Minnesota Loon Restoration Project

An adult loon with a chick on its back in water

The state of Minnesota is partnering with federal agencies to implement Restoration of Common Loons in Minnesota.  This project (herein called the MN Loon Restoration Project) is one of many selected by the Deepwater Horizon Open Ocean Trustee Implementation Group (herein Open Ocean TIG) to restore natural resources injured by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that injured many kinds of wildlife, including migratory birds. After a 2016 settlement with BP Exploration and Production Inc. (BP), Open Ocean TIG approved the loon project.  This 7.52 million dollar project is being implemented by the Department of the Interior, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with the State of Minnesota. The goal of the MN Loon Restoration Project is to reduce mortality and increase the number of young loons produced in Minnesota.


Project Background

Twelve Years Ago

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling unit exploded, resulting in a massive release of oil from the BP Macondo well, causing loss of life and extensive natural resource injuries. Oil spread from the deep ocean to the surface and nearshore environment from Texas to Florida. Extensive response actions were undertaken to try to reduce harm to people and the environment. A wide-ranging assessment of injuries to the Gulf’s natural resources and the services those resources provide was conducted by the Deepwater Horizon Open Ocean TIG. Not only did the TIG look at the effects of the oil on wildlife and their habitats, but they also considered the collateral impacts of spill response activities.

In 2016…

As part of a 2016 settlement, BP agreed to pay a total of $8.1 billion in natural resource damages over a 15-year period, and up to an additional $700 million for adaptive management or to address injuries to natural resources that are presently unknown but may come to light in the future. The settlement allocated a specific sum for restoration within specific restoration areas and restoration types, including $70 million for restoration of birds in the Open Ocean Restoration Area.

The Open Ocean TIG is responsible for restoring natural resources and their services within the specified area that were injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In 2019, the group’s first restoration plan was finalized to address some of the injuries to natural resources caused by the spill.

2019 Funding Decision

The Open Ocean TIG Comprehensive Restoration Plan for the Gulf of Mexico includes the Restoration of Common Loons in Minnesota at a funding level of $7,520,000. The restoration plan describes the project as follows:

The objectives of this proposed alternative are to reduce mortality and increase reproductive success of common loons at breeding, nesting, and migration staging locations in Minnesota by focusing on restoration activities that include: 1) acquisition and/or easements of lakeshore loon nesting habitat; 2) enhancing loon productivity by providing artificial nesting platforms in targeted lakes and engaging Minnesota lake associations in loon conservation activities; and 3) reducing loon exposure to lead-based fishing tackle. The estimated cost of this alternative is $7,520,000. The primary emphasis of this project would be on habitat acquisition/easements. The OO TIG {Open Ocean TIG} will work with federal, state and local agencies and other organizations as appropriate to facilitate effective project implementation.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources MN DNR Nongame Wildlife Program (MN DNR) has received $4.80 million for two purposes: (1) to protect lakeshore loon nesting habitat via either land acquisition or easements, and (2) to enhance loon productivity by providing artificial nesting platforms in targeted lakes and engaging Minnesota lake associations in loon conservation activities.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has received $1,270,600 to reduce loon exposure to lead-based fishing tackle.

The common loon (Gavia immer) is one of the many migratory bird species that was injured by the oil spill. Hereafter, we will refer to common loons simply as loons.


Project Goals and Objectives 

Our goal is to reduce mortality and increase fledgling success of loons in Minnesota.

We have the following objectives:

Our primary strategy includes protecting shoreline through acquisition and/or easements. Permanently protecting loon nesting and foraging habitat will help ensure that loons have habitat now and into the future. 


Where is this Project taking place?

Click to enlarge

a map of Minnesota. Eight county borders are red, indicating where the project is taking place. The counties are:Becker, Clearwater, Beltrami, Hubbard, Cass, Crow Wing, Itasca, and Aitkin

This project is focused in eight northern counties: Becker, Clearwater, Beltrami, Hubbard, Cass, Crow Wing, Itasca, and Aitkin.

We believe these counties have the potential to sustain quality loon breeding habitat if proactive steps are taken to protect the habitat and limit disturbance during the breeding season.

Conservation efforts will help to ensure the future of loon nesting and rearing of young on the lakes of these counties.



Contact us at [email protected]

Back to top