Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Complex Phase IV

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2015 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Outdoor Heritage Fund
Trust for Public Land
Recipient Type
Non-Profit Business/Entity
In Progress
Start Date
July 2014
End Date
June 2019
Activity Type
Land Acquisition
Counties Affected
Le Sueur
Le Sueur
Project Overview

Protect approximately 270 acres and restore approximately 50 acres near the Cannon River headwaters, including wetlands, prairies, Big Woods forest, and river & shallow lake shoreline to reverse habitat loss, improve watershed function and provide access.

About the Issue

The Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Complex Phase IV effort will 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.

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, much of this part of the state 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.

This conservation effort is part of a multi-year effort 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.

These acquisitions are prioritized toward existing large wetland/upland complexes, rare communities (Big Woods forest, tamarack swamp), shallow lakes, river shoreline, and lands adjacent to existing protected areas. Landowner willingness to sell and the threat of development are also taken into consideration. Restoration work will be focused on the degraded portions of the lands acquired (approximately 50 acres) and will include restoration of agricultural fields near wetlands, lakes, rivers and existing protected areas to native habitat.

Protection and restoration of these significant parcels will provide critical habitat for game species, including migratory waterfowl (mallards, canvasback, wood ducks, hooded mergansers, pintails, and 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 as well as river, stream, and lake fishing. Non-game wildlife, including species in Greatest Conservation Need, likely to benefit from this protection and restoration work includes Bald Eagle, Bell’s Vireo, Cerulean Warbler, Loggerhead Shrike, Sandhill Crane, Red-headed Woodpecker, Greater Yellowlegs, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Short billed Dowitcher, Blanding’s Turtle, Mudpuppies, and the Giant Floater, a species of freshwater mussel.

 Protecting and restoring vegetative cover within basins and the riparian areas of the lakes, rivers and streams in this focus area will also help protect water quality by reducing surface water runoff and by providing ecological services such as infiltration through natural buffers to our waterways. All wildlife-and humans –will benefit from improved water quality.

The DNR’s Southern Region Conservation Focus Area assessment tool ranked the Cannon River area as having the highest level of inter-divisional conservation priority when examined at the landscape level.

Work will be completed in phases depending on funding availability and landowner willingness to sell. Properties targeted for acquisition and restoration as part of this Phase IV request to LSOHC (FY15) include the following:

Dora Lake WMA tracts 2 & 5 (Le Sueur County)

These lands build on the new 510-acre Dora Lake WMA property that was created with FY 12 Outdoor Heritage Funds. This large upland-wetland complex contains Minnesota County Biological Survey (MCBS)-identifed native habitat including a portion of remnant Big Woods, some southern-most occurrence of tamarack swamp in the state, and over 2 miles of naturally flowing Cannon River, directly upstream from a concentration of rare freshwater mussels. These new tracts would add another ¼ mile of Cannon River and an island of tamaracks to the WMA.

 Boyd Sartell WMA – tracts 3 & 5 (Rice County)

These two tracts contain diverse marsh habitats and about 100 acres of uplands consisting of oak islands and grassy knolls, Big Woods and tamarack forests, and over ¼ mile of the headwaters of the Cannon River. The acquisition will protect seasonally flooded wetlands and other key habitats for waterfowl and wetland wildlife ranging from sedge wrens and ring-necked ducks to sandhill cranes and trumpeter swans. The area also provides habitat for species of conservation need, including colonial waterbirds and Blanding’s turtles.

Koester Prairie WMA – tract 1 (Rice County)

This parcel contains approximately 200 acres of rolling grassland, prairie and oak savanna that are associated with Prairie Creek and its tributaries and that directly buffer approximately 130 acres of rare and highly significant native prairie that is currently protected with a native prairie bank easement. Forty-one native upland prairie species have been documented here as well as a number of sedge meadow and wet prairie species. Bird species in Greatest Conservation Need utilizing this site include: Swanson’s Hawk, Upland Sandpiper, Red-headed Woodpecker, Grasshopper Sparrow and Bobolink. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is providing $10 K matching funds for restoration of this property through their Partners in Fish and Wildlife Program.

Le Tamaracque WMA (addition)- tract 28 (Rice County)

These 200 acres of rolling terrain with grasslands, forest, and wetlands riparian to the Cannon River are located within a 1000-acre complex of MCBS-identified habitat with high biodiversity significance. Rare communities include Big Woods, some of the southern- most occurrence of Tamarack Swamp in the state, and mixed emergent marsh & prairie.  The diversity of marshes and lowland brush is important for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species. The mix of wetland and upland habitats provide nesting areas for waterfowl.

Caron Lake WMA (new) - tracts 4,5,6,7 and 8 (Rice County)

These 260 acres of rolling croplands, grasslands, forest and wetlands include lands riparian to the shallow Caron Lake and an unditched tributary, Devil's Creek, which is very rare in this area of the state. The property is adjacent to the Caron Lake AMA, and within a complex of shallow lakes that drain into the Cannon River. This area is known to host divers and puddle ducks during fall migration; it is also a great production area for turkey, deer and other forest species, and would offer extensive

Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2014, Ch. 256, Art. 1, Sec. 2, Subd. 2(g)
Appropriation Language

$1,430,000 in the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with The Trust for Public Land to acquire and restore lands in the Cannon River watershed for wildlife management area purposes under Minnesota Statutes, section 86A.05, subdivision 8. Lands acquired with this appropriation may not be used for emergency haying and grazing in response to federal or state disaster declarations. Conservation grazing under a management plan that is already being implemented may continue. Subject to the evaluation criteria under Minnesota Rules, part 6136.0900, priority must be given to acquisition of lands that are eligible for the native prairie bank under Minnesota Statutes, section 84.96, or lands adjacent to protected native prairie. A list of proposed land acquisitions must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.

2015 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Other Funds Leveraged
Direct expenses
Administration costs
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Key core parcels are protected for fish, game and other wildlife - Core parcels are identified in partnership with the DNR as well as the partners of the Cannon River Habitat Complex. .Expiring CRP lands are permanently protected - The number of acres of expiring CRP lands protected will be measured..Remnant native prairies and wetlands are perpetually protected and adequately buffered - Protected prairies and wetlands may be measured in acres..Restored and enhanced upland habitats - Restored upland habitats will be measured in acres. .Agriculture lands are converted to grasslands to sustain functioning prairie systems - Agriculture land acquired will be restored to native prairie habitat and measured in acres..Improved access to public lands - Previously private lands will be open to the public within a short drive of the metro area and may be measured in acres..Protected, enhanced and restored remnants of big woods and oak savanna - Big woods and oak savanna remnants will be measured in acres protected and restored..Remnant native prairies are part of large complexes of restored prairies, grasslands, and large and small wetlands - Protected prairies and wetlands may be measured in acres..Protected, restored, and enhanced habitat for migratory and unique Minnesota species - Species benefited will be listed and habitat protected and restored will be measured in acres..

Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
Trust for Public Land
Street Address
2610 University Avenue
Saint Paul
Zip Code
(651) 999-5307
Administered By
Administered by

500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155

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