Cannon River Watershed Habitat Complex - Phase V
Protect approximately 276 acres in and near the Cannon River Watershed, including wetlands, prairies, Big Woods forest, and river and shallow lake shoreline to reverse habitat loss, improve watershed function and provide access.
The Cannon River Watershed Habitat Complex Phase V effort will prevent degradation and loss of quality and diversity of habitat in the prairie section of the State as well as degradation of water quality in the Cannon River watershed. In addition, it will increase the amount of available public lands for hunting and angling opportunities, especially within an easy drive for over half of the state’s population.
Located south of the Twin Cities metro in an area that has seen development pressure due to the I-35 corridor and the Cannon Lakes, much of this area 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.
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. Acquisitions are targeted toward existing large wetland/upland complexes, rare communities (Big Woods forest, tamarack swamp), shallow lakes, river shoreline, and lands adjacent to existing protected areas. Restoration work will be focused on the degraded portions of the lands acquired (approximately 65 acres) and will include restoration of agricultural fields near wetlands, lakes, rivers and existing protected areas to native habitat. There is an effort underway which involves several partners (including The Cannon River Watershed Partnership and MN DNR) to procure funding for landscape planning in the Cannon River watershed. This effort may be able to help the Partnership further identify priority conservation opportunities and protection strategies for high biodiversity areas.
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), deer, and fish (northern pike, black crappies, bluegills, 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. A host of 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.
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 V request to LSOHC (FY16) include the following:
Dora Lake WMA tracts 2 & 5 (Le Sueur County)
These lands build on the 510-acre Dora Lake WMA property that was created with FY 12 Outdoor Heritage Funds. This large upland-wetland complex with a mosaic of native plant types 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.
Boyd Sartell WMA – tract 3 (Rice County)
This tract contains diverse marsh habitats and uplands consisting of oak islands and grassy knolls, Big Woods and tamarack forests, and over ¼ mile of the headwaters of the Cannon River. It will add additional habitat for a variety of wildlife and provide greater connectivity to the tract 5 parcel that this program acquired with OHF funding last fall.
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 and prairie.
Caron Lake WMA (new) – tracts 4,5,6,7 and 8 (Rice County)
These 260 acres of croplands, grasslands, forest and wetlands include lands riparian to the shallow Caron Lake and an unditched tributary, Devil’s Creek, which is rare in this area of the state. The property is adjacent to the Caron Lake Aquatic Management Area, and contains approximately ½ mile frontage on Caron Lake.
Kelley Dudley WMA/AMA (new)
This land encompasses approximately 240 acres between French Lake and Kelley Dudley Lake in Rice County, with 1400 feet of shoreline along Kelley-Dudley Lake. Kelley-Dudley Lake is a deep and clear lake, with a relatively undisturbed shoreline and forested riparian zone. Wild rice in the lake provides important feeding ground for waterfowl. Acquisition of this parcel presents an opportunity to protect a pristine lake and quality fishery.
The Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Complex effort is supported by the Cannon River Watershed Partnership, the Dark House Anglers Southern Chapter, the Izaak Walton League Owatonna Chapter, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association South Central Prairieland Bucks Chapter (Le Sueur, Rice, Waseca, and Steele Counties), Minnesota Waterfowl Association – Scott-Le Sueur Chapter, Montgomery Sportsmen’s Club, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Pheasants Forever – Le Sueur County Chapter, the Tri-Lake Sports Club, Waterville Sportsman’s Club, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
$1,380,000 in the first 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 purposes under Minnesota Statutes, section 86A.05, subdivision 8. Subject to evaluation criteria in 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.
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 Watershed Habitat Complex. Protected lands will be measured in acres..
Private, Various state, local and private funds