Making Minnesota Better
In 2008, Minnesota voters took a bold and historic action by imposing a three-eighths of one percent tax on themselves for 25 years, until 2034, in the name of cleaner water, healthier habitat, better parks and trails and sustaining our arts and cultural heritage. Today, ten years later, that tax has generated more than $2 billion dollars for Legacy projects.
Celebrating the improvement of Minnesota's lands, waters, parks and trails
The Minnesota DNR has been allocated about 19%, roughly $463 million, and has used them to make Minnesota a better place for its citizens by upgrading parks and trails; restoring, enhancing and protecting habitat for fish, game and wildlife; and restoring and protecting the quality of our lakes, rivers and streams.
Legacy Funding 2009 - 2018
Since FY2010, The Legacy Amendment has generated more than $2 billion to make Minnesota better. The Minnesota Legislature appropriated 19 percent ($463 million) for DNR programs. An additional 21 percent ($528 million) went to DNR for spending by local units of government and non-profit organizations. The remainder of Legacy funds ($1.6 billion) went to non-DNR entities such as other state and local government and non-profit organizations.
While the bulk of Legacy funds allocated to DNR come from the Outdoor Heritage, Parks and Trails, and Clean Water funds, DNR received a grant from the Art and Cultural Heritage Fund to digitize all issues of the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine.
DNR understands how important the Legacy funds are to Minnesota, and we take this work seriously. Legacy funds support programs and projects that go beyond the results achieved by other state funds, to build a long-term conservation legacy for the citizens of Minnesota. Because Minnesotans passed this constitutional amendment, the DNR is able to deliver strong conservation successes, while other states have suffered losses of conservation lands, parks, and trails.
Legacy Funds Are Working for Minnesotans
DNR has accomplished hundreds of individual projects since Legacy funds became available on July 1, 2009. Here, we'd like to showcase a few of these projects.
Protecting, enhancing, and restoring fish and wildlife habitat
- Lake Shady Dam Removal and Stream Restoration
Photo: Overview of restoration
Lake Shady Dam Removal and Stream Restoration
Restoration on the Middle Fork Zumbo River.
The DNR, Olmsted County, and the City of Oronoco cooperated to remove the failed Lake Shady Dam and restore the Middle Fork of the Zumbro River. The dam was replaced with a rock arch rapids, and 5,800 feet of stream channel was restored. The project serves multiple purposes: stabilizing accumulated reservoir sediments, providing fish passage to over 120 miles upstream, creating spawning habitat, and restoring 147 acres of floodplain.
- Pelican Lake
Photo: A view of the new outlet structure at Pelican Lake
Partnerships restore a historic shallow lake
Pelican Lake was a historically valuable waterfowl lake in Wright County. Landlocked, the lake suffered from increasingly high water levels. Working with Ducks Unlimited and funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, an outlet and pump were installed to allow for management of the water levels. Water level management will lead to clearer water, better aquatic vegetation, and improved waterfowl habitat.
Supporting parks and trails
- Brown's Creek State Trail
Photo: A family enjoys the Brown's Creek State Trail.
Brown's Creek State Trail
Legacy-funded trail between Stillwater and St. Paul
This major trail project entailed the construction of a new segment of state trail stretching from downtown Stillwater to the Gateway State Trail, a six (6) mile segment that traverses Brown's Creek. With project completion, recreationists and commuters have a paved multi-use route from St. Paul to Stillwater. The work created an accessible (ADA) paved trail with less than a 2% grade, designed for year-round non-motorized use from biking and horseback riding to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
- Minneopa State Park
Photo: A member of the Minneopa bison herd.
Minneopa State Park
Legacy-funded bison reintroduction
A small herd of bison was reintroduced to the park in 2015, creating a new location for Minnesota’s Bison Conservation Herd. This herd is rare among modern bison for its lack of genetic material from cross-breeding with cattle. Park attendance has increased nearly 70% annually since the reintroduction of the bison.
- Whitewater State Park
Photo: Shower building in Whitewater State Park's new Minneiska Campground.
Whitewater State Park
Legacy-funded Minneiska campground.
The new Minneiska campground at Whitewater State Park—featuring 40 sites with electrical hookups, four non-electric tent sites, four camper cabins and three group camps—welcomed its first visitors in August 2017. The three group camps each have their own picnic shelters and share a modern restroom building, with showers and flush toilets. Minneiska replaces an older campground where flooding was a recurring problem. A 40 kW solar array will offset anticipated increases in energy use at the new campground.
Protecting and restoring lakes, rivers, and groundwater
- High Island Creek fishes reconnected with historic habitats
Photo: DNR watershed specialist Brady Swanson surveys the High Island Dam breach during record flooding in 2014.
High Island Creek fishes reconnected with historic habitats
Dam washout and channel Restoration
After record flooding breached the historic dam in June 2014, DNR clean water specialists collaborated with fisheries staff, the MN Pollution Control Agency, and landowners to restore stream stability and reconnect fish habitat. Fish sampling before and after showed that the project resulted in 23 new species upstream of the dam.
- Stewart River Restoration
Photo: A new meander in the Stewart River restoration project.
Stewart River Restoration
A model of holistic stream restoration
In a project that showcases holistic stream restoration, DNR clean water specialists worked with the Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District, Trout Unlimited, and consultants to design and construct 3500 feet along the Stewart River. Ongoing monitoring will measure improvements in water quality and ecological function, including trout habitat.
- From "at-risk" to "protected"
Photo: Forested shoreline of Ten Mile Lake
From "at-risk" to "protected"
Protecting water quality and fish habitat in the Leech Lake Watershed
DNR Forestry and partners pioneered an innovative, science-based approach to protect water quality in lakes that support tullibee, a sensitive fish species, by helping landowners manage privately owned forestland. For example, the Ten Mile Lake watershed went from "at-risk" to "protected" (over 75% forestland) as a result. Protected lakes are also more resilient to climate change and development pressures.
- Cascade Creek
Photo: Cascade Creek shortly after reconnecting to the newly restored channel
Restoring Natural Stream Functions
The DNR is demonstrating the benefits of natural channel design in a multi-year project to restore Cascade Creek in Rochester, helping the city and county fix water quality problems and control flooding. Reconnecting the stream to its floodplain will reduce streambank erosion, increase water storage, and improve fish and wildlife habitat. The project includes monitoring to evaluate the multiple benefits.
Your Legacy Amendment dollars are hard at work to protect, maintain, and enhance natural landscapes, healthy watersheds, and the public places that make it possible to experience them to the fullest. Legacy funds are also providing opportunities like never before to "open doors" to outdoor recreation, particularly for young people.
Thank you for leaving Minnesota a better place for future generations.
Supporting Grants for Each Fund
State agencies, local governmental units, non-profit organizations, and others can apply to receive Legacy funds for projects that support the intentions of the Legacy Amendment. Ultimately, the State Legislature decides how and where these funds should be spent.
DNR administers Legacy-funded grants to our wide range of partners. Together we are committed to achieving significant conservation results for Minnesota Citizens.
In the News
Legacy Fund Restoration Evaluation Program
In 2011 the Department of Natural Resources and Board of Water and Soil Resources were charged with evaluating Legacy funded restorations. They established a Legacy Fund Restoration Evaluation Program to ensure that the work is meeting the high expectations Minnesotan’s have for investing in their Legacy.
Learn more »