Anoka Sand Plain Restoration and Enhancement

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2011 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Outdoor Heritage Fund
Great River Greening
Recipient Type
Non-Profit Business/Entity
Start Date
July 2010
End Date
June 2015
Activity Type
Counties Affected
Project Overview

This program will harness the expertise, resources, and connections of a broad community of committed conservation stakeholders to significantly elevate restoration and enhancement of oak savannas (Minnesota's most critically imperiled habitat), woodlands and forests on public lands across the region. Through funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation and an array of other sources (real and in-kind) we will restore and enhance over 1700 acres of oak savanna, prairie, and oak woodland habitat across 11 priority sites, including:

? State WMAs (5 sites; 485 acres): Carlos Avery, Lamprey Pass, Rice Area Sportsman Club, Sand Prairie, and Becklin Homestead WMA
? State SNAs (3 sites; 135 acres): Clear Lake, Uncas Dunes, and Harry W. Cater
? Cedar Creek Ecological Science Reserve, University of Minnesota (600 acres)
? Sherburne NWR (500 acres)
? Isanti County Parks (1 site; 20 acres): Springvale County Park

About the Issue

What is the problem or opportunity being addressed?
The Anoka Sand Plain (ASP) has been home to an array of storied conservation successes over the past century; however, the future of wildlife in the region is far from assured. Major challenges to long-term conservation success exist and there is a pronounced urgency to act now: While there has been a tremendous loss of native habitat in the ASP, there are also major opportunities to benefit wildlife through expedited restoration and enhancement of existing public lands. Public land managers over the past decades have made good investments of time and resources, but all are facing serious funding shortages. None of our partners have reached their restoration and enhancement goals despite the range of efforts over many years. As the Anoka Sand Plain Habitat Partnership (ASP Habitat Partnership or Partnership), we acknowledge this habitat work has to be an ongoing effort, one that is far more integrated and collaborative than what has been done in the past.

Principle problems being addressed through this proposal are:
Critical Imperilment of Habitat and Associated Species - Wildlife habitats of the Anoka Sand Plain (ASP) are critically imperiled, with oak savanna being the single most imperiled ecological system in Minnesota. These habitats are identified in the State Wildlife Action Plan (CWCP) and Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan as conservation priorities. Habitat loss and degradation has had profound impacts on the wildlife of the ASP; some 97 Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in the state are known or predicted to occur within the ASP. This decline in habitat has had major impacts on game species.

Major Threats & Pressures Requiring Urgent Action - Invasive species, coupled with lack of prescribed fire and other basic management/restoration practices have resulted in declines in value of public lands as wildlife habitat over time. Minnesota's CWCP identifies maintenance, enhancement and protection of oak savannas as its first priority for this ecological subsection.

The ASP is among the fastest growing areas in the state. Urban sprawl is placing immense pressure on remaining natural resources and threatening existing protected areas. As the Metro grows, wildlife habitat in the ASP will face elevated pressures, accentuating the importance of enhanced habitat management on existing public lands.

Increased Cost of Management Actions as Habitats Decline - Inadequate funding for restoration/management activities on public lands has resulted in general declines in the condition of Minnesota's most imperiled habitats, and their value as wildlife habitat. Costs to restore these habitats rise every year that management is delayed.

How will this directly relate to restoring, protecting, or enhancing habitat?

Beginning in FY2011 and over 3-year duration, the Anoka Sand Plain Habitat Partnership will restore and enhance over 1700 acres of oak savanna, oak woodland and prairie habitat occurring on public lands in the project area. Activities will take place principally on State WMAs and SNAs, but also on other public lands as detailed below.

Our actions will result in:
? elimination of invasive plants (trees, shrubs and forbs) over 549 acres of oak savanna and oak woodland habitats;
? seeding/planting of 635 acres of oak savanna habitat;
? seeding of 16 acres of oak woodland habitat; and
? prescribed fire over 1,135 acres of oak savanna habitat.

