Thursday, January 31, 2013

Draft National Blueways System Pre-Proposal page 6

Some portions had to be shortened to meet page limitations. They will get added back in for the full proposal.

Significance of River and Watershed Resources

The Minnesota River Basin Trends document ( ) provides a broad overview of the basin with the goal of providing clues of broader ecosystem health. It shows a mixed story, some indicators are improving, some declining and some static. What continues to grow is the awareness people have for the importance of their land and water use choices and the value of a healthy river system for recreational opportunities, regional economic resilience and sustainability, and a high quality location to live, work and play.

·         Important physiographic or geological features (  pgs 2.1 – 2.12 )

Ø  The Minnesota River flows down the centerline of the broad glacial trough formed by ice of the Des Moines lobe, which dominates the topography of the southern half of Minnesota. The trough is almost undetectable from the ground. The valley of the Minnesota River, on the other hand, is an arresting feature that was created abruptly after the Des Moines lobe retreated, resulting in the Glacial River Warren. The valley is still affecting the evolution of the landscape today.

Ø  One million years of glacial history is preserved in the banks of the Yellow Medicine River in Upper Sioux Agency State Park.

Ø  Some of the oldest rocks (3.6 billion yrs) discovered at the earth’s surface are located in the valley between Granite Falls and Morton, MN. The Morton Outcrop Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) protects an example of this crystalline Morton Gneiss.

Ø  Cedar Mountain SNA, near Franklin, MN is younger bedrock (3.4 - 1.8 billion yrs), forming the highest point in the valley. The central knob in the area includes two rock types known only from this site; Cedar Mountain Gabbro and Cedar Mountain Granodiorite.

Ø  The eastern end of the valley contains exposed sedimentary rocks formed under shallow seas 500 to 430 million years ago which contain a rich diversity and abundance of plant and animal fossils.

·         Significant ecological values and ecosystem services

Ø  The Minnesota River valley contains the largest concentration of native plant communities remaining in southwestern Minnesota. Nearly one quarter of the 100,080 acres occur in the four western counties near the river’s source. Examples of 52 different plant community classifications occur in the counties adjacent to the river.

Ø  The rock outcrops of the Minnesota River Valley are unique resources with a distinctive flora and fauna seen in very few locations in Minnesota. The Morton Outcrop SNA is one of the highest quality examples of this plant community remaining in the valley. It is one of few remaining rock outcrops that retain a substantial prairie flora.

Ø  This nearly contiguous corridor of diverse native plant communities is an important terrestrial and aquatic wildlife migration corridor. It provides habitats for many rare species of mammals (16), birds (27), herptofauna (8), fish (13), and mussels (18).

·         Unique natural resources (fish, wildlife, and plant species; natural communities), designated natural areas, heritage sites, important bird areas, Ramsar, and other state, national, or international designations.

Ø  The Blue Sucker (Cycleptus elongates) is reproducing in the Minnesota River after being absent for decades. Overall number of fish species is increasing. (Minnesota River Trends – )

Ø  Bald Eagles, once rare, are commonly nesting along the Minnesota River.

Ø  River otter surveys indicate a sustained but low population since reintroduction in 1980.

Ø  89 rare plant species occur in the counties along the Minnesota River, 63 of which are listed under the Minnesota Endangered Species Act (MN Statute 84.0895). Three major groups of plants are those found in bedrock outcrops; upland prairies, savannas; wet prairies and calcareous fens.

Ø  6 Important Bird Areas occur within the watershed.

·         Linkages to landscape-scale designations or collaboratives

Ø  Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan 2010 – core area for prairie restoration.

Ø  Parts of the Minnesota River Valley Watershed are included in the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture and the Upper Mississippi & Great Lakes Region Joint Venture.

·         Cultural and historical resources and historic sites

Ø  Numerous sites related to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 (

Ø  Numerous sites related to Native American peoples, European settlement and cultures/historic events in the watershed. There are numerous sites on the National Historic Register.

·         Recreational and other social or economic resources

Ø  671 miles of Minnesota Water Trails on 7 different rivers in the watershed. The Minnesota River was one of the first designated in 1973. Today there are 46 water accesses and 23 canoe campsites on the main stem.

Ø  The upper half of the river’s main stem was designated a Minnesota Wild and Scenic River in 1977.

Ø  The Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway is 287 miles long, with 16 interpretive panels along the way. Its website hosts a new geo-cache page around the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862 and an interactive map with tremendous amounts of trip planning information and river stories.

·         Existing federal, state, municipal, and private protected areas for conservation purposes

Ø  12 State Parks or State Recreation Areas. Surveys indicate rising attendance since 1987.

Ø  Two National Wildlife Refuges (25,600 acres) and 417 Waterfowl Production Areas in 4 Wetland Management Districts (84,584 acres)

Ø  613 Wildlife (132,585 acres) and 212 Aquatic Management Areas (2700 acres)

Ø  26 Scientific and Natural Areas (3041 acres)

Ø  13 TNC preserves (6843 acres)

Ø  4 Native American Tribal Communities near Granite Falls, Morton and Shakopee, MN and Sisseton, South Dakota.

Also included will be:

Appendix A – Letters from Sponsoring Organization and Agencies


Appendix B – Letters of Support from Partner Organizations