SNA Nature Notes - Spring 2013

Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas header

Spring 2013

The SNA Strategic Plan

Map of areas for priority conservation

By Bill Bleckwenn, SNA Strategic Planner

The SNA Strategic Plan is approximately halfway through the project. An inventory of all of the Native Plant Communities (NPCs) within all of the SNAs for which data exists, has been completed—which is called a GAP analysis. This was done to see how close the program is to realizing its protection goals. In addition, the inventory has been extended to include all lands under public or conservancy ownership at the recommendation of the Commissioner's Advisory Committee—a group of conservation professionals that is providing technical oversight for the project. The GAP analysis results revealed that an average of approximately 30% of all types of NPCs for sections of the state for which data exist have some representation within the SNA program. When all other public lands and conservancies are added in, the proportion increases to approximately 92%.

A preliminary map of the state has been generated showing areas for priority for conservation in the SNA program. The sample of that map above shows the highest priority conservation areas are in red, medium priority in yellow, and lowest priority in green. Biodiversity significance and globally-ranked rare NPCs were the primary inputs used to generate the map. The prioritization was completed using Marxan, a mapping software that interfaces with Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Certain high-priority natural corridors emerged such as Buffalo Ridge in southwestern Minnesota, the Minnesota River Valley, and the glacial beach ridges of the eastern Red River Valley.

The next stages include the incorporation of new data into the inventory and prioritization mapping, developing a review process of site selection criteria for acquisitions, and drafting the Strategic Plan report. Each stage is reviewed by the Commissioner's Advisory Committee.



SNA Events

Photo of oak tree with new spring leaves

Spring is a great time to get out and enjoy the wildflowers, birds, and rhythms of life in a natural setting. Come along on one of these fun and educational hikes! A full list is available on the SNA Events Calendar.

Are you interested in exploring one of our newer sites? If so then mark June 15th on your calendar now for a volunteer project to remove buckthorn at Clinton Falls Dwarf Trout Lily SNA. Full event details will be posted on the SNA Events Calendar in coming weeks.



King's & Queen's Bluff SNA (Great River Bluffs State Park)

Earth Day Hike


Wolsfeld Woods SNA

Spring Warbler Walk


Blanket Flower Prairie SNA

Full Moon Hike




Site Highlight: Langhei Prairie

Photo of Langhei Prairie SNA

The mesic and wet prairie on the 40-acre Langhei Prairie SNA, much of which is in very good condition, was the basis for the recommendation to protect this site as a Scientific and Natural Area in 2008. A mosaic of mesic prairie, wet prairie, and prairie pothole wetlands like those found on the SNA once covered most of the Minnesota River watershed. Today vast acreages of these natural community types have been eliminated by wetland drainage and cultivation. Preservation of what remains has become an ever more important concern.

Of course, once a prairie site is protected maintaining its quality takes time and effort. The first steps have begun at Langhei Prairie with invasive species removal and the re-introduction of fire. Prescribed burns in the Spring of 2010 and 2012 and reduction of trees marked the first steps toward retaining the long-term health of this high quality gem.



Notes from Site Stewards

Photo of beaver pond at Kettle River SNA

Winter hasn't stopped the reports rolling in from site stewards monitoring SNAs across Minnesota. Their observations provide invaluable information to the SNA Program. Here are some interesting notes from recent reports:

  • On a beautiful January 5th, site steward Sheila Maybanks made a visit to Pine Bend Bluffs SNA and reported; "So many deer tracks. I followed the deer trails to see the lay of the land. Although I did not see any deer, there must be many as their tracks were everywhere!"
  • Winter wildlife was apparent at Kettle River SNA as Ed Heinen's February 8th steward report notes. The raised "secret" beaver pond, shown in the photo above, is damming a spring or creek. Noted observations included one beaver, close-up, lethargic; many tracks and trails with sign of river otters, including openings in the ice kept open for landings; deer tracks and mouse tracks with subnivean trails observed; and hawks, woodpeckers, nuthatches.
  • The site stewards at Blanket Flower Prairie SNA include student members of the Natural Resources Management Club at North Dakota State University (NDSU). On February 23rd they hosted a snowshoe hike and ski at the site. Travel was difficult because the snow was deep with a thin crust which was repeatedly broken through even though everyone was equipped for the conditions. Everyone did enjoy the nice weather and appreciated how hard it was to move around when snow is in that condition.

If you're a steward or simply enjoy visiting SNAs we would like to hear what wildflowers you see blooming as spring approaches! Send us a note on what you see at



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.


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).