The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is seeking comments until April 4 on a proposal to establish a Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) in Crow Wing County, approximately one mile southwest of Garrison. If approved, this would be the first state Scientific and Natural Area in Crow Wing County.
The DNR has an opportunity to establish this SNA in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy. The proposed Mille Lacs Moraine SNA includes 585 acres of private land the DNR intends to purchase with funds from the Reinvest in Minnesota Critical Habitat Match Program.
SNAs are a state land unit, like state parks or wildlife management areas, but with a different emphasis. The purpose of SNAs is to protect the best of Minnesota’s remaining natural heritage, such as rare species, native prairies, old-growth forests, and significant landforms and geologic features.
The proposed SNA lies within the larger, 82-square mile Mille Lacs Moraine Site. This area is identified by the Minnesota County Biological Survey (MCBS) as a Site of Outstanding Biodiversity Significance, MCBS’s highest-quality rank. Sites of Outstanding Biodiversity Significance contain the best occurrences of the rarest species, the most outstanding examples of the rarest native plant communities, and/or the largest and most ecologically-intact or functional landscapes.
The proposed SNA provides an opportunity to protect an example of this landscape and its notable features: lakes and wetlands embedded in steep moraine ridges covered with good-quality red oak-basswood forest, and associated rare species, including red-shouldered hawk, cerulean warbler, and several plant species.
“Creating the Mille Lacs Moraine SNA would preserve an ecologically sensitive parcel of property, while also making it more accessible,” said Steve Wilson, DNR SNA specialist. “What was formerly a private piece of property will now be managed for preservation in a way that allows more people to enjoy it.”
The Mille Lacs Moraine SNA is proposed to be open to fishing, hunting, and dogs under control. SNAs are also open to the public for nature observation, education, scientific research, and other non-motorized recreation. Visitors are welcome to hike the area or visit by other means of foot travel, like skis and snowshoes.
Consistent with the above intended uses and protection of the site’s natural features, some activities are typically not allowed in SNAs. They include camping, campfires, trapping, damaging vegetation, or motorized recreation.
The DNR is seeking comments about establishing this area as an SNA, including what public uses should be allowed. If established, an individual management plan will be developed for the SNA. The public is encouraged to provide comments that will help guide the future management of this area. Comments will be shared with the Crow Wing County Board when this proposal is brought to them for their consideration at their April 10 meeting.
An open house will also be held by the DNR so those interested can ask questions and share their comments in person. It will be held on March 29, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Garrison City Hall, 27069 Central Street in Garrison.
Comments about the proposed SNAs may be sent to Steve Wilson, DNR SNA Program, 650 Highway 169, Tower, MN, 55790, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org . The deadline for submitting comments is April 4.
Additional information on Scientific and Natural Areas may be found at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/snas/index.html .