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Sucker Creek Preserve founder Sally Hausken awarded Conservationist of the Year honors

Sucker Creek Preserve founder Sally Hausken (center) was a surprised recipient of the Conservationist of the Year Award from the Minnesota Wildlife Society on Wednesday, Feb. 5, in Bemidji. SUBMITTED PHOTO

When Detroit Lakes resident Sally Hausken was once asked by this newspaper about her conservation efforts in the lakes area, she stated with a smile, “I talk the talk and walk the walk.”

So it’s really not at all surprising to those who know her well that Hausken was recently honored with the Conservationist of the Year Award from the Minnesota Wildlife Society.

Yet for Hausken, it was an unexpected gift.

“For me, it was a surprise award,” she said Tuesday, noting that she had no clue about the impending honor when she was invited to attend a meeting of the Wildlife Society in Bemidji on Feb. 5.

“Have you ever considered me speechless? Well I was in those moments,” Hausken said of her reaction.

Of course, Hausken did not remain dumbfounded for long.

“This tells me that a broader range of population is recognizing the accomplishment and benefit of conserving land in perpetuity,” said Hausken.

“The Minnesota Wildlife Society is in tune with the environment,” she added. “They see the ramifications when land is treated carelessly, and the effort it takes to preserve natural landscapes… land with its integrity still intact.”

Hausken is perhaps best known for doing just that, as the founder and chief proponent of Sucker Creek Preserve on the east edge of Detroit Lakes. And while the pristine preserve has become an integral part of the lakes area landscape since its grand opening in 2006, Hausken feels her work is by no means done.

“I am still raising funds for Upstream Sucker Creek Preserve, which the city and contractors will begin restoring this spring,” Hausken said.

“I would like to start a Friends group for Greater Sucker Creek Preserve (now 117 total acres) and get an annual ball rolling for teachers to annually bring classes to both Upstream and to the Preserve. This land is a perfect, and perfectly located, science lab and here it is within the city limits of Detroit Lakes.

For Hausken, it’s all about passing on her love for the land to future generations.

“Think of all students can learn about:  plants, soil, water, mineral springs, different kinds of wetlands, maintaining meadows and forests… on and on it goes,” she said.

The next step that Hausken would like to see is “to try and build Sucker Creek into their science curriculum and into an elementary curriculum.”

The ultimate goal, of course, is to make sure the region’s soil, water and wildlife resources are preserved for the future.

“Climate change is no longer a debate,” Hausken said. “It is a fact. And fact it is also that man has been a major player in it. Pollution is on the land, in the soil, in water, in air, in plants, thanks to pesticides and herbicides which are endangering our insects and rendering them unable to pollinate the many foods (most fruits; many vegetables) we enjoy on our tables today.

“Water at coastlines will become higher — (coastal) cities must brace themselves.

“Storms will continue to become more and more intense; droughts, wildfires, floods must all receive more preparation, anticipation and planning. Caring for our water is huge; the jury is still out on fracking. It uses humungous amounts of water, pollutes it and then puts it back down in the ground. How do we know that our grandchildren won’t need to dig that deep to get water? It is a finite product of our planet.”

And even after all that, “I’m just getting started,” Hausken said.

She’s also concerned about other environmental issues like lead poisoning in non-game wildlife (chiefly from hunters using lead ammunition), as well as preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species: It’s all part of a much bigger picture.

“The sooner we come to grips with the fact of climate change and of man’s role, the sooner we can make major plans in easing the situation,” Hausken said.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454