Anoka County is growing rapidly, and that increased population has propelled development into areas that were once undisturbed natural wildlife habitat. Fortunately, several local landowners have stepped up to protect important natural areas that provide needed shelter and food for a range of wild species. Recently the Minnesota Land Trust worked with one of these generous landowners, Great River Energy, to protect a beautiful 80-acre property adjacent to Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
In an area of outstanding biodiversity and great importance to local wildlife, the property has maintained its natural character despite its proximity to the Twin Cities metro. Next to Carlos Avery WMA, which is public land managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the land helps buffer the WMA from development, which can hamper natural resource management and public hunting opportunities. The land also helps extend protected bird habitat in this Audubon-identified Important Bird Area. Numerous bird species rely on the WMA, including red-shouldered hawk, sandhill crane, and red-headed woodpecker.
“We’ve had this property since the 1980s, and we were looking for opportunities to ensure the property remains in its natural condition while providing excellent wildlife habitat for future generations to appreciate,” says Rick Heuring, senior field representative at Great River Energy. “When Minnesota Land Trust approached us, we concluded that placing the land into a conservation easement was an ideal solution. As an electric cooperative that serves 28 member-owner electric cooperatives across the state of Minnesota, we make all business decisions with an eye to our triple bottom line – rates, electric reliability, and environmental stewardship.”
Protecting this private land has many public benefits in addition to the preservation of wildlife habitat. Located in the St. Croix River watershed, the wetlands on the property clean and protect the quality of the water which eventually enters both the Sunrise and St. Croix Rivers.
“The importance of this property cannot be understated,” says Kristina Geiger, program manager for the Minnesota Land Trust. “Thanks to the generous donation by Great River Energy, we are now able to protect both this unique wildlife habitat and downstream water quality, while at the same time adding benefits to the wonderful public asset we all share in Carlos Avery WMA.”
“At Great River Energy, we are deeply committed to sustainability through solid environmental policies and practices,” says Heuring. “Working with the Minnesota Land Trust to permanently protect these 80 acres of habitat adjacent to the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area demonstrates our commitment to take both big and small initiatives and create a more sustainable environment for future generations.”