Protection of Granite Rock Outcrop Ecosystem

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2010 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund
Renville Soil and Water Conservation District
Recipient Type
Local/Regional Government
Start Date
July 2009
End Date
June 2012
Activity Type
Land Acquisition
Counties Affected
Lac qui Parle
Yellow Medicine
Lac qui Parle
Yellow Medicine
Project Overview

Granite rock outcrops along the Upper Minnesota River are among the oldest exposed rock in North America, dating back approximately 3.6 billion years. These outcrops are also home to rare and specialized plant and animal communities rarely found elsewhere in Minnesota, including several types of cactus and one of Minnesota's only three lizard species, the five-lined skink. However, these rock outcrops are increasingly threatened by mining, overgrazing, and development. Through this appropriation, the Renville County Soil and Water Conservation District is working with Minnesota's Board of Water and Soil Resources to acquire conservation easements that will permanently preserve approximately 580 acres of this endangered habitat in Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Redwood, Renville and Yellow Medicine counties.

Overall Project Outcome and Results
A total of 560.4 acres of rare and unique Minnesota River Valley landscape were permanently protected and sixteen landowners were paid $1,379,814 for voluntarily placing perpetual conservation easements on those acres. Five counties participated in the project including Lac qui Parle, Chippewa, Yellow Medicine, Redwood and Renville. Easement applications were scored by resource professional teams and funding was based on those scores.

Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) employees saw a need to protect the natural environment and to provide economically viable choices for the landowners. The Minnesota River Valley contains exposed ancient granite rock outcrops that provide unique landscape features and habitat for specialized plant and animal communities rarely found elsewhere in Minnesota. No programs existed that would give landowners a payment if they chose to protect the area from development by mining, overgrazing and other development interests. Rock outcrops are a component of the Minnesota River's riparian zone, and destruction of this unique habitat degrades water quality and wildlife habitat in the Minnesota River and its tributaries. Removal of the rock results in severe degradation and permanent loss of these unique landscape features. The Minnesota River Corridor is easily susceptible to fragmentation because it comprises such a small percentage of the Minnesota River Watershed. Past development activities and mining operations have already fragmented large areas of the fragile Minnesota River Corridor.

Demand for aggregate is growing as our population and infrastructure grow. Interest in mining exposed granite rock outcrops in the Minnesota River Valley is high because the rock is readily available and there is no overburden to remove. This encourages the practice of horizontal mining, removing the easiest and most profitable rock, and moving on. Unlike gravel mining operations, there is no reclamation plan possible for replacing this unique landscape feature once it is removed.

Project Details
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2009, Chp. 143, Sec. 2, Subd. 04h
Appropriation Language

$1,500,000 is from the trust fund to the Board of Water and Soil Resources, in cooperation with the Renville Soil and Water Conservation District, to acquire perpetual easements of unique granite rock outcrops located in the Upper Minnesota River Valley and to restore their ecological integrity.

2010 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Other Funds Leveraged
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
Renville Soil and Water Conservation District
Street Address
1008 W Lincoln
Zip Code
Administered By
Administered by

520 Lafayette Road North
St. Paul, MN 55155

651- 296-3767