Twin Cities’ Pine Bend Bluffs Protected (MN)

Inver Grove Heights, MN, 3/11/03 – The Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today the protection of two key properties that will become the Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area (SNA), part of a statewide program of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The Metro Greenways program, established to protect key open space and natural areas in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Region, provided the critical funding necessary to acquire the property. Proposed state budget cuts have put similar metro-wide conservation efforts in the future at risk.

Located between Highway 52 and the Mississippi River in Inver Grove Heights, the newly protected natural area consists of 168 acres of wooded hillsides, wetlands, and prairie openings. The establishment of the new SNA culminates years of work by the FMR, TPL, the DNR and a regional coalition of open space advocates across the metro region.

“Pine Bend Bluffs is one of the few remaining jewels. It’s an incredibly beautiful and undisturbed place right in the middle of the metro area,” said Tom Lewanski, FMR’s Conservation Director. “It is one of the highest quality natural areas in the Twin Cities region, and its location next to the Mississippi River makes it extremely valuable as habitat,” he said. Pine Bend Bluffs SNA is one of the high priority natural areas identified by Dakota County in its Farmland and Natural Areas Protection Plan approved this last year. In November voters overwhelmingly supported a public referendum to raise $20 million to implement the plan. The Embrace Open Space campaign, a metro region public awareness campaign promoting citizen involvement in open space protection, identified Pine Bend Bluff as one of the ten most important sites in the Twin Cities.

Whitney Clark, Executive Director of FMR, notes that the very programs that made this acquisition possible face massive cuts under the proposed state budget. “Local governments don’t have the resources or the technical expertise to protect these special places all by themselves. They’re willing to do their part but without the Metro Greenways Program, local communities would be unable to protect regional assets,” he said.

With nearly 80% of the nation’s population living within urban areas, and nearly 60 acres of habitat lost locally in the Twin Cities each day, the need to restore and protect open space and natural areas within the metropolitan region increases. The DNR’s Metro Greenways Program, established in 1998 with broad input and support from elected officials, conservationists and development interests, has been integral in facilitating the development of a regional network of natural areas and open space interconnected by greenways.

“It has taken years to develop the level of sophistication we have in Minnesota to respond to conservation opportunities like this,” adds Susan Schmidt, Minnesota Director of the Trust for Public Land. “Complex land protection efforts depend on a variety of government and nonprofit organizations working together, contributing individual expertise and funding. We need to ensure that open space remains a part of our urban landscape. Minnesota is fortunate to have the Scientific and Natural Areas Program and Metro Greenways Program to be able to protect valuable open space within the Twin Cities.”

Friends of the Mississippi River played a critical role in identifying and cultivating landowner interest in the project, presenting landowners with conservation options and helping to generate funding through grants and other outreach. The Trust for Public Land helped to identify an overall protection strategy for the site, facilitated the real estate and legal issues pertaining to acquisition of some of the property, provided $50,000 for the purchase, and assisted in communicating the vision for fundraising efforts. Both TPL and FMR advised the citizen-led successful Dakota County Farmland and Natural Area referendum. The City of Inver Grove Heights, Dakota County, and the Metropolitan Council also provided funding.

Other recent accomplishments that can be attributed to this network of open space professionals include the recent $20 million farmland and natural area protection referendum passed by voters in Dakota County last fall, and a $3.5 million open space referendum in Blaine two years before that, the new Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary east of downtown St. Paul, the creation of the St. Croix Greenway, and the Met Council’s emphasis on identifying and preserving regionally significant ecological areas in its Blueprint 2030.

Friends of the Mississippi River advocates a new vision for the Mississippi, especially the river and its watershed in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Through active leadership and education, FMR seeks to preserve and restore the river’s fish and wildlife, its vital floodplains and scenic bluffs, its natural and cultural treasures, its beauty and its romance. To learn more, visit

Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit established to conserve land for people in our cities, suburbs and rural communities to improve our quality of life and to protect our natural and historic resources for future generations.