These actions will benefit a broad suite of native species that require high-quality oak savanna, prairie, and oak woodland habitats:
? SGCN (direct impact on 35 species): bobolink, gopher snake, American badger, etc.
? Native song birds, mammals, herps and others
? Game species: white-tailed deer, pheasant, turkey, ruffed grouse, and small-game animals (squirrel, rabbits, fur-bearers, etc.) and waterfowl (upland nesting habitat).

Due to funding limitations, several sites initially proposed for funding were dropped from consideration. Decisions as to which proposed sites would be funded were based on the following criteria:
1. Land Ownership ? We gave high preference to state-owned lands over federal and county lands in the following order:
? State (highest)
? University or Other Semi-State
? County
? Federal (lowest)

2. Other Mitigating Factors ? Several additional important factors were considered when refining the action list, including:
? Presence of MCBS quality ecological system(s); SGCN/T&E species
? Size of habitat block/managed area
? Presence within habitat corridors
? Adjacency (i.e., location relative to other public lands or large habitat blocks)
? Immediacy of need/action as determined by MCBS. Weight = High;

These mitigating factors had the result of elevating a site like Sherburne NWR (although federal) above state-owned, isolated and lower quality sites. The impact of this large federal land-holding on maintaining large, viable populations of wildlife on adjacent state-owned lands like Uncas Dunes SNA, Rice Lake SNA and Sand Dunes State Forest strongly influenced our decision to retain funding for this project.

3. Funding the Whole Package of Proposed Activities at a Site ? The final list of sites reflects our keen desire to fully complete all proposed activities at a given site rather than working at a broader suite of sites but completing partial restorations or enhancements. Biologically this made most sense. In addition, we felt this would be far less confusing to the LSOHC when we return for a subsequent proposal. Because of this, several high-quality sites that otherwise ranked highly in factors 1 and 2 above were moved off of the active project list.

Tier 1 Action Sites
Listed below are each of the sites proposed for action in this accomplishment plan, along with a short summary of their ecological importance, proposed activities, and timeline. We also include a list of Tier 2 sites (those initially proposed for action but pulled due to insufficient funding). As additional funds become available, we propose to expand the list of Tier 1 sites through the inclusion of current Tier 2 sites along with a reallocation of LSOHC funds as appropriate.

Uncas Dunes SNA (Sherburne County) ? Uncas Dunes SNA contains a relict dunefield and includes oak savanna, oak forest, and wetland habitats. The rare Uncas skipper gives this site its name; this is one of only two sites in the state where this species has been found. Actions: Restoration of 70 acres of oak savanna habitat through removal of invasive trees/shrubs and regenerating pine, planting of old fields and disturbed areas with native seed collected onsite (followed by post-seeding management over two years), and prescribed fire. The restoration project will be led by Great River Greening in collaboration with the DNR SNA Program and DNR Forestry. Portions of the work (harvesting of pine plantation, etc.) will be subcontracted to a private consultant specializing in that area of work. Portions of the project will be performed by volunteers as a way to connect the local community to this important land. Restoration will begin in FY 2011 and continue through 2013.

Clear Lake SNA (Sherburne County) ? Clear Lake SNA has the distinction of being the first land parcel acquired under the State Wild and Scenic Rivers Program. It contains a mosaic of oak forest, floodplain forest, and old field sumac thicket, along with a small population of the very rare Hill's thistle. Actions: A first phase of oak savanna restoration on 50 acres through woody invasive species control and prescribed fire (to be followed upon by seeding and restoration management in a future proposal). The restoration project will be led by Great River Greening in collaboration with the DNR SNA Program. Portions of the work may be subcontracted to MCC or a private contractor. Portions of the project will be performed by volunteers as a way to connect the local community to this important land. Restoration will begin in FY2011 and continue through FY2013.

Harry W. Cater Homestead SNA (Sherburne County) ? Located on a sandy terrace of the Elk River, this SNA is dominated by dry, upland oak savanna, mesic and wet-mesic prairie openings in aspen groves, floodplain forest along the Elk River, wet meadow and marsh on peat. Actions: Restoration of 15 acres of oak savanna habitat through removal of invasive trees/shrubs and use of prescribed fire. The restoration project will be led by Great River Greening in collaboration with the DNR SNA Program. Portions of the work may be subcontracted to MCC or a private contractor. Portions of the project will be performed by volunteers as a way to connect the local community to this important land. Restoration will begin in 2010 and continue into 2013.

