Mississippi Headwaters Habitat Partnership

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2016 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Outdoor Heritage Fund
Trust for Public Land and MN Land Trust
Recipient Type
Non-Profit Business/Entity
Start Date
July 2015
End Date
February 2021
Activity Type
Land Acquisition
Counties Affected
Crow Wing
Crow Wing
Project Overview

Through the ML2015 Mississippi Headwaters Habitat Partnership appropriation, we permanently protected 1,923 acres of wildlife habitat in the quickly developing Mississippi Headwaters area. These accomplishments exceed the appropriation goal by 209%. Utilizing both fee-title acquisition and conservation easements, the partnership protected 10 projects, totaling over 11 miles of shoreline along the Mississippi River, its tributaries and nearby lakes. This has reversed habitat loss, improved watershed function, and increased access to public lands for quality hunting and fishing opportunities.

Project Details

The ML2015 Mississippi Headwaters Habitat Partnership (The Trust for Public Land, Minnesota Land Trust, and the MN DNR) permanently protected 1,923 acres (209% of our goal) of sensitive shoreline and wildlife habitat in the Mississippi Headwaters area. These activities occurred in Aitkin, Beltrami, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, and Wadena County. They resulted in three new units of public land (WMA/AMA), two additions to existing public lands (AMAs), and five conservation easements.

As background, the Mississippi River is one of the world’s greatest river systems in terms of size, habitat diversity, biological productivity, and sources of drinking water. It is the fourth longest river in the world with over 18 million people depending on this watershed for drinking water supply. The critical Headwaters Region, roughly the first 400 miles of the main stem and associated watersheds, is home to some of our state’s most outstanding freshwater ecological resources. It provides outstanding habitat for fish and wildlife and is a major route for migratory waterfowl. It is also an unparalleled recreational resource for outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, boating and hiking.

The idea to form this partnership around habitat protection and restoration in the area grew out of a series of habitat conservation successes and related partnership work in the Headwaters area in the early 2010s: LaSalle Lake, Mississippi River Northwoods, numerous forest legacy projects; shoreland easements initiatives; aquatic management areas additions; and more. For the ML15 appropriation, it consists of three partner organizations - The Trust for Public Land, Minnesota Land Trust, and the Minnesota DNR.

This partnership sought to protect sensitive shoreline and habitat resources in the Headwaters area from fragmentation in order to ensure these recreational and natural resource benefits continue into the future. We focused our efforts on the mainstem of the Mississippi River; key tributaries; critical lakesheds; specific natural resource communities; habitat lands with a proven link to water quality; and, recreational access. We exceeded our intentions, and the habitat protected furthered the goals and strategies outlined in numerous state/area resource management plans, including Aquatic Management Area Acquisition Plan; Tomorrow’s Habitat for the Wild and Rare; and, Outdoor Heritage Fund: A 25 Year Framework. 

The specific successes of each of the three partners is outlined below:

The Trust for Public Land: In January 2016, The Trust for Public Land acquired and conveyed 705 acres of mixed pine and hardwood forest with over three miles of river frontage on the Crow Wing River, a major tributary to the Mississippi River, to the MN DNR as the new Crow Wing River Corridor Wildlife Management Area (WMA). This protected property creates outstanding public recreational opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, wildlife observation and canoeing, as well as significant water quality benefits. This highly developable land was previously owned by the Potlatch Corporation and its protection is responsible for the currently occurring jack pine woodland restoration.

Minnesota Land Trust: Over the course of this appropriation, the Land Trust protected 4 priority properties totaling 964 acres and 34,207 feet (~6.5 miles) of shoreline. Acres protected exceeded that proposed for the grant by 301%. In addition, projects provided $381,000 in leverage through landowner donation of easement value. Specifically, the following properties were protected:

The Black Lake (Bakker) project in Beltrami County permanently protected in easement 6,568 feet (1.24 miles) of shoreline and 391 acres of mixed coniferous and deciduous forest, wetland, and other habitat.  The owner donated the value of the conservation easement for this project.

Two conservation easements in Crow Wing County – Island Lake (Flemmer) and Island Lake (Flemmer Trust) – were protected, permanently protecting in easement 25,287 feet (4.8 miles) of shoreline and 514 acres of outstanding quality medic hardwood forest, diverse wetlands, and shoreline habitat along Mud Lake, Island Lake, Owl Pond and Mud Brook. 

The 132-acre Ann Lake (Killeen) property in Itasca County was protected with funds drawn in part through both the Mississippi Headwaters Habitat Partnership, and the Land Trust’s Critical Shoreland Protection – Phase 3 program grants. The Mississippi Headwaters Habitat Partnership grant funded the protection of 59 acres of high-quality northern mesic forest and northern rich tamarack swamp, in addition to 2,333 feet of shoreline on Ann and Link lakes. Ann Lake is a state-designated wild rice lake. The property abuts George Washington State Forest on two sides.

Minnesota DNR: The Minnesota DNR protected 4 properties through fee-title acquisition and 1 through a conservation easement. Specifically, the following properties were protected:

The newly created Greenwood Lake Aquatic Management Area (AMA) is 86 acres with over 3,700 shoreline feet on Greenwood Lake in Crow Wing County. The 6-acre Pickerel Lake AMA with over 2,275 feet of shoreline protected in Hubbard County. The Hill Lake AMA is 31 acres with over 2,000 shoreline feet on Hill Lake in Aitkin County. The 11-acre Preece Point AMA with over 1,100 shoreline feet on Marquette Lake in Beltrami County.

The Cuyuna Scout Camp AMA conservation easement added 118 acres of protection to the existing Aquatic Management Area (AMA) in Crow Wing County.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2015, First Sp. Session, Ch. 2, Art. 1, Sec. 2, Subd. 3(f)
Appropriation Language

$3,002,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources to acquire lands in fee and for permanent conservation easements in the Mississippi Headwaters and for agreements as follows: $1,217,000 to The Trust for Public Land; and $824,000 to Minnesota Land Trust, of which up to $80,000 is for establishing a monitoring and enforcement fund as approved in the accomplishment plan and subject to Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.056, subdivision 17. A list of proposed acquisitions must be included as part of the required accomplishment plan.

2016 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Other Funds Leveraged
Direct expenses
Administration costs
Number of full time equivalents funded
Measurable Outcome(s)

841 acres protected (in fee with state PILT liability) and 1,082 acres protected in easement for a total of 1,923 acres

Source of Additional Funds

RIM and Land Value Donation

Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
The Trust for Public Land
Street Address
2610 University Ave W Ste 300
St. Paul
Zip Code
(651) 999-5307
Administered By
Administered by

500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155

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