Protecting & Connecting the Southeast Blufflands Near Brownsville, MN 

Promoting climate resiliency and protecting important habitat for threatened native species in the region.

Located atop a beautiful and steep forested bluff overlooking Brownsville, MN, this recently protected property—a generous full donation of the conservation easement—is in the Minnesota Land Trust’s Southeast Blufflands priority conservation area.  

Though small in acreage, the quality of the protected property, due in part to the landowners’ diligent restoration efforts, has an outsized impact on climate resiliency and habitat defragmentation in the area. It also affords breathtaking sweeping views of the Mississippi River and low-lying areas, and preserves the beauty of the natural bluff feature for those below. 

The rich and vibrant landscape isn’t an accident. The landowners have been working with public agencies like the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other private entities to manage the habitat on their property for some time. This work will continue and expand with the help of Minnesota Land Trust beginning in late 2023.  

According to Haley Golz, Restoration Program Manager, the plan focuses on enhancing the high-quality goat prairie and oak woodlands located on the property by removing invasive woody species. 

Protecting a Highly Climate Resilient Site

Targeting climate-resilient landscapes for permanent protection has been a priority for the Land Trust for some time and was recently formally documented in our Climate Change Action Plan.

While the entire Driftless region is considered climate resilient, this property is rated as highly climate resilient. It earns a “far above average” rating for resilience and landscape diversity from The Nature Conservancy’s Resilient Land mapping tool, meaning it has a relatively high capacity to maintain species diversity and ecological function as the climate changes, and the highly variable topography, elevations, and hydrology in the surrounding area creates a large number of diverse of microhabitats for plants and wildlife. 

Local connectedness on the property is “above average,” with relatively few manmade barriers like major roads or agricultural fields, allowing species to readily move through the area to find suitable habitat where they can persist in a warming climate. 

Building a Connected Lands Matrix

In addition to local connectedness on the property, this permanently protected land adds to a growing matrix of conserved land in the surrounding area. To date, 51% of Minnesota Land Trust’s protected properties are located 1,000 feet or less from state or federally protected lands.  

This protected property builds on this tradition, situated directly north of a 16-acre Minnesota DNR easement, within three miles of three more Minnesota Land Trust conservation easements totaling approximately 315 acres of permanently protected private lands, and just two miles from the 286-acre Brownsville Bluff Scientific & Natural area.

Connecting Timber Rattlesnake Habitat Helps Species Recovery

Connected lands and habitats are critical to promote native species health and diversity. The timber rattlesnake is one such species. Native to Minnesota and only found in the bluffland region, they tend to build their dens for hatching young in south and west-facing bluff prairies and use the nearby bluff forests and bottomlands within two miles for hunting rodents and small birds.  

Intensive bounty hunting of timber rattlesnakes until 1989 significantly reduced their numbers. Today, they’re considered a threatened species imperiled by loss of habitat and climate change. According to the Minnesota DNR, “The bad news is that many once active [timber rattlesnake] dens are no longer active. Furthermore, much of the bluff prairie habitat the snakes depend on is getting severely overgrown with eastern red cedar. The good news is that there are still areas where the snake population appears to be stable, with signs of reproduction.”

Restoring and connecting protected native landscapes is an important part of helping the species stabilize and recover in the face of ongoing threats including habitat loss due to development and the effects of climate change. These private landowners are making a difference along with many of their neighbors in the region who have participated in oak savanna and bluff prairie restoration projects with the Minnesota Land Trust.

Timber rattlesnake

Help Connect More of the Southeast Blufflands

Your gift helps protect and restore more important and imperiled habitat across Minnesota, just like the oak savanna and bluff prairies that timber rattlesnakes rely on in the Southeast Blufflands.


Want to protect your property in Houston, Fillmore, Winona, Olmstead, Wabasha, or Goodhue County? Learn more about protection opportunities in this region.

Protected Property Photo Gallery

Click or tap on the photos to view full sized images of this beautiful, protected property and related wildlife and habitats.

Experience the Southeast Blufflands Near Brownsville, MN

Immerse yourself in the blufflands with hiking, bird watching, trout fishing, and incredible scenic blufftop views (especially in the fall) by visiting a nearby state park: 

Visit the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge–Brownsville Overlook or take a drive on the Great River Road National Scenic Byway, which follows the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, passing through 10 states and hundreds of river towns, including Brownsville, MN and this protected property!

More from the Southeast Blufflands

This permanent conservation easement was made possible thanks to the members of the Minnesota Land Trust and Hennepin County with funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature and recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC).

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