SNA Nature Notes - Spring 2014

Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas header

Spring 2014

An Update to Recreational Uses of SNAs

This spring public hearings are being held to consider allowing additional uses at 10 SNAs across the state. The public uses being considered will be  determined on a site-by-site basis. Depending on the site, uses being considered are hunting, trapping, fishing, berry-picking, access by watercraft, swimming, and allowing dogs under control.

Hearings will be held in April and May for:


More information on hearing dates, the specific uses proposed for each site, and how to provide site specific comments, can be found on the Recreation Uses of SNAs Project web page.



Do ever you wonder how SNAs are funded?

Logo for Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment

Logo for Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund

By Peggy Booth, SNA Program Supervisor

The acquisition and management of SNAs depends largely upon money appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature.

Most of our funding is from the Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund, which comes from state lottery proceeds with recommendations by the Legislative Citizens Commission on Natural Resources. Through a competitive grant process each year SNAs receive about $1-3 million dollars. Pending approval of the current legislature, starting in July 2014, SNAs will receive $2.5 million for site acquisition, restoration, natural resource management, and public outreach.

Outdoor Heritage Funding originates from sales taxes generated by the Legacy Amendment - as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. This is our second largest source of funding. Again, through a competitive grant process, each year SNAs receive up to about $1 million dollars for acquisition, prairie restoration, and prairie enhancement. Two proposals that include SNAs and Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are pending legislative approval in 2014.

Each year, SNAs get about $400,000 in state general funding - the state's regular budget supported by taxpayers. With this we need to cover all expenses and staff costs not eligible for grant funds. We also regularly seek funding from state general obligation bonds (so-called "bonding" for longer term capital projects) but have not received any new bonding money since 2008.

Several non-profits also donate land or coordinate SNA projects - thanks in particular to The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, Friends of the Mississippi River, and Great River Greening.

We're very grateful for the contributions that come directly from people like you! These include gifts of land and cash contributions. Of special note are the volunteers and site stewards who work tirelessly to enhance and protect these special places. To all supporters we express our sincere thanks.



Snowshoeing on the Prairie

Photo of group snowshoeing at Blanket Flower Prairie SNA

By Brandon Dahl, Natural Resources Management Club President

The site stewards at Blanket Flower Prairie SNA, which include student members of the Natural Resources Management Club (NRM Club) at North Dakota State University (NDSU), invited the public out on February 22nd for a fun event. We hosted a snowshoe/skiing hike through the site to introduce the new members and public to the prairie in winter and meet our Regional SNA Management Specialist, Shelley Hedtke. Six hearty NRM Club members and Shelley ventured out. The day was sunny, but a bitter-cold wind chilled us as we were on the site. Travel was difficult because the snow was deep due to the hills and scattered clusters of aspen that acted like snow fences to catch the snow. The snow was also hard-crusted but granulated underneath and we broke through many times even though we were well prepared for the conditions.

We, as a club, do surveys on Blanket Flower Prairie SNA. The recent one we started last fall, and which is planned to be completed this fall, is the Hill's Thistle survey; a threatened, native thistle that is at the northwestern limit of its range here. Shelley mentioned that Conservation Corps Minnesota (CCM) does aspen and invasive control in the summer and we may want to survey for mammals, amphibians, and reptiles on the site as well. We are looking into the needed materials on both activities, so we may start participating with CCM and working with other NDSU departments to conduct the other surveys.



SNA Events

Photo of tree frog

As the sounds, smells, and sights of spring emerge come experience them on one of these fun and educational events.

A full list is available on the SNA Events Calendar.



Great River Bluffs State Park and King's and Queen's Bluff SNA

First Days of Spring Hike


Wolsfeld Woods SNA

Spring Frog Walk


Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods SNA

Wildflower and Bird Walk




Site Highlight: Iron Horse Prairie SNA

Photo of Iron Horse Prairie SNA

The rich prairie soils of Minnesota provide the foundation for the diverse array wildflowers and grasses found at Iron Horse Prairie SNA. Over 300 species of native plants call this site home. The mesic tallgrass prairie here is the largest of its kind in southeastern Minnesota and includes a number of rare species.

Extensive woody removal has been done here in the last two years to enhance the prairie. Willow, aspen, and other aggressive trees and shrubs have been cut to allow sunlight in and encourage the growth of native grasses and wildflowers. These restoration efforts in conjunction with periodic prescribed burns will ensure the long-term health of this special place.



Notes from Site Stewards

Photo of ruffed grouse snow roost

Site stewards monitoring SNAs across Minnesota have experienced a quiet winter on their sites. The intense cold and deep snow seemed to have kept both animals and people closer to home, but a few memorable moments have taken place! Here are some of the interesting notes from those reports:

  • Joan Spence, a new steward with us, rang in the new year with observations at Pembina Trail SNA on January 2nd. The field visit included inspection of entrance and interpretive signs.
  • Have you ever seen a ruffed grouse snow roost? Ray Nelson, site steward at Ripley Esker SNA, saw the one in the adjacent photo on his February 16th visit to the SNA, where it looks like an alarmed grouse had escaped a fox. He was pretty sure about this because later he nearly stepped on a ruffed grouse still under the snow. All of a sudden the snow exploded and it flew off leaving a similar hole. The experience, Ray said, "really woke me up!".
  • Numerous stewards participated in a DNR-sponsored enrichment workshop March 1st at the DNR Central Office in Saint Paul. The agenda included presentations on the Ecological Classification System, Native Plant Communities, safety training, biological survey methods, and invasive species identification. Similar events in the future are anticipated for stewards in other areas of the state.

Thanks stewards for submitting those reports, and keep them coming!



Nature Notes is the Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas quarterly e-newsletter. It seeks to increase interest, understanding and support of natural areas while promoting involvement in the protection of these special places. Contact us at


Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).