Lamprey Pass WMA (Anoka and Washington counties) ? Lamprey Pass is the largest WMA outside of Carlos Avery in the North Metro area. Originally owned by Uri Lamprey, it was managed as a hunt club from 1881 until the 1970s. The acquisition of Lamprey pass marked the first time money was used from the Nongame Wildlife Tax Check-off revenue. The unit is identified as a DNR Regionally Significant Ecological Area. Actions: Restoration of 16 acres of old field to oak woodland through direct seeding and follow-up management. DNR Wildlife will lead and implement all phases of this enhancement project. The project will commence in FY2011 and continue into FY2012.

Carlos Avery WMA (Anoka and Chisago counties) ? This 25,000-acre WMA is the largest in the Twin Cities Metro Area and is one of the iconic WMAs in the state of Minnesota. The site is composed principally of wetlands and oak woodland and savanna. Actions: Enhancement of 22 acres of native and semi-native grassland through removal of invasive trees and shrubs, followed by prescribed fire. The restoration project will be led by Great River Greening in collaboration with the DNR Wildlife. Great River Greening will oversee removal of red cedar and other woody invasive trees by a contractor; DNR Wildlife will follow with a prescribed burn. Enhancement will begin in FY2011 and continue through FY2013.

Sand Prairie WMA (Sherburne County) ? This 700-acre WMA is situated in the glacial flood plain of the Mississippi River, with mesic to wet remnant prairie, dry prairie, and aspen occurring at the site. In addition to its status as a WMA, Sand Prairie is the first WMA also designated as an Environmental Education Area, providing a strong connection to local school and college students. Actions: Restoration of 159 acres of partially restored oak savanna through the planting of oak trees. The site has one of the most diverse prairie species assemblages in a Minnesota restored prairie. This restoration project will be led by DNR Wildlife in collaboration with Great River Greening. Volunteers will be used in the planting of trees as a way to connect the local community to this important site. The project will begin in FY2011 and conclude in FY2012.

Becklin Homestead WMA & County Park (Isanti County) ? This WMA is located along the Rum River and consists of partially restored oak savanna and other habitats. The WMA is also jointly managed as an Isanti County Park and is dedicated to hunting use by Physically Challenged hunters only. Actions: Restoration of 25 acres of oak savanna through direct seeding and planting of trees. Isanti County Parks and DNR Wildlife will collaborate on this restoration project. The project will begin in FY2012 and conclude in FY2013.

Rice Area Sportsman Club WMA (Morrison County) ? This WMA (580 acres) consists of extensive oak savanna/woodland along its east border, merging with restored native grass fields and wetlands. Actions: Restoration of 163 acres of deciduous woodland, dry oak woodland and dry oak savanna; enhancement of 29 acres of grassland. Oversight of this project will be provided by Great River Greening in collaboration with the DNR Wildlife. Aside from project oversight, much of the proposed work will be subcontracted through MCC and/or private vendor. The project will begin in FY2011 and will conclude in FY2013.

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (Sherburne County) ? This 30,700-acre refuge was in 1965 to protect and restore the habitats associated with the St. Francis River Valley for migratory birds and other wildlife, the focus of the Refuge is on the restoration of oak savanna, wetland and Big Woods habitat. Actions: Restoration of 350 acres through prescribed fire and oak seeding of prairie habitats. Great River Greening will hire a contract forester to complement existing USFWS staff engaged in the large-scale oak savanna restoration efforts underway at Sherburne NWR. The forester will flag trees for thinning in line with savanna restoration plans.

Springvale County Park (Isanti County) ? This 211-acre park is situated on Johnny's Lake and lies on eskers and wetlands left by the last glaciers. The park includes rolling prairies, oak savanna, northern hardwood forest and wetlands. Actions: Restoration of 20 acres of oak savanna through direct seeding of acorns and planting of oak trees into restored ground layer of restored tallgrass prairie. Isanti County Parks will implement all phases of this restoration project with assistance from volunteers. Restoration will commence in FY2012 and continue into FY2013.

Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve (Anoka & Isanti counties) ? Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve is a large ecological research site in central Minnesota with natural habitats that represent the entire state. The Minnesota County Biological Survey ranks Cedar Creek a site of Outstanding Biodiversity Significance, its highest rating, and the Nature Conservancy has named Cedar Creek an Ecologically Significant Area. Actions: Restoration of 1000 acres of oak savanna and 800 acres of oak woodland habitat through prescribed fire and invasive exotic species control. CCESR will hire temporary staff, managed by seasoned employees, to perform most activities related to this restoration. Components (prescribed fire, invasive species control, etc.) may include staff from Great River Greening, MCC and/or the DNR. Restoration will commence in FY2011 and continue through FY2013.

Tier 2 Projects: These projects (which were part of the initial proposal) may be pursued if additional funds are procured through other sources to expand the amount available for restoration and enhancement. At present, these projects, despite their merits are not included in the project action plan.

Rice Lake SNA (Sherburne County) ? Glacial meltwaters deposited their outwash sands across this large plain, providing the basis for an open, grassy landscape dotted with bur and pin oak--a classic savanna. Rice Lake Savanna SNA contains examples of oak savanna and oak woodland communities. Actions: Restoration of 80 acres of oak savanna habitat through removal of invasive trees/shrubs, planting of old fields and disturbed areas with native seed collected onsite, and prescribed fire.

Mississippi River Islands SNA (Sherburne County) ? This SNA includes five islands formed of outwash and alluvium deposited by the Mississippi River, rising as high as 30 feet above river level. Flooding, erosion, and sedimentation have resulted in various stages of succession, creating a mosaic of wet floodplain forest, drier floodplain forest, and sandbar plant communities. Actions: Restoration of 5 acres of hardwood forest through invasive species removal.

Sartell WMA (Benton County) ? This 368-acre WMA is featured by Little Rock Creek (which flows through the site), along with significant oak savanna, oak woodland and prairie in various stages of restoration. Actions: Restoration of 91 acres of oak savanna/woodland habitat, and enhancement of 21 acres of grassland and woodland through exotic and native woody species control.

Michaelson Farm WMA (Benton County) ? This 276-acre WMA occurs on the Mississippi River floodplain forest, lowland grass and brush, and oak woodland on higher grounds. Management of the unit focuses on maintaining and improving habitat for a diversity of native plants and wildlife. Actions: Enhancement of 120 acres of oak woodland, woodland and grassland through control of exotic and native woody invasive plants.

McDougall WMA (Morrison County) ? This 228-acre WMA occurs along the Mississippi River and is characterized by floodplain forest, oak woodland and deciduous woodland, with some crop field. The WMA borders a preserve of The Nature Conservancy along its south edge. Actions: Enhancement of 54 acres of oak woodland, deciduous woodland and grassland through control of exotic and native woody invasive species.

Anderson County Park (Isanti County) ? The 174-acre park lies within the Typo Chain of Lakes watershed, and consists of open fields (in the process of prairie and oak savanna restoration), woods, and wetlands adjacent to both Horseshoe and Horse Leg Lakes. Actions: Restoration of 20 acres of oak savanna through direct seeding of acorns and planting of oak trees into restored understory of tallgrass prairie.

Why will this strategy work?
The strength of the proposal lies with the ASP Habitat Partnership and the diverse skill sets, expertise and resources of its committed partners. Each partner has a long-term demonstrable track record of achievement in conserving the natural resources of the ASP. Collectively, this expertise is deep, and the resources and skill sets each brings to the table can be used more efficiently, effectively, and with greater impact than each acting alone

Across the Partnership there exists a broad cross-section of expertise, skill sets, and missions that reach to all corners of the conservation arena:
? Deep expertise in areas of protection, restoration and enhancement
? Strong science ? both pure and applied
? Public and private partners
? Outreach to private landowners
? Sophisticated educational programs woven throughout partner curricula
? Strong volunteer programs
? Solid grant-writing and fundraising capabilities

As a Partnership, we acknowledge this habitat work has to be an ongoing effort, one that is far more integrated and collaborative than what has been done in the past. We will collaborate on projects, share resources and expertise, broaden the existing funding base for this work, and outreach to public/private partners and the local community in efficient and effective ways ? all supported foundationally by a world class ecological research center. The ASP Habitat Partnership has already produced over 2000 hours of in-kind time to form as a coalition and develop these projects. This same kind of energy will be the foundation to our new broad collaborative approach to managing public sites throughout the ASP. By supporting this proposal, the LSOHC will gain far more than the basic investment of wildlife habitat improvements on public lands; it will produce major lasting commitments on the part of local conservation managers to ensure the on-going collaborative nature of this Partnership.

