Welcome to the spring issue of Minnesota's State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) newsletter. We are excited to share with you some of the important work being done across the state to implement Minnesota's State Wildlife Action Plan, Tomorrow's Habitat for the Wild and Rare.

DNR begins preparation for the review and revision of Minnesota's State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP)

state wildlife action plan cover

Congress requires that states complete a review of their Wildlife Action Plans at least every ten years. In preparation for the review and revision of Minnesota's SWAP, which must be completed by September 2015, conservation partners from across the state are helping the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) compile data for the revision.

Six Species Technical Advisory Teams (STATs) are providing DNR with expert knowledge on the current and predicted status of wildlife species in Minnesota. This information will help the DNR update the list of Species In Greatest Conservation Need that must be included in each state's Wildlife Action Plan. The teams (amphibian and reptiles, mammals, fish, birds, mussels, butterflies and moths) are also providing advice on priority research and survey needs that will inform SWAP conservation actions and State Wildlife Grant investments. Team members are experts in their fields and are associated with a number of colleges, universities, agencies and organizations. Additional teams are planned for species not currently represented.

Climate change vulnerability assessments are under way.
Impacts from climate change, and human responses to those changes, will be one of the largest drivers shaping future habitat and species composition in Minnesota. A two-part climate change assessment, funded with State Wildlife Grant dollars, is underway. DNR, Division of Ecological and Water Resources is bringing together a wide range of partners with expertise in climate change research, adaptive management, and the ecology and management of Minnesota's forest, grassland, wetland, and aquatic systems to assist with a habitat vulnerability assessment. The complement to the habitat assessment is a species vulnerability assessment. The STAT members will provide input on the species that should be assessed, as well as life history and habitat information required for the assessment. The habitat and species assessments will provide data for DNR staff and partners to use when developing SWAP climate change adaptation strategies and updating SWAP conservation actions.

A SWAP survey provides information that will be used in the revision process.

Over 500 conservation professionals in Minnesota were surveyed to determine how the State Wildlife Action Plan is being used to benefit Species in Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN), and how to improve the next iteration of the plan. Two hundred and seventy people, representing a wide range of agencies and organizations, responded to the survey.

Minnesota's SWAP is being widely used to implement a number of conservation actions. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents indicated they have used the plan in their work or assisted others in using the plan. Sixty-nine respondents offered suggestions on how the next iteration of SWAP could better inform their conservation work, and thirty-five people said they would like to participate in the revision of SWAP. This is great news, because partner participation in the revision process is absolutely critical for an effective SWAP.

A project manager will be hired to guide the SWAP revision process, including developing the partner participation strategies and a timeline that ensures the process is completed on time. Watch for more information in the SWAP newsletter or email Jane Norris, Minnesota SWAP Coordinator at Jane.Norris@state.mn.us

SWAP staff send a big "THANK YOU" to everyone who responded to the survey and to those giving their time and expertise to the Species Technical Advisory Teams and the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments.

North Shore Bird Migration Corridors and Wind Power Development

The ridgelines that follow Lake Superior from the Canadian border to Duluth, MN act as topographical cues that concentrate and funnel tens of thousands of migratory birds. As a result, the area hosts the largest migratory route for birds of prey in Minnesota, and is among the largest in the United States. And raptors are not the only birds using the corridor; the numbers of non-raptor bird species moving along the north shore of Lake Superior appears to significantly exceed the numbers for raptors!

The emphasis on renewable sources of energy has generated interest in these ridgelines as sites for wind turbines. Of particular concern are the potential negative impacts that wind turbines could have on migrating birds, including Species In Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) that are identified in Minnesota's State Wildlife Action Plan. To develop conservation strategies to protect migrating birds, Gerald Niemi with the Natural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota, Duluth and Anna Peterson, Graduate Research Assistant, Conservation Biology Graduate Program, University of Minnesota, received a State Wildlife Grant (SWG) to collect data on migrating bird movements above and below the tree canopy along the corridor.

The researchers observed thousands of raptors and tens of thousands of non-raptors migrating above and below the canopy of the north shore of Lake Superior. A number of the species observed were SGCN: 3,021 Bald Eagles, 66 Peregrine Falcons, 56 Northern Goshawks, 100 Rusty Blackbirds, 7 Olive-sided Flycatchers, 109 Winter Wrens to name a few. The data showed that the airspace between the shoreline and the first prominent ridgeline (approximately 1000m from shore) is intensively used by fall migrating raptors and non-raptors. Prominent ridgelines within 6000km of the shoreline were also used. These ridgelines create the air currents that provide the lift for raptors during migration. Researchers also found that all bird groups migrating along the north shore of Lake Superior occupied the airspace within 100m of the forest canopy. This is the area that directly corresponds with communication tower and wind turbine blade sweep heights.

Information from this study has greatly improved our understanding of the flight behaviors and stopover habitats of birds that migrate along the north shore of Lake Superior. As a result, the public and agencies with the responsibility for commenting on the environmental impacts of wind energy projects have access to vital information.

Minnesota's Lake Superior Coastal Program (MLSCP) has been involved in funding wind resource and bird migration monitoring projects like the one mentioned here. The data are available on the CoastalGIS webpage which is hosted by NRRI with grant from the MLSCP. You will find additional information on previous MLCSP projects on the CoastalGIS past projects web page or by contacting the Coastal Program Specialist.

For more information on wind energy guidelines:


In 2004, a State Wildlife Grant (SWG) provided funds for a study that helped solve the mystery behind the decline of one of the Twin Cities' largest heron colonies

Nesting Great Blue Herons first occupied the Peltier Lake site in the Twin Cities in 1989. The colony expanded to 1,137 nests of Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and Black-crowned Night-Herons by l996. Then something happened: the birds were abandoning their nests, often before the eggs had hatched. In 2004, a research project funded through the State Wildlife Grants (SWG) program was implemented to identify possible causes. Based on information collected during the research, local partners have been implementing conservation actions that are leading to the colony's recovery. To learn about this project and the current status of the Peltier Lake colony view the recent news coverage Herons Making Big Recovery After Raccoon Predation" This link leads to an external site..

If you're interested in how a research project like this is implemented, check out the final report (complete with photos) on the Peltier Island heronry.

Previous Minnesota's State Wildlife Action Plan Newsletter