Bluffland Prairie Protection Initiative
This initiative protected 548 acres of habit in the blufflands region of southeastern Minnesota--an area that contains unique and ecologically important prairie, oak savanna and grassland habitat along with outstanding forested bluffs, woodlands, floodplains and cold water trout streams.
About the Issue
The Mississippi River Blufflands ecological subsection is identified in Minnesota's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy as having the highest concentration of species in greatest conservation need in the entire State. This includes a high concentration of neo-tropical migrant birds and waterfowl, as well as reptiles, mammals, mollusks and insects. Many of these game and non-game species exist in part because of the rich tapestry of habitat types in the region-hardwood forests, floodplain wetlands, cold water streams-and the unique presence of bluff prairie, oak savanna and re-established grasslands.
This rich tapestry is threatened today by the destructive impacts of land fragmentation, bluff-top development and changes in agricultural practices. The Minnesota Land Trust has been engaged in the protection of the Blufflands for more than a decade, having preserved more than 6,000 acres of land through 42 projects, making it one of the organization's highest priorities.
The Land Trust completed four conservation easements and secured an option for a fifth. Through this program, the Land Trust also conducted landowner outreach and now has information on 20 other landowners that DNR has identified and ranked as having outstanding prairie property. Specific activities conducted under this grant included: further identifying and negotiating with these interested landowners, drafting and completing easements, documenting property conditions, and creating plans for and dedicating funds for the perpetual monitoring, management and enforcement of those easements.
The conservation easements the Land Trust negotiated with each landowner were specifically designed to protect the natural features and habitat values of that landowner's particular tract of land, including the rare goat prairie and grasslands which was the primary habitat focus of this program. The easements limited commercial, industrial and residential development and division of the property, restricted inappropriate agricultural practices and required an approved land management plan to encourage proper management of the resource.
The use of conservation easements to protect critical habitat is a widely-accepted practice which has demonstrated great results both in Minnesota and around the country. The Minnesota Land Trust has an effective track record of using easements in a similar capacity for almost 20 years, holding more conservation easements than any other private conservation organization in the state--making it one of the most experienced organizations working with the unique conservation tool.
The success of conservation easements requires an effective partnership with the private landowners. As such, the Land Trust has developed an effective conservation easement stewardship program to both prevent future impacts through encouraging voluntary compliance with the terms of the easement and to enforce and defend the easement in the unlikely case of an easement violation. The Minnesota Land Trust and conservation organizations around the country have recognized the great importance of substantially investing in stewardship activity. Our successful history of easement stewardship is one of the important factors which led to the Minnesota Land Trust being one of the first accredited land trusts in the country. The Land Trust is committed to monitoring and enforcing the conservation easements secured under this program in perpetuity and has dedicated the funding necessary to fulfill this obligation.