New shelterbelts needed

Wind, it's inevitable living in North Dakota. But it does more than make it feel like 50 below zero. The wind can damage the land and animals.

In the 1930s, conservationists and agricultural experts realized they needed to do something to protect the lands from wind. What they came up with was shelterbelts, or wind breaks, which are long lines of trees built to block what can sometimes seem to be an ever-present wind.

Rows and rows of trees do more than paint the landscape, they also serve as wildlife habitats, mini ecosystems for crops, and can protect the soil and animals.

“They are to me one of the most valuable conservation practices in our toolbox,” said USDA State Conservationist Mary Podoll.

Shelterbelts were first introduced to North Dakota in the 1930's and are now common across the state. Eighty years later, many of those trees are reaching the end of their lifespan and need to be replaced. Without the protection in place, damage to crops can happen with just a couple wind gusts.

“Green snap in corn it'll actually just snap the stock right over. And then also sunflower damage seeds can be lost as the sunflowers are blowing in the wind. They're hitting each other and the seeds that have developed in the head will actually fall out and both of these things can lead to decreased yield,” said Marissa Leier, Morton County Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent.

Each county in the state has its own conservation district office, which assists landowners, farmers and ranchers in creating or maintain the shelterbelts

“One of the things that I don't think we realize is the value that windbreaks bring; not just for wind protection wind erosion, but for the whole value to both crop and range,” Podoll said.

If you would like to learn more about the shelterbelts, head to the North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation District's website at