The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources honored two youths for their outstanding conservation efforts during a ceremony Friday, Sept. 1, at the DNR volunteer outdoor stage at the Minnesota State Fair.
The DNR commissioner’s youth awards are given annually to an FFA student and 4-H member who have demonstrated initiative, leadership, creativity and achievement in conservation and wise use of natural and agricultural resources. This is the 26th year of the award program.
Lawrence Mettler from Burtrum, Minnesota, in Todd County, received the 4-H award, and Gunnar Frahm from Silver Bay, Minnesota, in Lake County, received the Future Farmers of America (FFA) award.
Encouraged by his teacher to pursue a project he was truly interested in, Mettler choose zebra mussels as the focus for his 4-H project. His project highlighted the fact that zebra mussels are an invasive species that cause detrimental impacts to Minnesota’s environment and economy. Hundreds of Minnesota’s lakes are infested with zebra mussels, and they continue to spread.
At the award ceremony, Mettler explained to the audience the measures that everyone should take to prevent the further spread of zebra mussels, such as the “Clean, Drain, Dry” techniques promoted by the DNR and its partners. Mettler is in 12th grade, and hopes to someday pursue a career in natural resource management. He is the son of Randy and Margaret Mettler.
Gunnar Frahm received the Commissioner’s FFA Youth award. His FFA project included three components: development of a butterfly garden, a Chaga mushroom experiment, and a white pine study. Noticing the heavy deer browsing and low survival of tree saplings, Frahm decided to research different methods for protecting young white pines.
He worked with staff at Tettegouche State Park to set up the research project, ultimately concluding that a lanolin-based spray was the most effective and efficient method tested.
At the award ceremony, Frahm explained to the audience that he hopes his findings will help others working to restore white pines. He is enrolled at the University of Minnesota-Duluth with a strong interest in the medical field. Frahm was joined at the award ceremony by his mother, Maureen Frahm.