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Conservation stewardship shared by conservation experts.

Sharing experiences and gaining awareness about the intense impact we have on nature is how we become conscious and responsible to our surroundings. Covering topics such as conservation education and training, client relationship building, conservation planning and programs, generational land succession, and serving absentee and underserved landowners, Kanati is a leading voice in land conservation and preservation efforts across the United States.  

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Past speaking engagements

Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conference Keynote Speaker

Board of Water and Soil Resources Annual Speaker on Customer Service, Working with Landowners, Conflict Resolution, Communication Strategies

Celebrating the Avon Hills Conference

Kansas Association of Conservation Districts Annual Conference: Keynote Speaker

Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LOSHC) and Legislative Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) Presenter

Lobbyist for the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Minnesota Natural Resources Conservation Districts

Master of Ceremonies-Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and Minnesota Deer Hunters Association

Minnesota Association of Conservation District Employees West Central Representative

Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Annual Meeting Speaker

Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Local Work Group Speaker and Facilitator

Minnesota Clean Water Land and Legacy Anniversary Presenter

Minnesota Natural Resources Conservation Service State Technical Committee Member

North Central/Northern Plains Leadership Conference

Regional Alternate Director for the National Conservation District Employees Association

Sand County Foundation Leadership for Midwestern Watersheds: Keynote Speaker

State of Minnesota Regional and State Trainer on Engineering Conservation Practices

Stearns County Dairy Advisory Committee

Stearns County Feedlot Review Committee

Ways we can help

There are few things that a person can do in his or her lifetime that can have a lasting and permanent effect on the world. Land conservation is one of them.

Case Studies

Strategic Planning for an SWCD in Central Minnesota

Strategic Planning for an SWCD in Central Minnesota

An SWCD in central Minnesota hired Kanati to develop a strategic 5-year plan to guide the District with structure and purpose. The comprehensive plan focused on the organization’s operations, finances, business development, staff training, customer service, and overall growth and efficiency.

Key deliverables:

  • Identify critical gaps: the constraints they needed to overcome to ensure success.
  • Inspired action toward plan: By empowering key leaders and project managers to drive action toward goals.
  • A commitment to implement framework: Developed a reasonable and achievable pace around implementation for the SWCD to institutionalize progress.

Development of the Strategic plan

The development of the Strategic Plan was an undertaking that was long overdue, over which time the county has seen drastic changes. The county used us as an outside consultant to gather information and insight to evaluate the current condition of the SWCD and develop a plan to propel the district into the future with a clear direction and strategy for success.

  • Interviews: Everyone in the organization was interviewed from the Supervisors on the Board down to the part-time office assistant. A standardized list of questions was used to open discussion and dialogue to gather insight into the organization, how everyone’s role contributes to the outcome.
  • Observation: Time was spent at the Wright SWCD office observing staff in their working environment. The use of space, the flow of information and the general atmosphere of the office.
  • Strategic Planning Retreat: Four out of five Supervisors and all staff were present at this retreat. Through a variety of group activities, they created SWOT Analysis’, marketing and outreach plans, updated mission statements, individual self-assessments, updated office layout, and an idealistic District. The input of staff from this retreat was instrumental in development of this strategic plan.

Outcome:

The staff put together idea boards on how they wanted their SWCD to be reconstructed. Kanati applied their expertise and knowledge in developing strategic plans with the input from the SWCD’s employees to restructure their organization down to the very office layout. Deliverables that directly impacted employees included ways to improve work/life balance and employee engagement, handbooks and onboarding processes, mentoring programs, and opportunities for professional development. Kanati also provided the organization with a plan to increase funding streams in areas of growth, how to promote awareness and services provided by the SWCD to the public, a goal planner with steps of action for marketing, education, outreach, and ways to engage new customers.

The plan strategized the organization’s mission and created an interactive agenda surrounding it to achieve their vision. Kanati was able to successfully develop these strategic components by first understanding the organization’s values and using an integrated approach when considering what will offer the most cohesiveness for employees. Exercises in transparency, inclusiveness, and team building helped bring the organization closer and was an opportunity for Kanati to observe the team’s methods of communication, strengths, and areas for improvement. As a result of the thorough plan provided by Kanati, The SWCD has a system in place with a timeline to follow that allows them to function as a whole with direction and efficiency.

 

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Harmonizing Conservation and the Power of Partnerships

Harmonizing Conservation and the Power of Partnerships

Upon hearing Nate Hylla, the CEO of Kanati speak at a conference in Iowa, the Executive Director of the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts (KACD) asked him to be the Keynote speaker at KACD’s 78th Annual Convention.

Mr. Hyllas keynote speech was titled, “Harmonizing Conservation and the Power of Partnerships.” This speech was centralized around practical insights and actionable strategies to drive successful conservation efforts in the Midwest.

Key concepts shed light on:

  • How to build strong relationships with landowners.
  • Elevate customer service in conservation.
  • An understanding of the foundation of conservation planning.
  • How to utilize and strengthen the power of partnerships.

The speech shared the same core values Kanati sustains as a company. Mr. Hylla demonstrated them in his speech to the state of Kansas by underlining the intrinsic value of creating interpersonal relationships with clients and how to recognize their social, economic, and environmental factors to better serve them.

Another point Mr. Hylla wished to share was the impact a private company can have on conservation. He communicated that Kanati can add capacity to conservation by being full-service, meaning Kanati can begin with the initial planning process of conservation and work with the client until the final tree is being planted. This could also be demonstrated with the consulting, contracting, and educational elements of Kanati.

By staying true and speaking about these key concepts at events, Mr. Hylla can continue to share the passion behind Kanati with new audiences. This helps achieve Kanati’s overall goal of putting more conservation on the ground sooner and helps to share with others what we are doing and why we are doing it.

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Assisting a Non-profit with Riverbank Stabilization & Habitat Enhancement

Assisting a Non-profit with Riverbank Stabilization & Habitat Enhancement

Kanati assisted a non-profit with an easement in Stearns County of Minnesota designed for riverbank stabilization and habitat enhancement. Along with several other projects being implemented, Kanati successfully sourced and planted 25,000 Willow and Dog Wood stakes. The primary benefits of this process was to extend and enhance wildlife habitat and prevent further erosion from the riverbank.

Our Approach

Our approach was to strengthen the riverbank with the use of live vegetation.
Often less costly in terms of materials, once established, the live stakes are also self-maintaining and regenerative. They require 1-2 years to establish roots and resist erosion.

 

Riverbank Destabilization Causes:

  • Direct: Livestock trampling, removal of riparian vegetation.
  • Indirect: Channel incisions, then widening from hydrologic
    alteration in watershed.

Impacts of Bank Destabilization:

  • Property loss.
  • Fine Sediment Loading
  • Water quality impacts from fine sediment
    and attached nutrients.
  • Aquatic habitat fouling and eutrophication.
  • Channel Widening.

As native as it gets.

Kanati sustainably harvested these native shrubs with permission from private landowners in the area by taking hand-cuttings from their established shrubs. By locally sourcing the Willow and Dogwood can reduce the distance and time it takes to transport goods, therefore reducing emissions associated with transportation. Additionally, sourcing them locally reduces the risk of production delays and quality issues that can arise from shipping goods from distant locations.

The shrubs were strategically hand-staked in groups of twenty-five along the riverbank and within a few days new growth was observed. Within a few months plants were successfully establishing themselves. Working with non-profits to fulfill conservation has been extremely rewarding and this is just one of many examples as to how Kanati can partner their services with others who are dedicated to making the world a better place.

 

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Removing Buckthorn & Other Invasive Species

Removing Buckthorn & Other Invasive Species

How can we biologically control invasive species? Buckthorn is one of Minnesota’s most aggressive and damaging invasive plants. The shrub, or small tree, is especially noticeable in woodlands where it can form dense thickets where few other plant species can co-exist. Despite its invasive nature, buckthorn can be successfully manipulated and managed. One way Kanati takes on invasives is by administering the help of goats.

How can landowners have access to the benefits of livestock grazing without the responsibility of ownership?

In the summer months, Kanati can simultaneously manage 3 to 4 goat paddocks at a time each on a different property. The goat herds depend on property size and available forgeable nutrients within the paddocks. The use of goats to biologically control buckthorn and other invasive species works best on young plants as they can only graze on buckthorn and other vegetation they can reach. A great alternative to herbicide treatments, goats can reduce the cover and height of aggressive non-native shrubs, while having little effect on native herbaceous cover and diversity

The goats are held in paddocks that divide the targeted areas. Paddocks are contained with solar-powered electric fencing that can be easily moved throughout the targeted property areas. The paddocks themselves and the health and wellbeing of the goats are monitored daily by our “Sheperd” employees and vet check-ups are routinely scheduled throughout the summer.

