As Central Minnesota has grown, and cities like Alexandria have expanded outward, natural lands that so many have used for recreation and hunting have begun to feel the pressures of development. Fortunately, a partnership of local residents and organizations has come together to protect the last remaining open areas. Recently Don Eggers and his family protected the unique land they hunt and recreate on through an easement with the Minnesota Land Trust, keeping it in its natural state forever.
The Eggers family have worked over the years to protect over 130 acres of land held by their family, most recently completing the easement with the Land Trust on the final 27 acres. Thanks to support and coordination from the Stearns County Soil & Water Conservation District, much of the rest of the land is enrolled in the Minnesota Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (MN CREP), a state program to conserve and restore marginal farmland to natural habitat.
“I hope this gives my grandkids and future generations the continued opportunity to watch the sunset on a beautiful October afternoon while a Rooster pheasant flushes in the distance,” says Don. “Resources are limited and being involved in conserving our land gives our entire family a terrific sense of pride.”
Eggers worked with the Longspur Prairie Fund, an organization dedicated to prairie and restoration work in the area to facilitate the process and make sure all the land was protected in perpetuity.
“Care for Creation and our shared natural heritage has never been more important,” says Peter Schultz of the Longspur Prairie Fund. “Partnerships like these — in which private landowners and their families can benefit in both the short- and long-term — are great for hunters, farmers, communities, and the mighty state of Minnesota. In this particular case, we’re dealing with a visionary family that’s committed to preserving not just a gorgeous landscape, but a family tradition — and a way of life.”
More than just part of their family’s legacy, this land helps protect the water quality of the Sauk River Watershed. By filtering water through the restored wetlands and natural cover on the property, the land will benefit all residents of the region.
“The importance of this property to the integrity of the natural systems in the Sauk River Watershed can’t be overstated,” says Nick Bancks, program manager for the Minnesota Land Trust. “We’re starting to see some very dedicated families step up and protect and restore the land they care so much about, so this is helping to create a much larger complex of protected land in the region. What the Eggers family has done with their land will have positive ripple effects down the line for water quality in the region.”
“Working with private individuals like Don is the best way for us to protect these important natural assets, while still ensuring whoever owns the land in the future can continue to use and enjoy it,” says Nick. “By working with the Land Trust, this land will stay in private hands and the Eggers family will continue to pay property taxes, as well as to manage and help heal the land for years to come.”
The Sauk River Watershed Habitat Protection & Restoration Program is a partnership of organizations working to protect and restore the land and waters of this critical wildlife corridor. The group is comprised of the Minnesota Land Trust, the Sauk River Watershed District, Pheasants Forever, the Stearns, Douglas, and Todd SWCDs, the Minnesota Board of Soil & Water Resources, The Nature Conservancy, DNR, and US Fish and Wildlife Service. With support from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, the coalition works with local landowners to protect the habitat and water quality of the region. Interested landowners can learn more about the program and apply at www.mnland.org/saukgrant.