An Emerging Metro Conservation Network

A compilation of images, showing from left to right: a map showing Twin Cities and beyond, showing boundaries and names of counties, major rivers in blue and water bodies and green infrastructure corridors, a group of four diverse adults stand in a park, and a child and father holding up a fish and a younger child holding a rod and fishing in a river

What is it?

The Metro Conservation Network is the name of an emerging group of natural resources planners, managers, and practitioners in the greater Twin Cities Area, including the urbanized seven county area as well as surrounding counties. The group consists of people from cities, counties, watershed, soil and water conservation districts, state and federal agencies, non-profits and private sector practitioners. The DNR is providing initial convening and planning assistance as the group forges a set of goals, priorities and organizational structure.


The metro region's natural areas provide recreational opportunities, economic benefits, and a range of critical ecological services that are vital to our quality of life. Close-to-home nature matters not only to people, but wildlife living in local natural areas year-round and traversing the state during annual migrations. Nature and natural processes extend beyond municipal boundaries and sustaining these systems require collaborative action. Collaborative efforts also better address inequities in access to nature for all and barriers to fully gaining the health and wellness outcomes of recreating and experiencing natural areas.

  • The vision of the group is to collaboratively advance efforts to plan, protect, restore, and maintain ecosystem resiliency, biodiversity and connectivity throughout the greater Twin Cities metro region to enhance the well-being of all people and the changing natural environment.
  • In December 2019, a group of 100 individuals from many organizations in the Twin Cities metro region came together to discuss the legacy of the Metro Greenway Collaborative. Twenty years ago, the collaborative spurred successful action on a number of fronts. We still have the challenge of accommodating nature in a growing metro region.
  • We have additional urgent challenges: responding to changing rainfall regimes and weather patterns through natural areas design and engaging a whole new generation of metro residents ready to take advantage of the health and wellness benefits of being in nature.
  • For the past year, a steering team and five working groups met to identify priority needs and actions under several topics that emerged from the December 2019 meeting: Data/Technology, Communications, Planning and Protection, Restoration and Management, and Social Dimensions. This work is summarized in a scoping document with priority goals, strategies and action items that will be discussed at a December 9, 2020 meeting when we reconvene (virtually) as a large group.
  • If you are a natural resource professional or public official that cares and thinks about enhancing nature close to home, you can reach out to DNR Regional Planner Gina Bonsignore. Together, you and Gina can discuss ways that you can plug-in, depending on your interest level and areas of expertise or passion.