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Working to protect the Mississippi River and its watershed in the Twin Cities area
The Dakota County Farmland and Natural Areas Program (FNAP) is administered by Dakota County to identify and permanently protect important natural areas in the county. Friends of the Mississippi River has been involved in the program since its early planning stages. Today, our most important role is in assisting interested landowners in applying for the county program. In addition to assisting the County with basic landowner outreach, FMR has sought and received additional funding to help interested landowners through the FNAP application process.
Each year, the Dakota County Board of Commissioners surveys residents to learn what issues are on their minds. In the 1990s, Dakota County residents voiced strong concerns about the problems associated with rapid development, including the loss of farmland, natural areas, and open space. A two-year follow-up study led to a plan to protect these county assets: The Farmland and Natural Areas Program. Voters approved a $20 million bond referendum in November 2002 to fund the program, and it has been permanently protecting farmland and natural areas throughout the county.
Since the program’s inception, FMR has partnered with Dakota County to plan and implement the FNAP. Beginning in 2002, FMR has worked in cooperation with county staff to conduct outreach to people who own high quality natural areas in the county.
Our outreach to land owners begins with an introductory letter, which we follow with phone calls to each of those who received the letter. FMR meets with all interested landowners to provide information on the natural areas on their property, recommendations about restoration or management actions, and options on how the landowner can permanently protect the land, including specifics on the FNAP.
Under our contract with Dakota County, FMR’s role is limited to identifying landowners interested in permanent land protection and providing them with application materials for the program and information about restoration and protection options.
In 2004, FMR was able to greatly expand its landowner services through a generous grant from the St. Paul Foundation. With this support, staff are able to expand our efforts beyond our specific duties under FNAP and become a full partner and guide to landowners interested in taking action. Karen Schik, FMR’s ecologist & project manager, develops management plans and Conservation Director, Tom Lewanski is able to assist landowners in further exploring options, organizing project partners and applying to protection programs.
FMR’s land conservation goal is to protect, restore, and manage important natural areas along the Mississippi River and its important tributaries. Toward this end, staff of the Land Conservation Program work to build strong, trustful relationships with the owners of these natural areas. We feel this is a winning strategy for ensuring the long-term health of the upland areas that are vital to improving the Mississippi River ecosystem in the Twin Cities.
Private landowners can play an important part in protecting the Mississippi River ecosystem. If you are interested in information on what you can do to restore and protect natural areas on your property, contact Karen Schik or Tom Lewanski online or at 651-222-2193.