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.
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 vegetation 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
- Olmsted County – Cascade Creek Channel Restoration
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
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.
- Isanti SWCD – Long Lake Shoreline Restorations
As its name suggests, Long Lake in southern Isanti County is a long narrow lake. It is also a shallow lake. In shallow lakes sediments and nutrients can easily get mixed in the water, leading to unclear “turbid” water and algal blooms. To stop some nutrients from reaching Long Lake, Isanti Soil and Water Conservation District leveraged a Clean Water Fund grant to work with the Long Lake Improvement Association and Long Lake Improvement District. They helped lakeshore owners convert turf grass shoreline to native plant buffers. The native plants help absorb nutrients before rainwater runoff hits the lake and create habitat for wildlife, including pollinators. Since the first seven lakeshore buffer projects supported by the Clean Water Fund, project partners have added more than 30 native buffers.
Outdoor Heritage Fund Stories
- Three Rivers Park District – Crow-Hassan Prairie Restoration
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
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.
- American Bird Conservancy – Young Forest Conversions
Birds like golden-winged warbler, American woodcock and ruffed grouse need a variety of habitat types to thrive. This includes early successional forests, also known as young forests, for nesting and rearing young, and adjacent more mature forest for after the birds leave the nest. In the past, natural disturbances maintained these habitats. Today, without targeted brush cutting and burning, young forest habitats become more and more rare.
Through collaborations with County, State, Federal and Tribal partners, American Bird Conservancy staff used science-based best management practices to create diverse and healthy forest landscapes in 12 MN Counties. Working with and training a variety of local contractors, ABC staff and partners have brought back nesting habitat to forests across northern Minnesota.
Parks and Trails Fund Stories
- Hayes Lake State Park – Jack Pine Restoration
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
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.
- Itasca State Park – Mixed Pines for Future Generations
Itasca State Park is Minnesota’s oldest state park established to protect the pine forests around Lake Itasca. Forest restoration projects in the park continue the legacy of maintaining and reestablishing healthy forests. Resource managers use practices like logging and planting to grow the next generations of forest. Between 2010 and 2014 more than 100,000 trees were planted into burned, logged and wind damaged areas. Young trees were protected from deer with cages, paper bud caps and controlled hunts. Because park staff utilize a variety of tools in the forest management tool box, projects are on track to meet stated goals including establishing pine species in old fields, reconstructing openings after blowdowns, and managing Itasca’s mixed pine forests for future generations providing a healthy landscape and recreations opportunities for all Minnesotans.
Contact Us for More Information
- Wade Johnson, Program Coordinator, 651-259-5075