Stewardship Program

Caring for lands and waters of the St. Louis River Estuary

Our stewardship program works to protect, restore, and connect people to the land and water of the Lake Superior Reserve. The program works closely with partners to increase ecosystem resiliency in the St. Louis River estuary and surrounding watershed. This includes responding proactively to existing and emerging stressors such as invasive species, coastal erosion, marine debris, and climate change. 

Stewardship Efforts

A man and two women looking up while standing on a board walk that leads to a beach

Habitat Map

The Lake Superior Reserve is working with partners at the Wisconsin State Cartographer’s Office and Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College to develop a high-resolution habitat map of the Reserve showing land cover and dominant species. This habitat map can be used by local resource managers and researchers to plan and evaluate conservation and restoration projects and enable researchers to better understand how the dynamic freshwater ecosystem of the St. Louis River is responding to climate change, changing lake levels, and remediation efforts in the Area of Concern.

Understory Planting

The St. Louis River estuary has large Black Ash forests, which provide critical and unique forested wetland habitats. Unfortunately, ash trees in the estuary are significantly impacted by the invasive Emerald Ash Borer. In addition to forested wetland habitat loss, as ash trees die, the increased light to the understory has fostered the proliferation of several invasive species, such as buckthorn and honeysuckle. The Reserve is working to remove invasive species and plant native tree seedlings under ash forests to help maintain the ecosystem services, and to the extent possible, the cultural services provided by these important wetland forests. 

A view through a green and young wooded area
An image of a map of the reserve showing planned restoration projects

Restoration Visioning

The Reserve is working with the Lake Superior Headwaters Sustainability Partnership to develop habitat restoration visions for regions within the St. Louis River Estuary (chi-gami ziibi in Ojibwe) between Duluth and Superior. The Headwaters Partnership is a consortium of federal, tribal, state, county, municipal, and community partners led by the Minnesota Land Trust.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding

Passed by Congress in late 2021, the BIL included $77 million for conservation and restoration within the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. Through the stewardship program, we identify and propose opportunities that conserve and restore the estuary.

Closeup of a purple and white flower with a green grassy background
A small group of people in a marsh area looking for invasive plants

Invasive Species

The Lake Superior Reserve works with partners to control the spread of and prevent invasive species in the St. Louis River Estuary. One example of this, is our work on purple loosestrife. Purple loosestrife is an aggressive, invasive wetland plant that outcompetes many valuable native plants within the Reserve boundaries. The Reserve conducted enclosure experiments and confirmed the successful use of the Galerucella beetle to suppress purple loosestrife. The Reserve partners with the WI DNR and Douglas County to rear and release beetles in the Reserve. This suppression is critical for maintaining biodiversity within the estuary’s coastal wetlands and therefore resiliency to climate change.

Manoomin (wild rice) restoration

The Reserve is a partner in the Manoomin stewardship team for the St. Louis River estuary, supporting planning, research, and protection of culturally and ecologically important wild rice beds. As of 2022, the group had re-seeded over 67,000 pounds of Manoomin on 250 acres of wetland

A large grasshopper type bug on a stem of wild rice
Looking towards the lake shore from the end of a pier

Public Access

The Lake Superior Reserve works closely with our partners to expand and support public access within the Reserve, like the improvements at the Pokegama Bay boat launch. Improving access to Superior’s remarkable waterways was the goal of this project. Funded by a NERRS PAC award and match from the City of Superior, the facility includes restrooms, parking, native plantings, a dock, and an accessible paddle craft launch. It connects to hunting and fishing opportunities and the St. Louis River Estuary National Water Trail. 

Stewardship Program Staff

Kirsten Rhude

Stewardship Coordinator


(715) 399-4091

Volunteer with the Lake Superior Reserve

Lake Superior Reserve stewardship efforts often rely on volunteers through the Friends of the Lake Superior Reserve.  If you’d like to get outside and support the health of the St. Louis River, please send your information to the Friends via the contact form.