Metro Big Rivers Habitat Phase 3

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2013 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Outdoor Heritage Fund
MN Valley NWR Trust, Friends of Mississippi River, Great River Greening, MN Land Trust, Trust for Pulbic Land
Recipient Type
Non-Profit Business/Entity
Start Date
July 2012
End Date
June 2016
Activity Type
Land Acquisition
Counties Affected
Project Overview

Metro Big Rivers Phase 3 protected 67 acres of significant habitat along more than 1 mile of the Mississippi River, restored 8 acres of prairie and enhanced 495 acres of priority habitat (47 wetland acres, 50 prairie acres and 398 forest acres) in the Metropolitan Urbanizing Area.

Project Details

Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) completed restoration and enhancement activities on 314 acres, exceeding its original 166 grant acres. FMR restored 8 acres of prairie and enhanced 30 acres prairie, 47 acres of wetland and 237 acres of forest on three sites in Dakota County and one in Washington County, as follows:• Gores Pool Wildlife Management Area (Freitag Tract) -- Gores Pool WMA is a 6,449-ac complex of floodplain forest, marshland and backwater along the Mississippi River and Vermillion River Bottoms in Dakota County. Most of the area is designated as outstanding biodiversity significance and constitutes one of the largest expanses of floodplain native plant communities in southeast Minnesota. It is also one of the top four sites in the state for rare forest birds. The 300 acre Freitag Tract was purchased in 2008 by the DNR in partnership with Dakota County and the City of Hastings. With this Phase 3 grant, FMR continued its activities at the WMA in partnership with the DNR, enhancing 47 acres of wet meadow, 125 acres of forest, and 5 acres of prairie. Methods included cutting and treating invasive woody and herbaceous species, prescribed burning, installing cottonwood livestakes, and planting native shrubs.• Hastings Sand Coulee Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) - This SNA is identified as significant by the Dakota County Farmland and Natural Area Program and the County Biological Survey. In addition to containing an intermittent stream that flows to the Vermillion River, this site contains rare dry prairie and associated oak woodland. Fourteen rare species have been documented at this SNA. FMR’s work with Phase 3 restored 8 acres of prairie, enhanced 23 acres of prairie by removing woody species and conducting prescribed burns and enhanced 51 acres of oak woodland by controlling exotic invasive species and conducting prescribed burns.• Hastings Scientific and Natural Area -- This 69-acre SNA, designated in the 1970s, is situated along the Mississippi – Vermillion River floodplain and blufflands in Hastings, Dakota County. It contains wetland, maple-basswood forest and floodplain forest. FMR developed a Natural Resource Management Plan for this SNA in 2011 in partnership with the DNR. With Phase 3 funds, FMR conducted exotic invasive woody plant control on 35 acres of forest by cutting and stump-treating. These activities improved the habitat for the both rare species and all the plant and animal members of these forest communities.• Camel’s Hump / Gateway North Open Space Area -- This 34-acre site sits on a high ancient river terrace of sandstone and limestone within Cottage Grove (Washington County). The natural communities located on this site include oak forest, bedrock bluff prairie and lowland hardwood forest. Through this Phase 3 grant, FMR prepared a Natural Resource Management Plan, then conduct woody plant removal and a prescribed burn on approximately 2-acres of prairie and exotic plant control on approximately 26 acres of forest by cutting and treating woody plants and prescribed burns. Seed collected from the prairie on-site was used to enhance other areas on-site.Great River Greening (GRG) also exceeded its original grant acres. GRG conducted enhancement activities on 179 acres (141 acres were originally proposed), as follows:• Katherine Abbott Park: 6 acres prairie enhancement, and16 acres forest enhancement. Work included: removal of invasive common and glossy buckthorn, honeysuckle, black locust and Siberian elm; woody encroachment removal from the native prairie; and reed canary grass control in the wet prairie area. The enhancement at Katherine Abbott is continuing with Trust Fund support and City support. This site now hosts remnant prairie, oak savanna, enhanced forest habitat, and enhanced wetland habitats. Acreage and habitat goals were met; with City funds, summer and fall 2017 burns are being developed for the oak woodland communities to control buckthorn and promote the remnant understory. • Fish Creek Open Space: 75 acres of dry-mesic prairie oak savannah were enhanced. Work included woody invasive removal, tree planting, and prairie seeding. Oak savanna was restored using an oak grove design, and the timing of seeding was selected carefully to encourage forb establishment for better pollinator habitat and floristic diversity, as well as a robust prairie grass component. The establishment has included mowing to promote prairie perennials over weedy annuals and biennials, and spot treatment (pulling, spraying) of more problematic non-native invasive species. Restorations involved Greening’s Summer Youth Job Corps (a partnership with Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa, providing hands-on natural resource experience to underserved youth), students and faculty, volunteer citizens, contractors, and Greening staff. Fish Creek now hosts prairie habitat, oak savanna habitat, and enhanced forest habitat. This location in the Mississippi flyway is proving to continue to leverage volunteer services for enhancement and maintenance, and is also a pollinator citizen science project location with Trust Fund support. Acreage goals were met and maintenance program is robust and underway.• Springbrook Nature Center: 82 acres enhanced (66 acres proposed), 70 acres of forest and 12 acres of prairie, through woody invasive removal and treatment and several rounds of prescribed burns. Work was conducted by Greening’s Summer Youth Job Corps (see Fish Creek description), citizen volunteers, contractors, and Greening staff.With this grant, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) acquired 66 acres of a larger 335 acre acquisition of significant habitat in Elk River (Sherburne County) with over a mile of Mississippi River shoreline at the confluence of the Elk River and Mississippi Rivers. The full 335 acres were acquired with the balance of TPL’s Phase 2 grant and $610,000 of this Phase 3 grant. The land provides habitat for a variety of species and the shoreline affords access to an excellent smallmouth bass fishery. The property was conveyed to the City of Elk River to be managed in a manner similar to a state Wildlife Management Area. Public hunting and fishing will be allowed according to DNR guidelines. Restoration and enhancement of the habitat on this property is being completed under Metro Big Rivers Phase 5 by Friends of the Mississippi River.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2012, Ch. 264, Art. 1, Sec. 2, Subd. 5(b)
Appropriation Language

$3,680,000 in the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources for agreements to acquire interests in land in fee or permanent conservation easements and to restore and enhance natural systems associated with the Mississippi, Minnesota, and St. Croix Rivers as follows: $1,000,000 to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Trust, Inc.; $375,000 to the Friends of the Mississippi; $375,000 to Great River Greening; $930,000 to The Minnesota Land Trust; and $1,000,000 to The Trust for Public Land. A list of proposed = acquisitions, restorations, and enhancements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan. The accomplishment plan must include an easement stewardship plan. Up to $51,000 is for establishing a monitoring and enforcement fund as approved in the accomplishment plan and subject to Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.056, subdivision 17. An annual financial report is required for any monitoring and enforcement fund established, including expenditures from the fund and a description of annual monitoring and enforcement activities.

2013 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Other Funds Leveraged
Direct expenses
Administration costs
Number of full time equivalents funded
Measurable Outcome(s)

Restored 8 acres of prairie, protected in fee 67 acres, and enhanced 495 acres.

Source of Additional Funds

City of Fridley, Maplewood, and Mahtomedi

Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
MN Valley National Wildlife Refuge Trust, Inc.
Street Address
3815 East American Boulevard
Zip Code
Administered By
Administered by

500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155

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