Metro Big Rivers Habitat Phase 7

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2017 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Outdoor Heritage Fund
MN Valley National Wildlife Refuge Trust Inc; Friends of the Mississippi River, Great River Greening, MN Land Trust, Trust for Public Land
Recipient Type
Non-Profit Business/Entity
In Progress
Activity Type
Land Acquisition
Counties Affected
Project Overview

Metro Big Rivers Phase 7 will protect 280 acres (180 acres fee title and 100 acres conservation easement), restore 164 acres and enhance 613 acres of priority habitat in the big rivers corridors in the Metropolitan Urbanizing Area.

About the Issue

The Metro Big Rivers Partnership proposes phase 7 of this ongoing, successful, transparent and accountable project. The partnership will continue its work to expand, restore, enhance and connect prioritized land habitats in the metropolitan area, with an emphasis on the three big rivers and their tributaries. The projects will benefit wildlife and species in greatest need of conservation (SGCN) and provide increased public access for wildlife-based recreation.

Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) will restore a 160-acre agricultural field to diverse prairie at the confluence of the Elk and Mississippi Rivers. The 335-acre Houlton Farm property recently was acquired by the Trust for Public Land with MBR Phases 2 and 3 grants for the City of Elk River. This prairie restoration has been part of the plan for this site and is fully supported by the City of Elk River. The restoration will increase much-needed prairie habitat benefiting numerous plant and animal species, including pollinators.

Great River Greening (GRG) will restore 4 acres and enhance 613 acres of prairie, forest, trout stream and riverine habitat through 5 projects:
• Trout Brook – Afton, Phase 1 (Washington County): Restore 4 acres of habitat along and within 2,500 feet of trout stream by re-meandering and completing in-stream and riparian habitat work. This is a first of a two-phase body of work that will provide a habitat bridge between upstream and downstream sections in Afton State Park. Partners: Vail Resorts (donating angler access and conservation easements to the stream), South Washington Watershed District & MNDNR.
• Minnehaha Creek Greenway (Hennepin County): Enhance 28 acres of habitat along 6,300 feet of Minnehaha Creek, which has recently been re-meandered. This project is part of an ongoing program to rebuild a habitat corridor along this portion of the creek. Partners: Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and City of St. Louis Park.
• Rum River Central Regional Park/Cedar Creek Conservation Area (Anoka County): Enhance 500 acres of woodland along 5 miles of the Rum River/Cedar Creek through planting and invasive species control. Partner: Anoka County.
• Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Phase 1 (Dakota County): Enhance 75 acres of oak savanna/prairie through invasive species control, planting, and prescribed fire. Partner: Dakota County.
• Izaak Walton League, Minnesota Valley Gateway (Hennepin County): Enhance 10 acres of Minnesota River bluffland forest through invasive species control, prescribed fire and seeding. This property adjoins the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and is used by the chapter for wildlife-based interpretive activities. Partner: MN Valley Chapter, Izaak Walton League.

Minnesota Land Trust (MLT) will protect through perpetual conservation easement 100 acres of priority wildlife habitat including important riparian lands, forests, wetlands and grasslands within the metropolitan urbanizing area. These targeted properties will connect and enhance existing public investments, creating larger complexes of wildlife habitat in the metro area. Although the Land Trust has been active in this landscape for more than twenty years, we now have a unique window of time to deepen our conservation impact within this developing region and protect these important habitat complexes so close to the majority of the state’s residents. MLT will work with metropolitan counties and other conservation partners to complete projects that meet multi-agency conservation objectives.

Activities will include landowner outreach and negotiation, acquisition of perpetual easements, documentation of property conditions, development of habitat management plans, and dedication of funds for the perpetual monitoring and enforcement of the easements. MLT easements are perpetual and prohibit land uses or development that will negatively affect important wildlife habitat and other conservation values. Easements are monitored annually and enforced as necessary by MLT’s conservation easement stewardship program.

Minnesota Valley Trust (MVT) will protect in fee title 100 acres of river frontage, floodplain forest, wetland and upland habitat for wildlife in the Minnesota River Valley. The OHF grant funds will expand the Blakely, Jessenland, Rapids Lake, San Francisco, St. Lawrence and/or Upgrala Units of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Carver, Hennepin, LeSueur, Scott and/or Sibley Counties. An additional 50 acres will be acquired with other non-state funds. All prospective lands have been prioritized by the USFWS and are along or very near the Minnesota River. They include river frontage, floodplain and cropland. Following acquisition, the MVT and USFWS will develop a restoration and management plan, then restore and enhance the floodplain forest, wetlands and prairie. All lands will be open to the public for wildlife-based recreation, including hunting and fishing.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) will protect in fee 80 acres of key habitat in one of the following high priority areas, which have been prioritized in statewide and regional plans as immediate opportunities. At least 10 additional acres will be acquired with other funds. Lands will be acquired for and managed by TPL’s public partners (e.g., MN DNR).

St. Croix River Habitat Corridor:
• Protect up to 200 acres of high biodiversity significance forest as an addition to Franconia Bluffs SNA along the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway
• Protect up to 1000 acres of forest and associated wetland/prairie/grassland near Big Marine Lake, which connects via the St. Croix Greenway, to the St. Croix River
• Protect up to 194 acres of grassland, expanding the Bayport WMA
• Protect up to 210 acres on Sunrise River as an addition to Carlos Avery WMA

Minnesota River Habitat Corridor:
• Protect up to 200 acres at Blakely Bluffs as an addition to the Nye WMA.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2016, Ch. 172, Art. 1, Sec. 2, Subd. 5(b)
Appropriation Language

$4,000,000 the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources for agreements to acquire land in fee and permanent conservation easements and to restore and enhance natural systems associated with the Mississippi, Minnesota, and St. Croix Rivers within the metropolitan area as follows: $500,000 to Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Trust, Inc.; $430,000 to Friends of the Mississippi River; $1,170,000 to Great River Greening; $800,000 to The Trust for Public Land; and $1,100,000 to Minnesota Land Trust, of which up to $60,000 to Minnesota Land Trust is to establish a monitoring and enforcement fund as approved in the accomplishment plan and subject to Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.056, subdivision 17. A list of proposed land acquisitions and permanent conservation easements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.

2017 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Other Funds Leveraged
Direct expenses
Administration costs
Number of full time equivalents funded
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

A network of natural land and riparian habitats will connect corridors for wildlife and species in greatest conservation need - Partners work together to identify priority lands using existing data and public plans, then coordinate protection, restoration and enhancement activities in those priority areas. Work builds upon prior phases and is intended to continue into the future for maximum impact. Mapping shows progress in connecting corridors. Species collections and counts measure impact of activities over time on wildlife and species of greatest conservation need..

Source of Additional Funds

Various state, local and private funds, IWLA, SWWD, MCWDSt. Louis Park, Anoka County, Dakota County, Landowner donated value, City of Elk River, MCWD, St. Louis Park, Private funds, Vail Resorts, IWLA, SWWD, Dakota County, SWWD, Greening, IWLA, SWWD, MCWDSt. Louis Park, Anoka County, Dakota County, SWWD, IWLA, SWWD, Dakota County, IWLA, SWWD, MCWDIWLA, SWWD, MCWD

Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Trust
Street Address
3815 East American Boulevard
Zip Code
(612) 801-1935
Administered By
Administered by

500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155

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