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Friends of Minnesota SNA News

Uncas Dunes Field Trip

You may be aware that a GOP sponsored bill was passed this past session that halts implementation of DNR management plans for the Sand Dunes State Forest and Uncas Dunes SNA which is within the forest. These plans had included controlled burns and removal of mature pines to improve and restore the pre-settlement oak savannah ecosystem of the dunes which formed from the sand left behind by the most recent glaciation.

The Izaak Walton League played a part in planting these pine forests in the area in the 1940’s. A long time member Dick Brown remembers how the ladies in one of the Metro Area chapters organized the pine planting which was designed to hold the soil after farmers had plowed up the oak savannah, only to watch it blow away when the crops failed during the great dust bowl era of the 1930’s. Minnesota declared these plantations a State Forest and managed them for timber. Now these stands are mature enough for harvest.

Conservationists realize now that changing this land from oak savannah to pine forests might not have been the best thing to do. Habitat for rare species that evolved to thrive in these dunes was sacrificed, and without fire, pine began to spread even further, crowding out native growth in the remaining remnants of oak savannah.

Hundreds of private properties remain scattered throughout the SDSF making management problematic. Local residents have grown accustomed to the tall pines even if they do grow in long straight rows. Cutting the tall trees in their backyards makes some unhappy even if the restoration of the oak savannah and the protection of its rare species is the goal. For now, the recently passed bill puts a halt to the management plan (including harvesting of mature pine stands and controlled burns.)

The stakeholders the DNR is conducting listening sessions with include local residents, the forestry industry and environmental organizations. These monthly meetings which are scheduled for the remainder of this calendar year are being held in Big Lake. The DNR plans to use the information gathered to adjust the management plan as necessary.
Board members of Friends of Minnesota SNA's have been attending the meetings and have offered our perspectives. We agree for the most part with the current DNR’s management plans and are open to modifications which do not interfere with the goal of conserving habitat of oak savannah and thereby the rare species including the Uncas Skipper that need that ecosystem to survive.

After the listening sessions, the DNR Commissioner is to submit a report by Jan 15, 2017 on progress on "collaborating with local citizens and other stakeholders... when making decisions that impact the landscape, including forest conversions and other clear-cutting activities, and the Forestry division's progress on other citizen engagement activities."

Get Ready For Spring Wildflower Walks!

Members of Friends of Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas love to visit the SNAs in the springtime, when all the wildflowers come out and bloom. Check the Calendar for times one or more of us plans a field trip and c'mon along!  (Click on the date for more details).  Early April bloomers include:

  • Western Rock Jasmine

  • American Pasqueflower

  • Marsh Marigold

  • Lyre-Leaved Rock Cress

  • Eastern Dwarf Mistletoe

Visit to Blaine Preserve SNA


Some of the Friends visited Blaine SNA recently and admired the plants there.


   "The land that is now the Blaine SNA was slated for development in 1999 when the city, using a DNR grant, hired ecologist Jason Husveth to create a citywide plant inventory.


     "Husveth discovered a rare grassy fen, a marshy area fed by mineral-rich groundwater, in the future preserve and eventually cataloged nearly 300 native plant species — representing about 15 percent of the state's total. Among them were 13 rare plants, more than at any of the other 16 SNAs in the metro area, DNR officials said." Jim Adams Star Tribune July 26, 2013


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