Landscape Stewardship Planning in Minnesota

Landscape Stewardship Planning in Minnesota

The Forest Stewards Guild recently completed a project with The Nature Conservancy to develop Landscape Stewardship Plans for two southeastern Minnesota watersheds. These plans provide a vision and framework that allows landowners, resource managers, local officials, and other stakeholders to work together to voluntarily implement landscape stewardship practices that sustain the region’s water quality, natural areas, and biodiversity.

The planning effort focused on the neighboring Cannon and Zumbro River watersheds. Both river systems wind through southern Minnesota’s rich agricultural region before they descend through the steep wooded valleys of the “Driftless” region on their way to the Mississippi River. Historically, the region had vast prairies, oak forests and savannas, and the southeastern edge of the “Big Woods” ecosystem which featured some of the country’s finest mesic hardwood forest of maple and basswood. Due to the extremely rich soils, much of this region has been converted to agriculture. Today, only about 20% of the area remains as forest, wetland, or grassland, and many of these areas have been degraded in some fashion. Despite these changes, the watershed retains relatively high water quality and natural communities that support the state’s richest areas of biodiversity that warrant special protection, maintenance, and restoration to sustain their function on the landscape.

Both plans focus on protecting water quality and biodiversity by maintaining and enhancing the health of forests, wetlands and prairies in the watershed. The plan also identifies a series of key Conservation Opportunity Areas (COAs) to help direct conservation efforts within the watershed in strategic and cost-effective ways. Local foresters and conservation professionals will use these COAs and goals outlined in the plans to focus public and private stewardship efforts and aid organizations prioritizing parcels for public acquisition.

Developing and implementing landscape plans requires communication and collaboration between many stakeholder groups. The Guild was fortunate to have great partners in the plans’ development and looks forward to helping facilitate implementation.

More information about these plans can be found here:
Cannon River Watershed Landscape Stewardship Plan Summary and full plan
Zumbro River Watershed Landscape Stewardship Plan Summary and full plan

The Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and the USDA Forest Service provided funding for this project.