120 Acres for Lost Valley Prairie Scientific and Natural Area (MN)

SAINT PAUL, MN 10/21/2009: The Trust for Public Land and the Department of Natural Resources today announced a new addition to the Lost Valley Prairie Scientific and Natural Area. The 120-acre property in Denmark Township, Washington County contains rare occurrences of Bedrock Bluff Prairie and provides habitat for a number of state-threatened plant and animal species.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) completed the purchase of the property late yesterday. The property-which features two steep ravines that support a stream network that feeds the St. Croix River-will be added to the 200-acre Lost Valley Prairie Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) and will be open to the public for walking, exploring, nature observation, educational use, and scientific research. It is expected that most use will come from birdwatchers, nature photographers, and school children.

“Some people may not realize that there is great habitat that needs protection close to home in the Twin Cities,” said state Senator Katie Sieben. “This wonderful addition to Lost Valley Scientific and Natural Area is a great illustration of how, working together, we can get this threatened habitat protected forever.”

“It is a wonderful addition to Lost Valley Prairie,” said Becca Nash, TPL project manager. “In 120 acres, the new addition supports a remarkable range of important resources-groundwater recharge, the northernmost occurrence of bedrock bluff prairie, and an intermittent stream that feeds the St. Croix River. And it is a great place to explore.”

The prairie addition will provide habitat for the state-endangered Henslow’s Sparrow and other important species, and will protect ground and surface waters important to clean water efforts supported by many organizations including the National Park Service and the South Washington Watershed District.

“The newly expanded Lost Valley Prairie SNA-the second largest SNA within the Metro Region-is so valuable in providing nearby opportunities for people to experience the power of the natural landscape,” said SNA Program Supervisor Peggy Booth. “We invite people of all ages to check out Lost Valley and our 147 other SNAs; just google ‘MnSNA’.”

Jim Smetana, Lost Valley Prairie SNA’s site steward, volunteers for the DNR and hosts work days at the SNA every month at which volunteers help with all kind of management activities, including invasive species removal, seed collection, and planting. Smetana says this new addition to the SNA is a “botanist’s delight” that volunteers have wanted to see protected for years.

Over the next twenty-five years, Minnesota’s population is projected to grow by about 1.2 million people. Roughly one million of this total growth will be in the expanding Twin Cities metropolitan area. This population influx will lead to more than one million acres of Minnesota land being developed, which is roughly the combined area of Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, and Carver counties. The Twin Cities alone has 255,000 acres of high quality natural lands remaining and only 32 percent of this is currently protected as DNR-administered lands, U.S. Fish & Wildlife preserves, regional parks, and nature preserves.

The Scientific and Natural Areas Program was established by the Legislature in 1969 as part of the state Outdoor Recreation System in order to preserve in perpetuity the state’s rarest natural resources. An estimated 500 natural areas are needed to adequately protect the state’s remaining rare landforms, fossils, plant and animal communities, and rare and endangered species.

The SNA Program is currently seeking funding from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources and will also seek bonding in the next legislative session to fund its work protecting and restoring those natural areas possessing exceptional scientific or educational value.

A celebration and ribbon cutting at Lost Valley SNA is scheduled for Oct. 24 at 10 a.m. At the celebration, Smetana will receive the 2009 Champion of Open Space award from the Embrace Open Space Program. The award recognizes extraordinary people in the Twin Cities area who are champions of parks and natural areas.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. Since 1986, TPL has helped protect more than 87,000 acres of some of Minnesota’s most special land and water resources, valued at more than $88 million. TPL acts quickly and independently to acquire high priority land a community wants to conserve. TPL buys the public time by securing the land until the public is ready to purchase. By picking up the tab for transaction costs and selling land to public agencies at a discount, TPL has saved Minnesota taxpayers almost $5.5 million dollars in just the last six years. TPL depends on the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations.