Legacy Amendment money at work in St. Croix watershed

Amendment funds are being recommended for projects which would purchase conservation easements along the lower St. Croix, restore habitat in a trout stream tributary, and improve skiing at Lake Elmo Park Reserve.

The St. Croix: clean water, great recreation, and valuable habitat.I’m glad to hear that money from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment–which Minnesota voters passed in 2008 to increase the statewide sales tax to fund conservation, arts and culture project–is going to make a real impact in the St. Croix River watershed.

Minnesota conservation legend Darby Nelson, who now serves on the Lessard Council which makes recommendations to the Legislature on how to spend the money on habitat projects every year, mentions a couple interesting projects that the council is recommending in a post on The first one addresses a dire need along the Lower St. Croix where development is threatening the river:

A million dollar allocation to Washington County will help preserve fish and wildlife habitat by protecting 253 acres of critical riparian habitat and one mile of shoreland. The work will complete a permanently protected three mile continuous corridor along the lower St. Croix.

Referencing the original application (PDF), it looks to be primarily conservation easements on some land located adjacent to St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park and Carpenter Nature Center.

Valley Creek, a unique trout stream in Afton and a St. Croix tributary, will benefit from a $1.2 million allocation:

This stream that flows into the St. Croix is one of very few trout streams in Minnesota where trout populations can perpetuate themselves through natural reproduction. According to Tom Waters, retired fisheries professor at the University of Minnesota, not only is this stream one of the best producers of trout in the state but it is believed to be in the top ten percent of trout streams in the world by that measure. More than twenty endangered or at risk wildlife species call the stream’s watershed home.

Here is the full request (PDF). By all accounts, it’s an amazing little stream and the only trout stream of any note within 50 miles of my home. But I’ve never fished it and probably never will, because landowners along the stream are notoriously protective and gaining any access is all but impossible. It grates against the sensibilities of many of us trout fishers who so value public access to public waters.

Maybe this issue speaks to the struggle many conservation organizations–and particularly the secretive trout-fishing community–face : do you publicize and open up a stream to fishing so you build a strong community that will work for its protection? Or is the added pressure not worth the political potential? In this case, it seems like the landowners and a nonprofit were enough to get the job done.

A bit further from the river, but in the watershed, I recently learned that Lake Elmo Park Reserve, a popular destination for cross-country skiing, will be getting some lighted ski trails for nighttime skiing and a beautiful barn on the property will be converted to a chalet/warming house, all with our tax dollars. Edit: D’oh. By my own map of the watershed, it appears the the Park Reserve is actually just outside the watershed.

It’s really great hearing about all this and it’s exactly why I voted “yes.” Let’s hope the legislature respects the Lessard Council’s hard work and approves these projects in the upcoming session!

Related blog posts about the amendment from back when it was being debated:

2 replies on “Legacy Amendment money at work in St. Croix watershed”

That’s the truth. That website where the quotes in this post come from is wholly dedicated to monitoring the Amendment dollars. There are a bunch of people spending a lot of time and energy at the legislature just working to ensure that Amendment money is not used to replace other conservation funding, which was expressly not the point of the amendment.

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