Scott Anfinson, National Register Archaeologist at the Minnesota Historical Society, spoke eloquently of the cultural importance of the river to Native Americans and to European immigrants. The river for 10,000 years was a transportation artery for the region because it was the most efficient way to move through the landscape. Few archaeological sites along this stretch of river have been documented primarily because no one has really looked for them. He also noted that this stretch of river differs from the headwaters area or bluff country in that it is situated at the edge of the glacial outwash plain. He challenged the group to give this stretch a special name.
Hannah Dunevitz, Plant Ecologist at Minnesota DNR, spoke of the importance of ecological communities and landscapes along the Mississippi River. She suggested that this river stretch be named theMississippi River Terraces for the unique glacial outwash terraces that exist in this area. These terraces contain prairie and oak savanna remnants that are home to unique and rare plant and animal species. She also discussed the important role that fire, or the lack thereof, has played in determining where plant and animal species occur in the landscape. She encouraged people to think about natural communities and habitats and the importance of scale and connectivity when developing land, to assure adequate conditions for the movement and survival of plants and animals.
Jeff O'Neill, Assistant City Administrator for Monticello, discussed his community's efforts to enhance the city's special relationship to the river and location on a prairie/oak savanna Mississippi River terrace. He noted how the city is attempting to replace vegetation lost in a severe storm last summer with native vegetation that can be used to provide a unique identity for Monticello. He encouraged people to develop partnerships with others to share information and to pool resources. The message of living in harmony with the natural environment and developing a city with an eye towards working with natural communities is one that needs to be repeated time and again, he said.