Building habitat, building community: Three inspiring stories of local habitat projects (and the leaders who launched them)

This event has ended
Tuesday, March 15th, 2022
to (Central Time)
Wood Lake Nature Center, 6710 Lake Shore Dr S, Minneapolis, MN, 55423 Map
Live Stream Available

Public Welcome Will be Recorded Free Event Chapter Meeting Chapter Social Program/Speaker Presentation Wheelchair Accessible Public Restroom Free Public Parking Drinking Fountains

Building habitat, building community: 

Three inspiring stories of local habitat projects (and the leaders who launched them)


Ava J T McKnight | Altlawns of Richfield and Bloomington

Sara Nelson | Corcoran Pollinator Project

Daniel Schultz | Greater Longfellow Community Wildlife Habitat


Karen “Ren” Graham, Education Committee

How can you expand native plant habitat beyond your own back yard? What are some ways you can help your community get excited about hosting their own native plantings? Join us for an uplifting conversation with three Wild Ones members who took action to launch habitat projects in their communities. Ava J T McKnight, Sara Nelson, and Dan Schultz will share the stories of these habitat projects — from the seed of an idea, to taking root, to flourishing. A Q&A will follow the three presentations. 


Ava J T McKnight founded the online community Altlawns of Richfield and Bloomington in 2019. Ava has been a community activist and organizer their entire adult life. Their skills lie in helping those who have made that inner decision to change, but need the skills or confidence to make it a reality. They are self-taught in native plants, pollinators and gardening, and are a Minnesota Water Steward. Their personal experience with extensive childhood trauma informs their style of working one-to-one to create positive change in the community. 

Altlawns of Richfield and Bloomington was founded in response to residents who were expressing a desire to change their lawns — or asking questions about water issues — but who were not finding support from local cities, watersheds or nonprofits. Altlawns seeks to help residents who want to move away from conventional lawns to establish native habitat, produce local food, or plant low-input turf using native low-flowering species. Through online networking and conversations during native plant giveaways, Altlawns grew to 260 people in 2021. Altlawns provides links to online information and local resources, encourages networking and neighbor-to-neighbor help, and has begun onsite consulting. We are affecting change in local city government.

Sara Nelson is the founder of the Corcoran Pollinator Project. She has worked as a field botanist for the Minnesota Biological Survey, studied tropical ethnobotany in Costa Rica, created the zine Weeds of Minneapolis, and serves as the cacao farmer liaison for Squash Blossom Farm Chocolate. She is a master’s student in conservation sciences at the University of Minnesota and a project assistant at Great River Greening.

The Corcoran Pollinator Project is a grassroots neighborhood initiative in the Corcoran neighborhood of Minneapolis that aims to increase urban biodiversity via a “crop mob” model, in which neighbors help each other install new pollinator gardens. To date the project has involved more than 100 neighbors in planting 60+ gardens, including more than 100 different species of perennial pollinator plants. Plants for the project were donated by other neighbors or grown from seed in volunteers’ own backyards.

Daniel Schultz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist and Habitat Team Leader of the Greater Longfellow Community Wildlife Habitat project. In hearing Douglas Tallamy talk in 2019 about his book Bringing Nature Home, Dan learned that the cherished woods and wildlife of the U.S. were in peril — and something had to be done about it. As Dan trained as a Master Naturalist volunteer, his experience pulling buckthorn at local and regional parks made clear how degraded our few remaining wild spaces are. Now, Dan is leading local efforts to encourage people, schools, businesses, municipalities and other organizations to make their property wildlife-friendly. By reconnecting people to nature, even in backyards and urban areas, Dan believes we can make the world can be a better place for humans and wildlife.

Dan recently completed certifying the Greater Longfellow area of Minneapolis as a Community Wildlife Habitat, with the help of the National Wildlife Federation. Many neighbors, schools and local organizations came together to achieve this goal. The heart of the program involved creating a mentorship program that begins with a habitat design course, and then matching the new gardeners with experienced local gardeners who could share examples, knowledge and even plants from their own yards.

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