts in Minnesota to gain hands-on experience managing natural resources.
Originally from Champlin, Stelten said the county job is his first government work experience and the first job to which he can apply what he’s learning in college. He said the job has opened his eyes to how county activities must be coordinated through multiple agencies and people. Stelten said he’s impressed with how Lynn Gallice and Susan Shaw are the only two people in the soil and water conservation district but manage to serve the entire county.
Stelten said he found the job online through the Conservation Corps and he’ll work in Mille Lacs County until college starts again. He said his father had worked on construction of the Mille Lacs Trading Post north of Onamia. Stelten thought it would be neat to work in the same county his father had years ago.