Minneapolis residents: Act now to protect your riverfront!

by Colleen O'Connor Toberman

You can help protect birds in Minneapolis!

Minneapolis is about to adopt a new Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA) ordinance. This is an exciting milestone that will bring new development standards and environmental protections to our city’s riverfront.

Minneapolis’ draft ordinance has a lot of strengths, but we’d like it to be better for the birds. Join us in asking the city to require bird-safe building materials and lighting in new developments along the Mississippi River — a critical migratory flyway for up to 40% of the nation’s birds.

Get involved now

Public comments on the draft ordinance are being collected through October 9th. We’ve made it easy to submit comments to the city using this form.

Your comments don’t need to be long or technical; just focus on what you love about the Mississippi River and what your protection and development priorities are.

Want to learn more about the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area ordinance? There are several ways to do that:

What has Minneapolis proposed?

On the whole, we’re pleased with Minneapolis’ draft MRCCA ordinance; it reflects a high degree of value for the river as the vibrant heart of the city. And it thoughtfully balances dense urban development with protection for the river’s recreational, scenic, ecological and cultural functions. 

As one of the first (out of 25) metro-area cities to adopt its MRCCA ordinance, Minneapolis will set a strong example for other cities and townships. This will help the entire Twin Cities riverfront be more consistently managed as an asset for all residents. 

Minneapolis’ ordinance exceeds minimum state standards in several notable ways. These strong points include:

  • Establishing clear and consistent standards for considering exceptions to the ordinance's building height and shoreline setback requirements, including expectations that the project will not negatively harm wildlife, habitat and/or public views.
  • Creation of a strategy to encourage building heights (in some areas) to step down in height as they approach the river, creating a welcoming sense of scale and relationship to the river while preserving views and sightlines.
  • Specifying several potential mitigation strategies for any harmful impacts caused by building construction, vegetation removal or land alteration.
  • Setting the size threshold for development projects subject to open space protections to 5 acres (the state-mandated minimum standard is 10-20 acres).
  • Adding some protection for birds during nesting and migration.
  • Prohibiting fences near bluffs and shorelines on private land.

A cedar waxwing bird sits on a branch.

Adding bird protections

FMR believes that dense urban development is critical to addressing climate change. However, dense development can still include science-based provisions that reduce harm to wildlife and promote safe passage for species with whom we share this land. 

The Mississippi River is a crucial migratory corridor for about 40% of all North American migrating birds. Roughly 270 bird species live in or travel through the Twin Cities river flyway.

Bird populations are experiencing significant collapse and are under continued threat. In the U.S. it’s estimated that 600 million birds are killed in window strikes each year. 

One way to balance urban density with wildlife protection is to require bird-friendly lighting design, building design and building materials (such as fritted glass) in all new development along the river.

The state of Minnesota already incorporates these specifications into its B3 Guidelines for state-funded projects. FMR recommends that Minneapolis require adherence to the same specifications for all new buildings constructed within the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area.

Other cities with bird-safe design and/or materials requirements for some or all new buildings include New York City, Toronto, San Francisco, Oakland, California and Madison, Wisconsin. 

Not a Minneapolis resident?

Minneapolis is among the first to adopt its MRCCA ordinance, but there are 24 more cities and townships to come.

Check out our full list to see when they'll begin their work. Or sign up to become a River Guardian and we'll let you know when your city’s work is underway.

For more information

Contact FMR River Corridor Program Director Colleen O'Connor Toberman, ctoberman@fmr.org, 651.222.2193 x29.