Dakota County Habitat Protection
Dakota County protected 568 acres of high-quality wildlife habitat, encompassing 1.5 miles of the Cannon River, 1.5 miles of Chub Creek, 0.75 miles of the Vermillion River, 1.0 mile along the Mississippi River, and 2.2 miles along River Lake.
About the Issue
Dakota County has experienced significant residential growth over the last two decades and the most highly desirable location in suburban and rural areas are near rivers, lakes, and other natural areas. In addition, the price of agricultural crops is placing intense pressure to reduce vegetated buffers, CRP land, and other land protection efforts. As the economy improves, there will be increased pressure placed on these areas. Through the Farmland and Natural Areas Program (FNAP), Dakota County has been protecting natural areas for wildlife habitat and water quality improvements outside of the regional park system since 2004.
As a result of this Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) grant, Dakota County protected 568 acres of high-quality wildlife habitat, exceeding the goal in our initial plan of 350 acres. The 568 protected acres encompasses:
• 1.5 miles of the Cannon River;
• 1.5 miles of Chub Creek;
• Over 0.75 miles of the Vermillion River;
• 1.0 mile along the Mississippi River; and
• 2.2 miles of shoreline along River Lake, a backwater lake of the Mississippi River.
Dakota County secured permanent conservation easements on all this property from six willing landowners with a separate natural resource management plan developed for each conservation easement. Below is a brief summary of each of these projects identified by the name of the landowner:
• Bakken - 44.2 acres, 7,725 feet of Cannon River frontage;
• Otte - 40.1 acres, 2,500 feet of Chub Creek;
• Jennings - 110.0 acres, 1,300 feet of Chub Creek;
• Ozmun - 30.7 acres, 3,960 feet of Chub Creek;
• Agricultural Society - 193.2 acres, 4,060 feet of the Vermillion River; and
• Macalester College - 149.6 acre, 1.0 mile of Mississippi R. frontage and 2.2 miles of frontage on River Lake, a Mississippi River backwater lake.
As with many conservation efforts, during the term of this grant there have been modifications to accommodate evolving circumstances. To complete the above projects, Dakota County is only using $709,083.61 of the $1,000,000 of the LSOHC funds awarded to the County. The reason for this is that one of the projects that Dakota County had designated to be funded through this grant was to protect Marcott Lakes, a chain of high-quality inland lakes, but the project was not fully completed by June 30, 2012, the end of the grant period. While Dakota County had a binding purchase agreement with the landowner to buy a conservation easement on the property by this date, the transaction was not consummated until August 2012. In place of the Marcott Lakes project, the LSOHC funds will be used to providing funding for the Agricultural Society and Macalester College projects.
Dakota County buys conservation easements only from willing landowners. The County ensures that the landowners are comfortable with their decisions to encumber their land with conservation easements. Two of the landowners with whom Dakota County had been working in anticipation of securing conservation easements on their properties – the Wicklund and Malensek families – opted not to complete the easement process. As a consequence, these projects, which were referenced in previous reports, were not completed under the grant.