A big new prairie is on the way!

The farm field at the William H Houlton Conservation Area about to be turned into prairie

An aerial view of a prairie in progress. On the left: stubble left over from the fall soybean harvest. On the right: the half of the field worked up for broadcast seeding native prairie species.

It's not every day that FMR ecologists get to convert 180 acres of soybean and farm fields back to native prairie. Sure, we return park lawns and buckthorn thickets to prairie every year, but individual project sites rarely crack the 100-acre mark.

So we're especially excited about beginning the large-scale transformation at the William H. Houlton Conservation Area in Elk River. Check out some photos from the first steps of creating this much-needed pollinator and wildlife habitat at the confluence of the Elk and Mississippi rivers! 

November 13

Thank you, Kala and Annie!

 Annie Dubner and Kala Peebles

Annie Dubner (left) and Kala Peebles, our stellar summer 2017 intern and SuperVolunteers, about to examine milkweed plants for monarch eggs and caterpillars.

Surveying wildlife, supporting events, braving mosquitoes — Kala Peebles and Annie Dubner were indispensable and indefatigable throughout the 2017 field season. >>

November 9

Thank you, young river stewards!

Stenciling drains for the Mississippi River!

Members of the Youth Conservation Corps, one of 56 groups who helped stencil storm drains in St. Paul and Minneapolis with educational messages about how they connect to the Mississippi River.

Together, they stenciled over 2,000 storm drains with educational messages, collected trash throughout Twin Cities parks, and helped not only restore habitat along the river but research the best ways to keep it healthy in the future. They are FMR's youth volunteers, and their contributions are legion. ​ >>

November 7

St. Paul approves Ford site plans without additional parkland

Ford site

Although FMR supports the overall plans for the Ford site — the 135-acre site along the Mississippi River to be transformed into a modern riverfront community — we're disappointed the city declined to add more river-bluff parkland. (Photo used with the permission of the Metropolitan Design Center. ©Regents of the University of Minnesota)

This September, the St. Paul City Council approved the zoning plan for the Ford site, giving the go-ahead to redevelop the 135-acre river-bluff site without requiring additional parkland. But our efforts to expand nearby blufftop parks and address the toxic dump in the floodplain below aren't over yet. >> 

October 15

What's it like to walk to the river in north Minneapolis?

The river is just a few blocks away but it may as well be miles. But community members, FMR and our Northside partners are working to change that. (Photo courtesy of Blue Cross Blue Shield.)

What's it like to walk to the river along Dowling Avenue North in Minneapolis? Harsh, inspiring and beautiful are all words that were used when we joined neighbors in lacing up our walking shoes and heading to the river on two warm September evenings.

With great change on the horizon for where Dowling meets the Mississippi (new riverfront parkland!), we walked and talked and imagined the possibilities. We'd hoped that bringing people to these spaces would spark interest in advocating for improved public access to the riverfront and we were not disappointed. We hope you'll join us too! >>

October 10

Nature Notes: Fall is for the squirrels

Gray squirrel feeding on a tree branch

'Tis the season for gray squirrels to fatten up.

Each year, the cool fall weather is accompanied by a flurry of wildlife activity. Most species are busy preparing for the winter — gathering and storing food, prepping their nests and burrows, and putting on a few extra pounds. In the Twin Cities, no animal is a better example of this than the gray squirrel.

While many residents consider them a bit of a nuisance — chattering from the trees, darting across streets, and leaving piles of chewed food on decks and sidewalks — these smart little critters have an interesting history and impressive adaptations that allow them to flourish in our human-dominated landscape. >>

October 9

Volunteers help scientists gather critical data about monarch butterflies

Volunteer-bred monarch

Monarchs face a complex array of threats, but volunteers are acquiring much-needed data to help the embattled species survive.

Through heat, rain and mosquitos, eight dedicated FMR volunteers surveyed a patch of milkweed plants throughout the summer, hunting for the eggs and larvae of monarch butterflies. Their efforts, combined with hundreds of others', help researchers better understand the complex ecological needs of our iconic, declining monarchs. >>

October 9

Check out our first mural for water quality!

Saint Paul's first storm-drain mural!

FMR worked closely with neighborhood groups and local artist Gustavo Lira to design St. Paul's first storm-drain mural. The koi fish represents Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, the music notes Como Dockside and the snapping turtle Como Lake.

When you think of a storm drain, what do you see? The concrete of the street, perhaps a metal grate. How about a pathway to our local lakes or the Mighty Mississippi? Or a large beautiful painting that helps illustrate this connection with our local waters?

Now you can check out such a work of art along Como Lake in St. Paul. The result of an 18-month collaborative partnership, the new mural is the first of its kind in St. Paul, possibly in the metro. >>

October 7

Proposed MN nitrate rule fails to protect drinking water

row crops and water tower

Annual crops planted in rows, like corn and soybeans, are treated with nitrate fertilizers that are increasingly ending up in Minnesotan's drinking water. (Photo by Weekly Grist, Joe Dempsey.)

We can all agree that clean, safe drinking water should be accessible and affordable for everyone regardless of geography or income. Sadly, that’s not the case for many Minnesotans.

Nitrate used in cropland fertilizer is a leading source of drinking water contamination in Minnesota. Although essential for plant growth and health, excess nitrate harms aquatic life and human health and drives the formation of the “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. It's also extremely costly to Greater Minnesota communities.

That’s why FMR is working with our conservation allies to strengthen a new Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule – one of the few places in state law where regulators can require row-crop farming operations, the biggest source of nitrates, to reduce pollution to our waters. >>

October 6

Downtown St. Paul riverfront development plans fall through

West Publishing and county jail site in downtown St. Paul

After spending millions to demolish city and county-owned buildings built into and atop the bluff just west of where Wabasha bridge meets downtown, St. Paul and Ramsey County are once again looking for a developer to return the site to the tax rolls and strengthen St. Paul's riverfront.

The redevelopment of the former West Publishing and county jail site on the bluffs of the Mississippi in downtown St. Paul hit another snag recently when the landowner, Ramsey County, and the prospective developer, Cardon Development Group, decided to part ways. The county is now considering plans that call for less parking.

FMR has been closely following efforts to redevelop the site and recently served on a task force formed by the county and the city to provide guidance. >>

September 13

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