Minnesota's Legacy

Metro Big Rivers Phase V

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2015 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
Start Date
July 2014
End Date
June 2019
Activity Type
Land Acquisition
Counties Affected
Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2014, Ch. 256, Art. 1, Sec. 2, Subd. 5(d)
Appropriation Language

$2,650,000 in 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 as follows: $600,000 to Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Trust, Inc.; $160,000 to Friends of the Mississippi River; $400,000 to Great River Greening; $590,000 to Minnesota Land Trust, of which up to $77,000 is for establishing a monitoring and enforcement fund as approved in the accomplishment plan and subject to Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.056, subdivision 17; and $900,000 to The Trust for Public Land. Lands acquired or lands with easements 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. A list of proposed land acquisitions and permanent conservation easements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.

2015 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 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 the activities over time on wildlife and species of greatest conservation need. .Protected habitats will hold wetlands and shallow lakes open to public recreation and hunting - Progress on protecting habitat with wetlands and shallow lakes that can be opened to public recreation and hunting is measured through mapping and data collection. .Core areas protected with highly biologically diverse wetlands and plant communities, including native prairie, Big Woods, and oak savanna - Partners work together to identify priority lands using existing data and 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 and data collection over time measures protection of biologically diverse wetlands and plant communities. .

Source of Additional Funds

Private Source, Local, Various

Project Overview

Metro Big Rivers Phase 5 will protect in fee title 215 acres, protect in conservation easement 175 acres, and enhance 229 acres of priority habitat within the big rivers corridors in the Metropolitan Urbanizing Area.

About the Issue

The five Metro Big Rivers (MBR) partners are experienced conservation organizations working together and with numerous public and private partners to protect, restore and enhance priority habitat for wildlife and the public in the Metropolitan Urbanizing Area.  MBR creates and connects wildlife habitat corridors on the three big rivers (Minnesota, Mississippi and St. Croix) to expand and improve opportunities both for wildlife and wildlife-dependent recreation in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan area.  The partners and their projects are described below.

Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) – Enhance 70 acres of forest habitat at one publicly-owned site that provides critical wildlife habitat and public recreation opportunities along the Mississippi River in Sherburne County. If the 343-acre Houlton property is acquired by the City of Elk River, FMR will develop a natural resource management plan, then conduct exotic invasive plant removal on 70 acres of remnant forest on the property. This project will improve habitat for forest dwelling species, including resident and migratory birds and white tailed deer, and will improve ecological connectivity to the Mississippi River Corridor. The City of Elk River, in partnership with MLT and FMR, is in the process of purchasing this property and will be the long-term steward.

If the Houlton property does not get put under public protection, FMR will utilize the OHF grant to complete the following habitat enhancement projects:
* Enhance 30 acres of forest at Cottage Grove Regional Park, a 515 acre property in southern Washington County providing important habitat for forest dwelling birds and mammals.
* Enhance 40 acres of prairie at Grey Cloud Dunes SNA, adjacent to the Mississippi River in Washington County. This site contains native prairie, woodland and wetland, and hosts rare species during migration and while raising young.

Great River Greening (GRG) -- Enhance 159 acres of important prairie, oak savanna, oak woodland, floodplain forest and seepage wetland habitat for wildlife and the public through 5 projects:

* Enhance 30 acres of prairie and forest habitat at Trout Brook Nature Preserve in St. Paul along the Trout Brook Greenway. This tree-planting project – Phase 2 for the site – will create an ecologically-important wildlife corridor that will connect with the Mississippi River. The total project will consist of 1) the day-lighting of Trout Brook and associated riparian restoration (with other funds) and 2) enhancement of 30 acres prairie, oak savanna, oak woodland and Big Woods habitat (with OHF grant). Phase 1 activities will commence in 2013 and the proposed Phase 2 activities will complete the project.

* Enhance 70 acres of oak woodland habitat at Carver Park Preserve in the City of Victoria. Activities include prescribed fire, forest thinning and invasive species control. The 4,053-acre park is noted for its extensive inter-connected, and biologically diverse wetlands interspersed amongst a diversity of upland habitats ranging from mature maple-basswood forest and oak-aspen woodlands to prairie.

* Enhance 19 acres of oak woodland and savanna habitat at Terrace Oaks City Park in the City of Burnsville through prescribed fire and woody invasive control. Terrace Oaks features 230 acres of undeveloped oak forest and scattered ephemeral wetlands and is managed for its natural resources.

* Enhance 20 acres of oak woodland, floodplain forest, seepage wetland and natural springs at Pond Dakota Mission Park and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in the City of Bloomington. Activities will include invasive species control and prescribed fire. Oak savanna restoration was started in 2011. This project will expand habitat management to the associated blufflands and floodplains, further elevating the ecological significance of the site as a component of the extensive habitat corridor along the Minnesota River valley.

* Enhance 20 acres of oak woodland habitat at Alimagnet City Park in the City of Apple Valley through woody invasive species control and prescribed fire.  This property features 80 acres of undisturbed oak-basswood forest and access to Alimagnet Lake.  The morainal terrain creates numerous ephemeral wetlands that provide excellent habitat for a diversity of wildlife, including amphibians and song birds.  

Minnesota Land Trust (MLT) -- Protect through perpetual conservation easements 175 acres of wildlife habitat along the Minnesota, Mississippi and/or St. Croix Rivers and key tributaries.  The project will protect riparian habitat, as well as critical corridors of forest, wetland and grassland to connect existing, important natural areas.  Activities include completing perpetual easements on 175 acres, documenting property conditions, and dedicating funds for the perpetual monitoring and enforcement of the easements.

Minnesota Valley Trust, Inc. (MVT) -- Protect in fee title 150 acres of river frontage, floodplain forest, wetland and upland habitat for wildlife in the Minnesota River Valley.  OHF funds will expand the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Carver, LeSueur, Scott and/or Sibley Counties.  An additional 38 acres will be acquired with other non-state funds. All prioritized lands are along or very near the Minnesota River and include river frontage, floodplain and cropland. Following acquisition, MVT and USFWS will develop a restoration and management plan, then restore and enhance the floodplain forest, wetlands and prairie (with other non-state funds).  This project will increase breeding and migratory habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, neo-tropical migrants, and non-migratory resident species.

Trust for Public Land (TPL) -- Protect in fee title 65 acres of key habitat in one of six high-priority areas identified in statewide and regional plans as immediate opportunities.  An additional 10 acres will be protected with other funds. Acreage targets will be accomplished from among the following six project areas:

Minnesota River Habitat Corridor:
* Protect wetland and upland forest protected for Savage Fen Scientific and Natural Area
* Protect habitat at Blakely Bluffs, connecting existing protected land and including high biodiversity significance forests and blufflands adjoining the Minnesota River Bottoms

Mississippi River Habitat Corridor:
* Protect aquatic, forest and wetland habitat on the Wild and Scenic Rum River just upstream of the Mississippi River

St. Croix River Habitat Corridor:
* Protect high biodiversity significance forest habitat at Franconia/ Scandia
* Protect forest and associated wetland/prairie/grassland at Big Marine Lake
* Protect forest and associated shallow lakes, wetland/prairie/grassland at Wilder Forest Lake

Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
MN Valley Trust (Metro Big Rivers)
Street Address
3815 East American Boulevard
Zip Code
(612) 801-1935