When introduced to graze repeatedly, the goats can deplete nutrient storage in the plant so that it no longer can thrive. It is important to consider several factors when considering goats as a biological treatment. These include the terrain of the targeted area, the density of the buckthorn, and its stage of growth. Goats are the best option for an area with a high-density of young buckthorn and other vegetation. The goats have performed with immense success as a biological treatment for buckthorn management and albeit, look adorable while doing so.

Has fighting invasive species ever looked so cute?

               

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Pine County Landowner Improves Hunting Habitat

Pine County Landowner Improves Hunting Habitat

A landowner in Pine County purchased 120 acres of land and looked to Kanati to design a plan that would improve hunting opportunities on the property. This would help create a special place in nature to share with friends and family.

 

 

 

The Vision

Growing up, the landowner’s family did not hunt. However, a local family mentored the landowner which provided him with some of his best memories. He wanted to give back to his friends and family and create a wildlife paradise. The lack of time the landowner had to accomplish and maintain these objectives heavily influenced the decision to work with Kanati. He wanted to restore and expand the trail systems so he could have an easier time accessing the property with others.

His property was entirely one continuous cover-type with minimal existing trails that were not maintained. The landowner’s property was logged within the last 20 years and the current timber stand was similar in size and species composition. He gave Kanati a tour of the property during the initial site visit while he expanded on his goals for his newly acquired land. Kanati walked side-by-side while listening to stories about previous hunts and more about the future intentions.

 

The Process

Taking inventory of the property on-site helped Kanati formulate a plan that saved the landowner an immense amount of time in an actionable format. Kanati researched and dug through the relevant information and available resources to present to the landowner rather than him having to source them himself. Kanati used their expertise to develop a comprehensive plan so that the following steps to implementation could be easily laid out for the landowner.

A Summary of Kanati’s approach:

  • On-site Evaluation of the Land: Assessed the property’s current habitat conditions and discussed landowner’s goals and priorities.
  • A systematic plan was developed with: A proposed recommendation map with specifications and aerial images of property, a detailed breakdown of each recommendation and hunting strategy and how they applied to the property, the steps of action and a timeline, a cost estimate with options for financial assistance, and management strategies and further resources.
  • Implementation: Kanati fulfilled site-prep and implementation installment and aided in further management and follow-up recommendations.

The landowner agreed with every practice along with the proposed budget recommended in the habitat plan. With an action plan and budget in place, Kanati was able to determine a road map for implementation.

The focus of the first year was forest stand improvement, which involved cutting down trees in strategic areas for Aspen regeneration and the clearing of priority food plot areas. The second year Kanati created secondary food plot openings by clearing and grubbing stumps and trees. Several food plots were designed throughout the property in locations that were easily accessible by the newly established trail system. When clearings were opened, Kanati seeded and maintained the food plots. While developing food plots, Kanati selected trail camera locations so that the landowner could monitor wildlife movement while he was away from the property.

 

The Results

Kanati offered the landowner a sense of relief knowing his property was being taken care of, and even improved upon, without having time to make these enhancements himself. He could now spend time on his property enjoying it rather than feeling distracted by the constant upkeep and management needed to maximize what benefited the land. The biggest benefit from this initial consultation is that the landowner is now seeing and harvesting more deer than ever. The proposed hunting strategy included in the plan aimed to minimize pressure, encourage adequate number of does harvested, and allow for young bucks to live to the next age class. After year one of implementation, the landowner told Kanati, “We have never seen this many deer before.” While remembering those younger days as a beginning hunter, the landowner now has the satisfaction of seeing his own family and friends enjoy nature. These are the memories that will last a lifetime!

 

 

 

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Minnesota Couple Finds Dream Land with Help from Kanati

Minnesota Couple Finds Dream Land with Help from Kanati

A husband and wife, living in central Minnesota, approached Kanati intending to find a piece of land where they could enjoy the outdoors as a family with their three sons. If you’re considering purchasing a piece of property that has habitat for wildlife, consider contacting Kanati as your conservation advisor.

 

 

The Vision

The property would also become the family’s hunting property. With that in mind, the hopeful buyer already intended to develop a habitat plan with Kanati for the future property. To achieve the client’s goals, Kanati focused on the value of building a relationship with the client by looking past the financial factors and striving towards creating the piece for human connection. They were not just buying property; they were buying land. The couple wanted the property to be local and easily accessible. Kanati used their resources to find a piece of property only a few miles from their home. It was a beautiful piece of property surrounded by the Avon rolling hills near St. John’s University in central Minnesota. This is the piece of land they envisioned.

