Restoration Evaluation Program

Text:Legacy Fund Restoration Evaluation. Photos of three restoration projects and a state of Minnesota icon.

When Minnesotans passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008 they did so with high expectations. As projects have moved forward throughout the state, so too have efforts to ensure that the projects are meeting those expectations. Every year we work with project managers and visit restorations around the state. Highlights from the projects and lessons learned are communicated back to the restoration community to improve the quality of Legacy Fund restorations in Minnesota.

Text:Legacy Fund Restoration Evaluation Report Cover

Recommendations to Improve Future Restorations

  • Improved Project Teams – improve ecological outcomes through the use of more comprehensive project teams.
  • Improved Documentation – ensure consistent documentation of essential planning and implementation data.
  • Improved Restoration Training – practitioners will work best with comprehensive training showcasing current science based restoration practices, challenges and successes.
  • Improved Design Criteria for Lakeshore Projects – projects with limited likelihood of benefiting habitat will not meet minimum design criteria.
  • Improved Planning for Stream Projects - facilitate more consistent implementation of high quality stream restorations in the state.
  • Improved Vegetation for Stream Projects – well established vetegation is critical for the long-term success of stream projects.
  • Evaluation Process Improvement – implementing strategic process improvements will allow for better documentation of program outcomes.

Clean Water Fund Stories

Stearns County Restoration – Reducing Runoff to Big Fish Lake

Three people standing in a brown and green prairie field looking at the plants.

In 2011 Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District worked with a landowner near Big Fish Lake to reduce sediment and nutrient rich runoff from entering the Lake. This project reshaped an old crop field to keep water and sediment in place and promote water soaking into the field. The 21 acre site was also enrolled in the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program and seeded into native prairie providing habitat for wildlife. Projects like this will help protect Big Fish Lake for decades to come.

Olmsted County - Cascade Creek Channel Restoration

A man and a women standing next to a creek. The man is pointing off in the distance and the women is taking a picture with a camera.

A century of development and agricultural drainage improvements in the rolling hills east of Rochester has increased the flow of water off the land and led to flooding and streambank erosion along Cascade Creek. In a targeted effort to stabilize the stream, improve water quality and control flooding, Olmstead County Soil and Water Conservation District worked with partners to build a new meandering stream channel. The new stream is stable and provides improved habitat for fish in the creek. Strong partnership between the SWCD, City of Rochester and other partners point toward positive outcomes for the stream restoration.

Mille Lacs SWCD – Restoring the West Branch of the Rum River

A man and a women standing next to a creek. The man is pointing off in the distance and the women is taking a picture with a camera.

When Clean Water funds became available, Mille Lacs Soil and Water Conservation District jumped in right away to help landowners improve water quality in the county. In one case, a steep and quickly eroding bank on the West Branch of the Rum River was polluting the river and threatening to cut off the only access to someone’s home. Working with partners, the SWCD terraced the slope and planted native plants to hold things in place. Today the bend in the river is still stable and abuzz with pollinators. Now the SWCD has set their sights on Mille Lacs Lake. They plan to continue with the model of building connections and empowering landowners to take action where they can.

Outdoor Heritage Fund Stories

Restoring Habitat and Water Quality in Grand Marais Creek

Arial view of the newly designed Grand Maris channel meandering through forests and fields.

In the early 1900s a 1¼-mile ditch channel was created to improve drainage from Grand Marais Creek to the Red River. This cut off flow to the lower 6 miles of the natural channel. Over the 20th century the straight-line ditch eroded to a steep channel with unstable banks depositing sediment into the Red River and creating a barrier for spawning fish. After more than a decade of coordination with state, federal and local partners and adjacent landowners, the Red Lake Watershed District spearheaded the effort to restore the lower Grand Marais Creek.

Three Rivers Park District - Crow-Hassan Prairie Restoration

Five people wearing rain jackets, walking through a field with tall grass and purple flowers.

Prairie restorations at Crow-Hasan Park Reserve are not a new thing. Over the last 50 years, more than 840 acres of diverse native grasses and forbs have been planted. The newest restorations include 250 acres of prairie made possible by funding from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. As a part of the coordinated efforts to resotre the prairies, park staff have also been reintroducing animals. Today more than 100 Bullsnakes are living in the park. Park staff hope that over time the recently introduced plains hog-nosed snakes will also thrive in the restored prairie.

Koochiching SWCD – Collaborations along the Rat Root River

Five people wearing rain jackets, walking through a field with tall grass and purple flowers.

In the 1930s the Rat Root River was swarmed by thousands of spawning walleye each spring. By the 1970s there was a tenfold decrease in fish. Working together, the Rainy Lake Sportfishing Club, local DNR staff, and the Koochiching Soil and Water Conservations District set out to use Conservation Partner Legacy Grants to restore spawning in the Rat Root River. The team removed log jam barriers, stabilized shorelines, and installed spawning riffles for fish. Today the DNR is watching the projects for spawning fish. Knowing if the work done along the Rat Root is resulting in bringing walleye back is critical in strategically and efficiently using Legacy Funds in the future.

Parks and Trails Fund Stories

Dakota County Parks – Managing Parks for Minnesotans

Three men look onto a pile of decomposing reed canary grass on a hillside while a fourth man points to the hilltop.

The Dakota County Parks system contains 6,000 acres of parkland with diverse landscapes including forests, savannahs, prairies, and wetlands. These parks not only provide outdoor recreation opportunities for the citizens of Minnesota, but are home to some of the State’s unique and threatened plants and animals including the Blanding’s turtle (Emys blandingii) and the Blunt-lobed Grapefern (Botrychium oneidense). Maintaining the quality of the parks is an ongoing priority guided by system wide and park specific management plans. With continued thoughtful planning and implementation from the natural resources staff, these parks can be a resource for Minnesota for years to come.

Hayes Lake State Park - Jack Pine Restoration

Two men in a forest. One main is pointing to a small pine tree. The other man is standing with a clipboard nearby, watching.

Since 1967 Hayes Lake State Park has provided recreation opportunities and access to hundreds of square miles of wildlands. Historically fires moved through these lands burning up dead trees, popping open pine cones, and regenerating Jack Pine. Fire suppression in the area resulted in buildup of dead wood and little to no new Jack Pines growing. When deer populations plummeted park resource managers mobilized and accelerated logging and planting plans to restore the forests without deer eating the new trees. Through this adaptive management, resource staff were able to maximize the impact of Minnesota taxpayer Legacy dollars.

Ramsey County – Restoring Sucker Channel

Two men in a forest. One main is pointing to a small pine tree. The other man is standing with a clipboard nearby, watching.

The shoreline of the Sucker Channel in northern Ramsey County is a heavily used fishing area. After decades of wear, the paved paths that lined the banks of the Channel were falling into the water and rainfall was washing pollutants into the Channel that serves as the City of St. Paul’s drinking water supply. Ramsey County Parks Soil and Water Conservation Division worked with the Vadnais Lakes Area Watershed Management Organization to stabilize the shoreline, provide a vegetated buffer for rainwater, and create pollinator habitat with flowering native plants. Ongoing monitoring and maintenance will ensure the continued success of this project’s multiple benefits.


Contact Us for More Information

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Learn more about our Legacy funding:

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources