Fisheries Habitat Protection on Strategic North Central Minnesota Lakes - Phase IV

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2019 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Outdoor Heritage Fund
Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation and Minnesota Land Trust
Recipient Type
State Government
In Progress
Start Date
July 2018
Activity Type
Land Acquisition
Counties Affected
Crow Wing
Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2018, Ch. 208, Art. 1, Sec. 2, subd 5(c )
Appropriation Language

$2,801,000 the second year is to the commissioner
of natural resources for agreements to acquire
lands in fee and permanent conservation easements
to sustain healthy fish habitat on coldwater lakes
in Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, and Hubbard Counties.
Of this amount, $1,005,000 is to the Leech Lake
Area Watershed Foundation and $1,796,000 is to
Minnesota Land Trust. Up to $120,000 to Minnesota
Land Trust is for establishing a monitoring and
enforcement fund as approved in the accomplishment
plan and subject to Minnesota Statutes, section
97A.056, subdivision 17. A list of acquisitions
must be provided as part of the required
accomplishment plan.

2019 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Other Funds Leveraged
Direct expenses
Administration costs
Number of full time equivalents funded
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Private shoreline habitat and forested parcels totaling 400 acres will be permanently protected from development and fragmentation through conservation easements. 45 acres acres will protect sensitive shoreland and spawn area for muskellunge and walleye on Leech Lake and Cedar Lake that will maintain high biological integrity. Riparian forest lands under easement will maintain healthy habitat complexes for upland and aquatic species; forest cover will enhance water quality habitat for tullibee lakes. Greater public access for wildlife and outdoors-related recreation will be attained through Fee-Title acquisition open to public for hunting and fishing. Conservation easement properties will protect fish habitat to insure high quality fishing opportunities.

Source of Additional Funds

Landowner donation, Cedar Lake Conservancy

Project Overview

The Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation in partnership with the Minnesota Land Trust will protect high priority critical fish habitat and the surrounding watersheds on 30 tullibee "refuge" lakes by securing conservation easements and fee title acquisitions. We will permanently protect approximately 445 acres and 1 miles of shoreland in total. If a lake's watershed has less than 25% land disturbance, the lake has a high probability to maintain clean water and healthy lake ecosystem. State reports indicate this region could experience significant water quality and fisheries degradation in the coming decades without direct conservation action.

About the Issue

Sustaining a strong angling heritage revolves largely around protecting fisheries habitat. Resurging shoreland development pressures and looming climate change are direct threats to Minnesota lakes’ ecology. This project will focus on fisheries habitat protection on lakes that have the best biological integrity for a sustained sport fishery. Our protection efforts are focused on tullibee (aka cisco) a preferred forage fish of walleye, northern pike, muskellunge and lake trout. They require cold, well oxygenated waters, a condition most common in lakes with deep water and healthy watersheds. Minnesota DNR Fisheries researchers studied tullibee lakes and designated 68 lakes in Minnesota as the primary "refuge lakes" for tullibee that need protection. We are targeting thirty (30) of these lakes located in Hubbard, Crow Wing, Cass, and Aitkin counties. Many are Minnesota's premier recreational lakes. Fisheries research has shown that healthy watersheds with intact forests are fundamental to good fish habitat. Due to the high level of interest in the program and its great success to date, we are applying for a Phase IV of this effort. In this phase we will protect strategically important lands with both conservation easements and fee title acquisitions. We will protect 400 acres with conservation easements. The conservation easement partners will include County Soil & Water Districts, MNDNR Fisheries, Minnesota Land Trust and LLAWF, with the Minnesota Land Trust holding the easements. This team will conduct outreach to potential landowners and help evaluate the projects to assure we are prioritizing those projects with the greatest conservation outcomes. In addition, to ensure the best conservation return on the state's investment, landowner willingness to donate a portion of the easement value will be a key component of the parcel’s evaluation. We also propose to secure a fee-title acquisitions totaling 45 acres. The acquisition on Cedar Lake is in Aitkin County. The Cedar Lake 45 acre proposed fee tile acquisition includes 3,500 ft of sensitive shoreland, including an intact bulrush bed and heavily vegetated wild rice. MN DNR internal score for this WMA expansion effort was 41, the highest score with this prioritization system. This parcel is surrounded by two MNDNR parcels ( Cedar Lake WMA). The acquisition would result in an an expand (100 acre) of the Cedar Lake WMA that includes a public landing.

Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation
Street Address
P.O. Box 455
Zip Code
(218) 675-5773