 

The Process

After closing on the property, Kanati continued to work with the new landowners on how to enhance it for wildlife. With extensive knowledge in habitat management, Kanati was not only their realtor, but their conservation consultant, both positions requiring tremendous amounts of trust. The habitat plan was designed to enhance the suitable habitat for wildlife in the area, something Kanati knew the property had potential for before recommending it to the couple. Knowing their future intentions for the property, Kanati was able to visualize the structure of the habitat plan and how it could be made possible. The plan included documented soil types and nutrients, the forested coverage and condition of the property, existing wildlife activity, hunting strategies, and future food plot and deer stand placements.

 

The Results

By coupling the habitat management suggestions in the plan with a strategic hunting strategy, the property experienced a large degree of hunting success both in terms of quantity and quality of wildlife. Within the same year of purchasing the property, the family had already had a successful deer hunt.

Purchasing land is a part of planning one’s legacy. The habitat plan Kanati provided can be used as a dynamic document and modified as the owner’s goals may change, monitoring their effectiveness over time, and making further habitat adjustments as needed. This is the core of adaptive and sustainable management plan. Nature does not sit still, thus the approach to nature will never be the same. Building a legacy needs to be responsibly managed, but this can only be achieved by starting with a plan.

 

     

 

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Minnesota Board for Soil and Water Resources Academy Speaker

Minnesota Board for Soil and Water Resources Academy Speaker

For the past several years, the Minnesota Board for Soil and Water Resources Academy has invited Nate Hylla, The CEO of Kanati, to speak at their largest annual training seminar in Minnesota.

The purpose of the three-day convention is to train and educate all BWSR and SWCD staff in Minnesota. Throughout his presentations, Mr. Hylla shares his own experiences to help relate to the audience. Before starting Kanati, Mr. Hylla worked for the Stearns County SWCD in Minnesota for over 15 years and personally understands the internal functions of such organizations.

 

The Approach

Many of Mr. Hylla’s presentations centralize around the importance of people skills in conservation. Being available for In-person communication, transparency, respect, conflict resolution, and relationship building are all popular topics of his speeches. These factors should be included in any form of communication regardless of the audience. That said, the approach taken when speaking with a landowner may differ from someone who works for an organization within conservation.

The approach helps add the people piece to conservation. Separate from the physical aspects of conservation, training, education, and promoting awareness need to be at par.  While conservation relies a lot on science, human beings also hold an empowering tool, communication. Mr. Hylla uses his experiences to instrumentally educate others on how he has successfully turned communicating conservation into the implementation of conservation.

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Facilitating Local Work Groups for an SWCD in Minnesota

Facilitating Local Work Groups for an SWCD in Minnesota

Since 2021, a Minnesota’s Water Conservation District (SWCD), in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), has annually sought out Kanati to help facilitate the Local Work Group (LWG) in their county to add cohesiveness to natural resource protection and direct priority SWCD and NRCS activities. A Local Work Group is designed to gather input from local natural resource professionals, citizens, and partners of the county on the direction of the SWCD and NRCS. To understand the existing functions of the group, Kanati designed an interactive educational curriculum to facilitate the public and private partnerships input on the natural resource priorities of within the county.

Kanati generated educational materials around the commonalities of the group to build a sense of community. Not only did Kanati design these activities to create cohesiveness amongst the group, but they also promoted the concept of diversity amongst the members which included several unique partners and citizens. To aid in this concept, diverse information-gathering activities were incorporated such as brainstorming games, individual reflection, and large and small group activities.

Kanati’s observations and input were shared with the county’s SWCD and NRCS as well as suggestions and recommendations for them to continue to develop internally. Kanati, being a private company within the world of conservation, already understood the purpose of the LGU’s work and therefore did not appear as a complete outsider, already knowing what might benefit their structure and what would be superfluous to try. By repeating this process annually, the LWG’s infrastructure can be updated to accurately benefit the ever-evolving state of an organization while gathering local input for natural resource protection.

 

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An SWCD in Minnesota Engages Kanati for Education

An SWCD in Minnesota Engages Kanati for Education

An SWCD in central Minnesota hired Kanati to implement marketing and outreach services for them.

