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Soil Survey in Lake and Cook Counties

Minnesota's Conservation Showcase






Soil Survey in Lake and Cook Counties

Soil Surveys provide a scientific inventory of one of our most basic and important natural resources, the “soil.” In Minnesota, the Lake and Cook County Soil Survey is moving forward with completing the soil mapping of the private land in these 2 north-eastern Minnesota counties by the fall of 2012. Lake and Cook Counties are situated in the NE tip of Minnesota. The area is comprised of moderately deep coarse, stony soils except for the shoreline of Lake Superior which is predominantly red clay soils.

NRCS Soil Scientist Jeff Kroll examining soil properties in a backhoe pit in Cook County, MN.The National Cooperative Soil Survey Program is a nationwide partnership of federal, regional, state, and local agencies. Agencies involved in this survey include: Lake and Cook Counties; Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund administered by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR); Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), and the United States Forest Service (USFS), as well as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The survey is also pursuing an agreement with the Grand Portage band of Chippewa.

Scientists on staff in the soil survey include: Jeff Kroll, Project Soil Survey Leader for Lake County Soil Survey; Larissa Schmitt, and Myles Elsen project soil scientists; Roger Risley, MLRA Project Leader (10-4), and Danielle Evans, GIS Specialist, MLRA. Additionally there are contracted soil scientists and details from NRCS employees that come to Lake and Cook County to map. Since the onset of this soil survey a total of 15 employees have been involved.

Soil scientists inventory the upper 80 inches of the soil profile. The nature of where this soil survey is being conducted dictates that various methods need to be employed. For daily mapping, the scientists typically use spades or probes to examine the soil profile. In areas containing bedrock near the surface, the scientists occasionally need to utilize a backhoe for excavation.

Field work for the survey runs from the month of May through November. On the average, a typical soil scientist in this survey will map around 35,000 acres/year. The soil survey is divided up into four parts: The private land; the Forest Service land, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Grand Portage band of Chippewa Reservation. The private land (field work) will be done by the fall of 2012. A goal of having the completed soil survey information for the private land on the Web Soil Survey has been projected for the spring of 2013.

The Lake and Cook County Soil Survey will be used in part for local watershed projects, location of potential sources for aggregate (sand and gravel), implementation of NRCS farm programs, and utilization of Ecological Site Descriptions (ESD’s), which tie in all environmental aspects for a given site and help sustain forest productivity. Comparative analysis between various plots is a valuable use of the soil survey as well. This analysis is often done by private landowners buying and selling land. The soil survey is one of many tools which facilitate the wise use of natural resources.

For more information regarding the Soil Survey in Minnesota contact Caryl Radatz, State Soil Scientist. Radatz can be reached at 651-602-7861 or via e-mail at:

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