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
Start Date
July 2014
End Date
November 2019
Activity Type
Land Acquisition
Counties Affected
Project Overview

In Phase 5, Friends of the Mississippi River and Great River Greening enhanced 277 acres at six sites, exceeding their goals by 48 acres (21%). The Minnesota Valley Trust acquired fee title to 32.4 acres for two high-priority additions to the Rapids Lake Unit, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The Minnesota Land Trust and the Trust for Public Land were unable to finalize their easement and fee title acquisitions when landowners changed their minds. OHF grant funds spent were leveraged more than 110% with $1,343,128 in other funds.

Project Details

Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) exceeded its acreage objectives by enhancing 90 acres at the W.H. Houlton Conservation Area (70 acres were proposed). This forest enhancement project at the confluence of the Elk and Mississippi Rivers in Sherburne County was on part of the land acquired with OHF funds by the Trust for Public Land (MBR Phases 2 and 3 / ML 2011 and 2012). A total of 90 acres were enhanced (exceeding the goal of 70 acres) through woody invasive species management, including forestry mowing, multiple herbicide treatments and native woodland grass and sedge seeding. These efforts dramatically transformed this site, which initially had such a dense sub-canopy of buckthorn that it prevented the regeneration of most other shrubs and trees. OHF funds were leveraged with $34,595 in other funds. 

FMR is restoring and enhancing other parts of the Houlton Conservation Area through MBR phases 7 (restoration of 180 acre agricultural field) and MBR 8 (enhancement of 80 acres forest). 
Great River Greening (GRG) exceeded its original goals by restoring and enhancing 187 acres total in Carver, Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey Counties (159 acres were proposed). Leverage funds of $179,000 helped GRG enhance 30 acres of prairie and 157 acres, as follows: 

•  Alimagnet Park - This forest enhancement project in Dakota County is complete and deliverables were met. A total of 20 acres of forest were enhanced through selective timber harvest, cutting of woody invasives, and multiple herbicide treatments on buckthorn and other invasive species.

•  Carver Park Preserve - Goals were exceeded on this forest enhancement project in Carver County. A total of 90 acres of forest were enhanced (exceeding the goal by 20 acres) through woody invasive species management, including forestry mowing, herbicide applications and prescribed burning.
•  Pond Dakota Mission Park & Minnesota River Valley (City of Bloomington property) - This project along the Minnesota River in Hennepin County concluded in the spring of 2018 after crews completed a selective thinning of the forest canopy and removal of exotic tree and shrub species (buckthorn and honeysuckle).  Large material was hauled out of the valley while smaller material was piled and burned.  Over the course of the project, 22 acres were enhanced.
•  Terrace Oak Park - This forest enhancement project in Dakota County is complete and deliverables were met. A total of 19 acres of forest were enhanced through woody invasive species management, including forestry mowing and multiple herbicide treatments.
•  Trout Brook Nature Preserve - This prairie enhancement project in the Trout Brook Greenway in St. Paul was completed at the end of September 2017 and deliverables were met. 30 prairie acres were enhanced through woody invasive species removal, prairie establishment maintenance, woodland tree and shrub planting, and prairie pollinator nursery plot plantings.
The Minnesota Valley Trust (MVT) added 32.4 acres to the Rapids Lake Unit of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge through two high-priority fee title acquisitions. Both parcels are adjacent to the Refuge and a DNR Wildlife Management Area that is managed by the USFWS.
These acquisitions protected significant oak savanna, remnant prairie, oak basswood forest and seasonal ephemeral wetlands from residential development. An initial BioBlitz in 2018 identified more than 200 species, including the endangered Henslow’s Sparrow, Bloodroot, Pasqueflower, Kittentail (a state threatened species), Buffalo Bean, Bergamot and Common, Whorled and Green Milkweeds. Bur Oaks with wide branching limbs are indicative of historic oak savanna.
The OHF grant of $600,000 was leveraged with (1) $679,863 in other, private funds to complete the 20.56-acre acquisition and (2) $449,345 in other, private funds to acquire the 11.83-acre parcel. Total leverage was $1,129,208.
Habitat restoration and enhancement will include removal of invasive woody species, seeding the former building sites and prescribed fire. After restoration, the property will be transferred to the USFWS and opened to the public for hunting and other wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities.

The Minnesota Land Trust (MLT) and its partner, Washington County, were not successful in securing a conservation easement on property owned by the Manitou Fund at Terrapin Lake in Washington County. Discussions with the landowner took a step backward in fall 2017, prompting all parties to look for alternative ways to realize the mutual desires of ensuring long-term conservation of this important resource. In early 2018, the landowner approached MLT and Washington County with renewed interest but backed away again from the project. All of the funding through this grant to MLT was earmarked for this high-priority project. With the project not being finalized, we were unable to secure any deliverables for the grant and returned the majority of funding to the State.
The Trust for Public Land (TPL) was unable to spend most of this appropriation, as the owners of the prospective 194-acre addition to Bayport WMA unexpectedly changed their minds and signed a contract to sell the land to a developer. $20,000 in DNR Land Acquisition Costs was released to the DNR for their appraisal and administrative costs related to this project.

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
Measurable Outcome(s)

32 acres protected in fee without state PILT liability and 277 enhanced acres for a total of 309 acres 

Source of Additional Funds

Cities of Apple Valley, Bloomington, Burnsville, and St. Paul, Patagonia, Three Rivers Park District, Three Rivers Community Foundation, Friends of Houlton, MN Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund, City of Elk River, Private Source, St. Paul Garden Club, and 3M Foundation

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
Administered By
Administered by

500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155

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