Funding through the Outdoor Heritage Fund (OHF) will be used to leverage further funding and in-kind support on all sites where we work. The Partnership will increase involvement by the public through the combining and integrating of the volunteer programs led by Great River Greening, SWCDs, National Wild Turkey Federation, The Nature Conservancy, USFWS, MFRC, Isanti County Parks and others. These groups have wide recognition for volunteer development, yet to date there has not been a connecting and sharing of these programs to the degree needed. This project will embark on that next generation of collaboration.

All restoration and enhancement actions will be rooted in sound science and adaptive management. Already a hallmark of its partners, the Partnership is committed to using the most effective practices and restoration/management techniques and monitoring/evaluate results for the benefit of the broader conservation community. In collaboration with the University of Minnesota's Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, we can ensure that our proposed actions are rooted in the best science.

Finally, through the ASP Habitat Partnership, this funding will spearhead the future investment for wildlife habitat on private lands through a systematic and ongoing public awareness process created and implemented by the Partnership.

Describe the nature and extent of any partnerships in this project, stakeholder and public participation processes associated with the project and any anticipated support or opposition to the project.

The Anoka Sand Plain Habitat Partnership aims, through a coordinated approach, to: 1) elevate and capitalize on resources available for protection, restoration, and enhancement of natural resources in the ASP, 2) share and disseminate management and restoration expertise to public and private landowners, 3) tackle emerging research issues and use findings to guide management actions across public and private lands and waters, and 4) build strong connections to local communities through education, outreach and opportunities for volunteerism.

This Partnership, at present, includes the following stakeholders:

Anoka County Parks Morrison SWCD
Mid-Minnesota Mississippi River RC&D
National Wild Turkey Federation
Onanegozie RC&D
Stearns SWCD
The Nature Conservancy
US Fish & Wildlife Service
University of Minnesota
Wright SWCD
Audubon Minnesota
Benton SWCD
Chisago SWCD
Friends of the Rum River
Great River Greening
Isanti County Parks
Minnesota DNR
Minnesota Forest Resources Council

The concept behind the ASP Habitat Partnership - integrated public and private land management ? is a strategic direction of the Minnesota DNR (as stated in A Strategic Conservation Agenda 2009-2013). The ability of the DNR to administer state forests, parks, wildlife management areas, aquatic management areas, and scientific and natural areas is strongly influenced by the management of surrounding lands and waters. Through engagement in partnerships like the ASP Habitat Partnership, the DNR is pursuing integrated management for extensive interspersed public and private lands in order to build its capacity to work across ownership boundaries.

Backed by a slate of seasoned resource professionals (wildlife managers, ecologists, restoration experts, scientists) within an array of established conservation agencies and organizations, the Partnership is poised to begin making immediate impacts across 3904 acres of habitat.

Project Details
Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2010, Ch. 361, Art. 1, Sec. 2, Subd. 5(f)
Appropriation Language

$747,000 in fiscal year 2011 is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Great River Greening to restore and enhance habitat on public property in the Anoka Sand Plain in Anoka, Chisago, Isanti, Benton, Washington, Morrison, and Sherburne Counties. All restorations must comply with subdivision 9, paragraph (b).

2011 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Other Funds Leveraged
Direct expenses
Administration costs
Number of full time equivalents funded
Measurable Outcome(s)

Restored and Enhanced 4,179 acres of prairie and Forest

Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
Great River Greening
Street Address
35 W Water Street
St. Paul
Zip Code
(651) 665-9500
Administered By
Administered by

500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155

Email the Agency