We know from experience that maintaining permanent vegetative cover along the shorelines of rivers, streams and lakes leads to higher quality water and wildlife habitat. That’s why conservation groups are working with public partners and landowners to protect land along the Cannon River.

Thanks to the collaborative work of the Trust for Public Land, Goodhue County and the Cannon River Watershed Partnership, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will add 205 acres to the Cannon River Turtle Preserve Scientific and Natural Area and the Cannon Valley Trail will add 9 acres to this public trail system. The effort will help protect habitat important for turtles, such as Blanding’s turtle, one of southeast Minnesota’s rarest turtle species. It will also provide opportunities for wildlife-based recreation including hiking, hunting, fishing, bird-watching and nature observation.

“This is an excellent opportunity for young and old to be a part of nature and protect the areas for future citizens to enjoy,” said Brad Anderson, Goodhue County commissioner and Cannon River Watershed Partnership board member. “The coordinated efforts of the organizations is the best way to acquire and protect these sensitive areas right outside our back doors.”

The Cannon River flows through the newly protected land near its confluence with the Mississippi River in Red Wing. The land is primarily made up of floodplain forest, yet it also has steep slopes and prairie habitat high above the Cannon River. It also includes a calcareous fen, one of Minnesota’s rarest wetland types.

The Cannon Valley Trail also passes through this newly protected property. CVT Manager Scott Roepke said a “cultural heritage” park, planned for this new 9-acre parcel, will allow trail visitors to explore a unique flat-topped archeological mound and other culturally significant sites.

The 205-acre addition to the Cannon River Turtle Preserve SNA, which was funded by the Outdoor Heritage Fund, increases the SNA in size by nearly 25% and continues the protection of this dynamic environment. This SNA contains southern terrace floodplain and maple-basswood forest, oak-hickory woodland, and prairie with ongoing prairie reconstructions that look down on the Cannon River. This land is critical habitat for the “threatened” Blanding’s turtle. The DNR’s SNA program protects the best of Minnesota's remaining natural heritage for scientific study and public understanding.

This land acquisition was completed as part of the Cannon River Watershed Habitat Complex program, a partnership between The Trust for Public Land, the Cannon River Watershed Partnership and Great River Greening. In this partnership, The Trust for Public Land acquires and protects land, Cannon River Watershed Partnership coordinates the program’s outreach to landowners, and Great River Greening restores and enhances important habitat. Acquisition funding will be available for the permanent protection of high habitat value lands within the Cannon River Watershed.

If you’re interested in learning more about the program, contact Alan Kraus, conservation program manager for the Cannon River Watershed Partnership at alan@crwp.net or at 507-786-3913. The program gets its funding primarily from the Outdoor Heritage Fund.