Metro Big Rivers - Phase VI
Metro Big Rivers Phase 6 will protect 245 acres (145 acres fee title and 100 acres conservation easement), restore 81 acres and enhance 489 acres of priority habitat in the big rivers corridors in the Metropolitan Urbanizing Area.
This is the sixth phase of Metro Big Rivers Partnership, an ongoing, successful, transparent and accountable project. Through the projects described here, the partnership will continue its work to expand, restore 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), as well as protect and restore habitats the public may access for wildlife-based recreation.
Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) – FMR will enhance 365 acres within two DNR Scientific & Natural Area units in the metro area to increase and protect the biodiversity they contain. Working with the DNR SNA staff, FMR will:
• Pine Bend Bluffs SNA: Enhance 175 acres of forest, by controlling exotic invasive woody plants, and 40 acres of prairie, by conducting prescribed burns and removing woody plants encroaching on the perimeters of a number of bluffland prairies.
• Hastings Sand Coulee SNA: Enhance 70 acres of forest and 80 acres of prairie.
FMR and the DNR have a long history of partnering to restore, enhance and manage SNAs. This list of proposed activities builds on previous restoration and enhancement activities at these sites. FMR will also organize several volunteer stewardship events associated with these activities.
Great River Greening (GRG) -- GRG will restore and enhance 205 acres of important prairie, oak savanna, oak woodland, wetland and riparian Mississippi River forest habitat for wildlife and the public through 2 projects:
• Doyle Kennefick Regional Park (Scott County), Phase 1: Restore 81 acres and enhance 14 acres of oak savanna, prairie, oak woodland and Big Woods forest. Planned to expand to 1,300 acres, this rustic conservation-focused park today contains 650 acres of a diverse mix of high quality native forest and wetland habitat, interspersed with restored prairie, old fields, and degraded oak savanna and forest remnants. The park hosts annual disabled Veteran and education-based youth turkey hunts.
• Victoria Park/Crosby Farm Regional Park (Ramsey County): Enhance 110 acres of forest, wetland and prairie. Activities will occur on two public parks managed by the City of St. Paul that abut each other and together form an important habitat and migratory bird corridor along the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The parks provide habitat for a host of SGCN species, including bald eagles, western fox snake and Blanding’s turtles. Victoria Park is a new addition to St. Paul’s system and Crosby Farm Regional Park is St. Paul’s largest natural area. Work with this grant will be focused on habitat recently purchased as an addition to that protected area.
Minnesota Land Trust (MLT) -- MLT will protect through perpetual conservation easements 100 acres of habitat along the Minnesota, Mississippi and 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 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 habitat and other conservation values. Easements are monitored annually and enforced as necessary by MLT’s conservation easement stewardship program.
Minnesota Valley Trust (MVT) -- MVT will protect in fee title 95 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, Henderson, 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 45 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, the MVT and USFWS will develop a restoration and management plan, then restore and enhance the floodplain forest, wetlands and prairie. All lands acquired will be open to the public for wildlife-based recreation, including hunting and fishing.
The Trust for Public Land (TPL) -- TPL will protect in fee 50 acres of key habitat in one of the following high priority areas, which have been identified in statewide and regional plans, as well as by TPL partners as immediate opportunities. At least 7 additional acres will be acquired with other funds.
St. Croix River Habitat Corridor:
• Protect up to 200 acres of high biodiversity significance forest at Franconia/Scandia, complementing existing protected lands along the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway
• Protect up to 1000 acres of forest and associated wetland/prairie/grassland at Big Marine Lake, which connects via the St. Croix Greenway, to the St. Croix River
• Protect up to 800 acres of forest and associated shallow lakes, wetland/prairie/grassland at Wilder Forest, which connects, via the St. Croix Greenway, to the St. Croix River
• Protect up to 194 acres of grassland, complementing existing protected lands at Bayport WMA
Mississippi River Habitat Corridor:
• Protect up to 320 acres of high quality habitat at the confluence of the Elk and Mississippi Rivers, adjacent to existing protected land
• Protect up to 170 acres of aquatic, forest and wetland habitat on the Wild and Scenic Rum River just upstream of the Mississippi River
Minnesota River Habitat Corridor:
• Protect up to 98 acres at Savage Fen Scientific and Natural Area adjacent to existing protected land, and including wetland and associated upland forest
• Protect up to 200 acres at Blakely Bluffs, connecting existing protected land and including high biodiversity significance forests and blufflands adjoining the Minnesota River Bottoms
$2,000,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for agreements to acquire land in fee and in permanent conservation easements and to restore and enhance natural systems associated with the Mississippi, Minnesota, and St. Croix Rivers as follows: $475,000 to Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Trust, Inc.; $275,000 to Friends of the Mississippi River; $400,000 to Great River Greening; $375,000 to Minnesota Land Trust; and $475,000 to The Trust for Public Land. Up to $60,000 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 proposed land acquisitions and permanent conservation easements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
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 the activities over time on wildlife and species of greatest conservation need. .
Minnesota Valley Trust, Private, City of St. Paul, National Wild Turkey Federation, Great River Greening, Scott County, Friends of Mississippi River, Landowner donation