Washington County St. Croix River Land Protection
The State of Minnesota, Washington County and Carpenter Foundation have successfully partnered to protect an area along the St. Croix River from development in perpetuity with placement of an 85-acre conservation easement on the Carpenter Foundation's property located in Denmark Township.
The design of this project involved three funding partners: the State of Minnesota, Washington County and the Carpenter Foundation. The State provided funding through its Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Fund. Washington County funded its portion of the project using its Land and Water Legacy Program (LWLP) funds. The LWLP ranks land along the St. Croix River as high priority for its funding because these parcels help preserve critical habitat, protect water resources, create networks of protected habitat and protect lands that are accessible or highly visible to the public. The Carpenter Foundation also made a donation to the project.
The scope of this project involved Washington County working with the Thomas E. and Edna D. Carpenter Foundation to place an 85-acre conservation easement on the Carpenter property in southern Washington County. The Carpenter Foundation remains owner of the property and has developed a management plan for maintaining the property into the future as part of this process. Washington County holds the easement protecting the property from development in perpetuity.
The Carpenter property is located within the state-managed portion of the St. Croix Scenic Riverway. The St. Croix River watershed is a national treasure whose habitat and water quality is threatened. The St. Croix River watershed is considered to be one of the most biologically diverse rivers in the Upper Mississippi River basin. Its waters support 95 fish and approximately 38 mussel species, many of which are on the state and federal endangered species lists. Its forested lands provide nesting habitat for Bald Eagles and are home to several threatened and endangered species. Although the waters of the St. Croix River are very pristine, they are impacted by nutrient and sediment pollution. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency designated Lake St. Croix, the lower 25 miles of the river, as an “impaired water” due to high levels of phosphorus. This designation mandates that the federal, state and local governments take actions to ensure the lake’s recovery. With increasing urbanization in the watershed this is difficult to do.
This conservation easement preserves the ecological integrity of the St. Croix River by protecting a segment of its shoreland. This helps maintain a high quality river fishery dependent on clean water. Critical riparian habitat and a continuous corridor of forested bluff lands and ravines for resident and migratory wildlife, both game and nongame species are also conserved. By limiting development and maintaining mature forests along the river, the easement helps defray pollution impacts and aids in arresting the decline in water quality in the lower stretch of the river.