Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Complex Phase III
Permanently protected 496 acres (142% of our protect goal) within the Cannon River watershed; areas include wetlands, prairies, Big Woods forest, and shallow lake shoreline. This has reversed habitat loss, improved watershed function, and increased access to public lands.
The Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Complex Phase III program acquired 496 acres of high-quality wetland, remnant Big Woods forest, and shoreline habitat for fish, game and wildlife in the Cannon River watershed located within Rice County. Protection of four large complexes - Koester Prairie (Prairie Creek WMA), Circle Lake (Circle Lake WMA), Erin Township (Big Woods Heritage WMA), and Wells Township (Sunktokeca WMA) provide new opportunities for public hunting, fishing, and wildlife observation.
Located just south of the Twin Cities metro in an area that has seen development pressure due to the close proximity of the Twin Cities, I-35 and the Upper Cannon Lakes, the Cannon River watershed has already suffered fragmentation and habitat loss. Historically inhabited by Big Woods, the landscape is now dominated by agricultural fields and, to a lesser extent, development. Agricultural practices and shoreline development are also the major contributors to the impaired status of stretches of the Cannon River and its associated lakes and streams.
The Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Complex Phase III program was designed to address the following problems: degradation and loss of quality and diversity of habitat in the prairie section of the State, degradation of water quality in the Cannon River Watershed; and lack of available public lands for hunting and angling opportunities, especially within an hour's drive for over half of the state's population.
The Phase III program is a part of a multi-year conservation effort, focusing on the Cannon River watershed, that includes acquisition, protection, and restoration of core parcels of land that will contribute to a large complex of restored prairies, grasslands, wetlands, lakeshore, and river shoreline. The Phase III acquisitions were prioritized toward protecting existing large wetland/upland complexes, rare communities (Big Woods forest, oak savanna, tamarack swamp), and shallow lakes. In addition, landowner willingness to sell and the threat of conversion were also taken into consideration. Protection of these lands provides critical habitat for game species, including migratory waterfowl (mallards, canvasback, wood ducks, hooded mergansers, pintails, lesser scaup), upland birds (dove, turkey, pheasant, and woodcock), white tail deer, and fish (northern pike, black crappies, bluegills, bullheads and walleye). Protection will also provide access for a diversity of recreational experiences including duck, pheasant, turkey and deer hunting, lake fishing, and wildlife observation. In addition, restoration work conducted by the MN DNR has been focused on the degraded portions of the lands acquired and has included restoration of agricultural fields near wetlands and lakes back to native habitat.
Four acquisitions were completed with Phase III funding:
1. Koester Prairie (Prairie Creek WMA) (Rice County)
The Trust for Public Land acquired Koester Prairie and conveyed this 460 acre property to the DNR on December 20, 2013 to be managed as a new Wildlife Management Area. This property contains approximately 327 acres of rolling grassland, prairie, and oak savanna that are associated with Prairie Creek and its tributaries and that directly buffer approximately 133 acres of rare and highly significant native prairie. Over forty native upland prairie species have been documented here as well as a number of sedge meadow and wet prairie species. The dry oak savanna found on the property is also extremely rare, with only 13 occurrences of this type documented in the state. The site is known to locals as being the biggest and best birding area in the county. Bird Species in Greatest Conservation Need utilizing this site include: Swainson’s Hawk, Upland Sandpiper, Red-headed Woodpecker, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Bobolink.
The Trust for Public Land purchased this property for a total of $1,885,000 using $1,032,507 from Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Phase II (ML 2012 OHF; allocated acreage 200), and also $652,493 in funds from Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Phase III (ML 2013 OHF; allocated acreage 127), and RIM funding of $200,000 (133 acres).
2. Circle Lake (Circle Lake WMA) (Rice County)
The Trust for Public Land acquired the Circle Lake property on June 23, 2016 and conveyed the 166 acre property to the DNR on March 10, 2017 to be managed as a new Wildlife Management Area. Located directly on the north shore of Circle Lake in Rice County, this new WMA consists of high quality emergent marsh habitat as well as upland grass knolls. This site protects habitat for a wide varietly of waterfowl and wildlife, specifically including colonial waterbirds and Blanding's turtles.
The Trust for Public Land purchased this property for a total of $711,000 using $339,316 from Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Phase III (ML 2013 OHF; allocated acreage 79), and also $371,684 in funds from Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Phase IV (ML 2014 OHF; allocated acreage 87).
3. Erin Township (Big Woods Heritage WMA (Rice County)
The Trust for Public Land acquired the Big Woods Heritage property on June 23, 2016 and conveyed the 130 acre property to the DNR on March 10, 2017 to be managed as a new Wildlife Management Area. Located north of Shields Lake, the headwaters of the Cannon River, this new WMA comprises both rolling upland mixed forest and wetland habitat. The native plant community of Southern Mesic Maple-Basswood Forest is found on this property and it will provide new publicly accessible outdoor experiences including ample hunting opportunities for waterfowl, deer, pheasant and turkeys.
The Trust for Public Land purchased this property for a total of $520,000 using $248,164 from Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Phase III (ML 2013 OHF; allocated acreage 62), and also $271,836 in funds from Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Phase IV (ML 2014 OHF; allocated acreage 68).
4. Wells Township (Sunktokeca Creek WMA) (Rice County)
The Trust for Public Land acquired the Sunktokeca Creek property on June 23, 2016 and conveyed the 199 acre property to the DNR on March 10, 2017 to be managed as a new Wildlife Management Area. Located just northwest of Faribault, this new WMA protects diverse, high quality emergent marsh habitat, supports a wide variety of waterfowl and wildlife, and provides new publically accessible outdoor experiences within an hour of the Twin Cities including quality hunting opportunities’ for waterfowl, deer, pheasant and turkeys.
The Trust for Public Land purchased this property for a total of $1,040,000 using $496,327 from Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Phase III (ML 2013 OHF; allocated acreage 95), and also $543,673 in funds from Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Phase IV (ML 2014 OHF; allocated acreage 104).
$1,780,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Trust for Public Land to acquire and restore lands in the Cannon River watershed for wildlife management purposes under Minnesota Statutes, section 86A.05, subdivision 8, or aquatic management area purposes under Minnesota Statutes, sections 86A.05, subdivision 14, and 97C.02. A list of proposed land acquisitions must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
Core areas protected with highly biologically diverse wetlands and plant communities, including native prairie, Big Woods, and oak savanna.Expiring CRP lands are permanently protected.Remnant native prairies and wetlands are permanently protected and are part of large complexes of restored prairie, grasslands, and large and small wetlands.Improved condition of habitat on public lands.Water is kept on the land.Protected, restored, and enhanced habitat for waterfowl, upland birds, and species of greatest conservation need.