Southeast Minnesota Protection and Restoration - Phase III

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2016 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Outdoor Heritage Fund
The Nature Conservancy
Recipient Type
Non-Profit Business/Entity
Start Date
July 2015
End Date
November 2021
Activity Type
Land Acquisition
Counties Affected
Project Overview

This project will protect and restore declining habitats and watersheds for important wildlife species in strategically targeted areas of biodiversity significance in Southeast Minnesota. The project will result in increased public access and expanded habitat complexes critical to the state.

Project Details

This project has two primary components: fee title acquisition of priority parcels, and restoration and enhancement
of prairie and forest habitat in important complexes of protected habitat. Work done using this appropriation
accomplished both of those objectives.
The Nature Conservancy used funds from this appropriation in acquiring 531 acres of land in fee from 5
landowners. These acquisition added 287 acres to 7 springs Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and Whitewater
WMA under ownership of MN DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife and 244 acres to the Brightsdale and Gribben
Creek units of the RJ Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest under the Division of Forestry. This new public land
protects over 3 miles of trout stream frontage, along with important forest and bluff prairie habitat. TNC worked
closely with DNR in prioritizing and acquiring all of these units, and performing important restoration and
enhancement work after acquisition.
Restoration and enhancement through this appropriation occurred both on tracts acquired with LSOHC funds,
where TNC restored or enhanced 291 acres of forest and 110 acres of prairie, and other publicly owned land,
where TNC completed projects that restored or enhanced 88 acres of forest and 226 acres of prairie. TNC worked
with DNR staff, Conservation Corps MN, and local contractors to remove encroaching brush from large bluff
prairies and oak savanna on several parcels. We used prescribed goat grazing to control buckthorn and
honeysuckle on bluff prairies previously cleared, where a seedbank of invasive brush was threatening the restored
site. We also treated invasive species in fire-dependent oak woods surrounding prairie areas, allowing future
prescribed fire to manage larger areas and maintain the diverse transition zone that includes prairie, savanna and
oak forest.
On several sites where bluff prairies had previously been restored, a seedbank of invasive buckthorn and
honeysuckle was threatening the restorations. On these sites, TNC worked closely with staff from the Non-Game
program within DNR to use prescribed goat grazing to control the encroaching brush. Repeated goat grazing is
proving effective at defoliating brush on restored prairie sites that are difficult to treat through other means due to
the challenging terrain. Defoliating the brush during the growing season both gradually weakens the undesirable
species and frees resources for the desired grass community to re-establish on these sites. Over time, the
expanding grass component will better carry fire and make prescribed burning more effective.
Both forest and prairie communities were restored on former agricultural fields, where the restoration not only
added new acres of habitat, but reconnected existing habitat that had been fragmented by cropland. Prairies were
planted by broadcasting seed on bare ground in early winter to allow natural scarification over the winter. Forest
sites fields were planted through direct seeding in order to provide the best chance of having sufficient seedlings
survive the expected impacts of deer browsing.
Finally, funds from this appropriation were necessary to remove structures from a large acquisition project
purchase with subsequent LSOHC grants. Removing the buildings is a necessary step in returning the site to a
natural condition where additional prairie and forest communities can be restored along several miles of Rush
Creek in Fillmore County.
Working closely with partners was key to the success of this program. TNC worked with other local stakeholders
including Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), DNR staff from multiple agencies, local contractors, and
landowners in identifying opportunities, prioritizing projects, and completing them effectively. The collaboration
built through this effort continues to benefit ongoing work funded through LSOHC and helps inform other
conservation initiatives, such as local water planning and habitat monitoring carried out by other entities. TNC is
committed to staying engaged in Southeast Minnesota and continuing the successful work of this partnership.

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

$2,910,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with The Nature Conservancy to acquire land in fee for wildlife management purposes under Minnesota Statutes, section 86A.05, subdivision 8; to acquire land in fee for scientific and natural areas under Minnesota Statutes, section 86A.05, subdivision 5; for state forest purposes under Minnesota Statutes, section 86A.05, subdivision 7; and to enhance grasslands, forest, and savanna. A list of proposed acquisitions must be provided 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)

26 Forest acres Restored.  78 Prairie acres and 453 Forest acres (for a total of 531 acres) Protected in Fee with State PILT Liability. 145 Prairie acres and 34 Forest  acres (for a total of 179 acres) Enhanced.  Total of 736 acres impacted.

Source of Additional Funds


Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
The Nature Conservancy
Street Address
1101 West River Parkway Suite 200
Zip Code
(612) 331-0766
Administered By
Administered by

500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155

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