St. Croix Watershed Protection Program

Conserve your forests, prairies, and woodlands while still owning your land

Spanning the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin, the St. Croix River is one of the nation’s first federally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers. It is also home to a diverse abundance of native flora and fauna that rivals any other location within the greater Upper Mississippi River Basin. The Minnesota Land Trust and the Wild Rivers Conservancy are looking for willing landowners to participate in the St.
Croix Watershed Protection Program, a conservation initiative to permanently protect high quality habitat complexes in Minnesota.

For more information

Contact Wayne Ostlie:
(651) 917-6292

Apply online now.

This page will help you decide if this program is right for you. Below is information about the program, conservation easements, project selection criteria, and an application.

Why apply?

  • Protect Minnesota’s important wildlife habitat, water quality, and beautiful open spaces
  • Receive tax incentives or other compensation for a permanent conservation easement on your property.
  • Preserve your family’s legacy on the land.
  • Join a community of  dedicated landowners who steward over 70,000 acres of important Minnesota places.
  • Receive a free habitat management plan, with the potential for financial and technical land management assistance.

What is a Conservation Easement?

The Minnesota Land Trust is seeking landowners interested in securing a lasting legacy for their lands through conservation easements.

Conservation easements are voluntary agreements through which landowners agree to limit the future use and development of their property to permanently preserve its natural features.

Lands protected by a conservation easement remain in a landowner’s private ownership, with the landowner retaining the right to use and manage the land in line with the terms of the easement. Public access is not required.

When the land is transferred to a new owner, the easement stays with the land ensuring it is permanently preserved for generations to come.

Each conservation easement completed by the Minnesota Land Trust is individually crafted to reflect the special characteristics of the land and its uses. However, certain restrictions are required to protect the natural habitat and associated species.

Easement Value and Compensation

Easement value chartThe Land Trust uses certified appraisers to ascertain the value of your land without the easement, and then the value of your land with the easement in place. The difference between the two is the easement value. The easement value results from the property rights that have been restricted and the appraised value of those rights.

Upon finalizing a conservation easement with the Land Trust, landowners will receive a one-time payment for the amount indicated in their application, up to 100% of the appraised easement value.

The Minnesota Land Trust is a nonprofit organization and the donation of all or a part of a conservation easement may allow the landowner to claim a tax deduction. Please consult your attorney.

Requirements to apply

Property must:

  • Be located within the St. Croix River Watershed Habitat Protection Program area (see map). If uncertain, please contact Wayne Ostlie.
  • Be at least 40 acres in size
  • Contain less than 10% of proposed easement area in cultivation.

Selection Process

Application Review

Applications will be reviewed and ranked as they are received.

Projects that are the best fit for the St. Croix Program will be larger in size and will have high quality natural lands with little development.

Landowners must indicate their desired compensation—payment per acre—for the easement on their application. Please note that the Land Trust cannot pay more than the full appraised value of the easement.

The Land Trust is able to conserve more land and may prioritize your property if you opt to donate some or all of the value of the conservation easement.

Prioritization and Selection

Easements will be funded in order of assigned priority. The Land Trust will prioritize potential parcels using two sets of criteria:


  • Habitat quality and quantity.
  • Context relative to other natural and protected lands such as parks, wildlife refuges, etc.
Payment per acre
  • Landowner’s desired compensation on a per acre basis and willingness to donate some or all of the value of the easement.

Ready to apply? Apply online here.

For a paper copy of the application and landowner questionnaire, contact Wayne Ostlie. A PDF copy is available for download here.

Questions? Contact Wayne Ostlie at or 651-917-6292.

Legacy Amendment logo

Funding for this program was provided by the Outdoor Heritage Fund as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

Our Mission

The Minnesota Land Trust protects and restores Minnesota’s most vital natural lands. Learn more.

Support Us

A donation to the Minnesota Land Trust is an investment in conservation for Minnesota.

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