Pelican Lake and connected Lake Christina in Grant County were once premier duck viewing and hunting destinations in Minnesota; important stopover sites for migrating ducks coming from across the United States. Along with pelicans and other birds, the shallow waters and undisturbed shoreline created a haven for waterfowl of all sorts. Unfortunately, as development began to pop up along the lakefront and low areas began to be drained, the ducks began to move away, unable to compete with humans for the resources they needed. But a local effort to protect and restore the lake’s natural heritage has taken root, and recently one family worked to protect and restore their 40-acre lakeshore property with a conservation easement through the Minnesota Land Trust.
First purchased by his father in the 1960s, Cameron Johnson grew up enjoying the trails and natural areas the lakefront property provided. Protecting the property will enable his grandchildren to enjoy the same experiences he and his kids enjoyed.
“My kids used to come up here to the cabin when my parents had it and have a lot of memories from their time here,” said Cameron. “It’s nice that they can now have their kids also walk through here and have that same opportunity.”
The beautiful property also plays an important role in protecting and providing a natural buffer to benefit the water quality of Pelican Lake, a rapidly developing area.
“This protected land and 2,800 feet of natural shoreline is important habitat for both pelicans and ducks in a landscape that’s seen a significant amount of their habitat disappear over the years,” said Beverly Rinke, program manager at the Minnesota Land Trust. “The work private landowners like Cam and Audrey are doing to protect and preserve this habitat is truly a gift to all Minnesotans.”
To Cameron and Audrey, it seems like the birds agree. “After we got this done, we were walking the trails on the property and it sounded like the birds were chirping just a little louder,” said Cameron. “Audrey turned to me and said that it sounded like they knew they would have nesting habitat here forever and wouldn’t have to move again.”
Cameron and Audrey aren’t done yet — they’re working to restore parts of the land back to native prairie with the support of a habitat management plan through the Minnesota Land Trust.
“For conservation in our state to succeed, it’s not sufficient to rely on only public lands,” said Kris Larson, executive director of the Minnesota Land Trust. “Private lands protection by generous property owners like Cameron and Audrey ensures that we are creating a conservation legacy that will benefit all Minnesotans.”
“It’s just a good feeling to know that this property will be natural forever,” said Cameron. “It’s that sense of peace of mind — you’re doing something that’s good for nature, and good for Minnesota.”