The Process

The ongoing efforts include developing a marketing strategy and content calendar, increasing social media presence, planning, organizing, and promoting events, and creating awareness and education for them to share as an organization to the public. By doing so, the county essentially added capacity to their staff without hiring new employees and allowed more opportunity for the public to learn about conservation and the opportunities and resources available to them.

Following a systematic approach to drive education and awareness, Kanati uses research not assumptions, considers the social context, keeps the focus on the audience, involves partners and communities throughout, sets realistic objectives and considers cost effectiveness. To engage their targeted audience, Kanati chooses strategies that are motivational and action-oriented, media channels that are relevant, and ensures quality at every step. By giving attention to how to improve outreach efforts, the public feels invited to learn more and to get involved. This in turn, brings more awareness to the importance of conservation and sheds light on the realistic avenues that can lead to implementation.

The Results

Knowledge-raising and awareness-building are often not enough to change behavior. In order to move beyond traditional approaches, Kanati utilizes a multi-disciplinary approach with techniques such as audience segmentation. The SWCD is now maximizing their impact by segmenting their audience into subgroups and tailoring outreach campaigns to such groups. With effective communication and education now in place, the SWCD has distinguished themselves as a household name within their community and has successfully relinquished mistaken notions and improved people’s awareness of the importance of conservation and how their Soil and Water Conservation District can help.

 

 

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Neighbors Turn to Kanati for Conservation Planning

Neighbors Turn to Kanati for Conservation Planning

When one landowner reached out to Kanati for help developing a conservation plan, his neighbor was prompted to do the same.

The Vision

The initial landowner’s goals were influenced by his father who mentored his son and instilled solid conservation ethics in his son, teaching him how to responsibly hunt, work with the land, and have a general appreciation for nature. His goal was to give back to his father by fulfilling his legacy. The landowner’s father, now 90+ years old, accompanies him on annual turkey hunts on the property and many visits, just the two of them, to appreciate the beautiful nature that surrounds them.

His neighbor, who owns the adjacent property, mirrored what he saw his neighbor doing and asked Kanati to create a plan for his property. He wished to retire the farm from agricultural production and put it all into habitat restoration. His goals emphasized natural and organic systems with no chemical use. He wanted the land to go back to its natural state.

The Process

Kanati’s conservation planning process connected the landowners with programs and processes that fulfilled their wants and needs. Throughout the planning process, Kanati met with the landowners on-site to examine natural resource concerns and discuss objectives. While visiting the properties, areas were highlighted for possible protection and improvement and social, environmental, and economic goals were assessed.

What was best for one of the properties did not necessarily mean it would be best for the neighbor’s property, thus each conservation plan was individually curated for each intended property and landowner.

The plan acted as a road map to help identify the conservation practices individually tailored to the piece of property and landowner’s goals. Each plan highlighted how practices will work most effectively when combined with others to create a complete resource management system. Following the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s 9 steps of conservation planning, and based off on the identified opportunities, determined objectives, and the property’s current conditions, recommendations with the most benefit to the properties were presented to each of the landowners. After reviewing the suggested conservation practices, the landowners decided on their preferred recommendations.

Following a review of the plan, each of the landowners prioritized their own set of practices and a timeline was established. The higher-priority goals and objectives were outlined in a short-term action plan, while the lesser-prioritized practices were incorporated into a long-term plan.

The Results

Kanati worked side by side with the landowners to implement the conservation practices on each of their properties. The landowner who first contacted Kanati successfully staked Willow and Dogwood shrubs to expand the wildlife habitat on his property and planted CRP, a pine forest, and oak savanna which needed tree tubes for protection. Beside these natural improvements, Kanati implemented food plots which the landowner continues to maintain himself.

On the neighboring property, Kanati created a pollinator habitat and planted CRP and trees for the landowner. Kanati also helped develop food plots and helped source funding for wetland restoration so there was no cost to the landowner.

The success of the project led to another landowner north of the two properties to inquire about tree plantings which was also completed. This collaboration had significant impacts on wildlife and the area’s natural corridors.

The conservation work created within that half a mile is amazing and impactful. Our part is completed as the landowner continues to implement the practices but the relationship and advisement piece between us and the landowners is always ongoing. The benefit of this long-term relationship is that landowners consequentially will encourage each of them to continue pursuing ways to add conservation and better their property while also serving as an excellent example of how one piece of property implementing conservation can turn into many over time.

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Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.

— Dr. Seuss' The Lorax