This past year, thanks to an impactful grant from Xcel Energy, The Nature Conservancy and River Bend Nature Center teamed up to combat invasive species near Faribault. Work was completed at the Nature Center and adjacent Conservancy property, the Straight River Wildflower Preserve. This work is important because healthy prairies filter water, sequester carbon and provide healthy wildlife habitat. In addition, this area is home to the largest-known population of our state’s rarest plant, the endangered dwarf trout lily.
What makes dwarf trout lilies so special? These tiny, delicate plants are early spring bloomers that adapted to flower and grow before surrounding trees develop their leaves. By the time summer shade darkens the forest floor this lily has bloomed and generated its food for the coming year. Through this project we are working to protect the dwarf trout lily, an endangered species, and critical prairie habitat for birds, butterflies and other species.
With the grant from Xcel Energy, the Conservancy and River Bend worked along-side Americorps volunteers, Conservation Corps Minnesota crews, and community volunteers eradicating invasive species, training Nature Center staff and volunteers, and doing prairie restoration. Xcel Energy is a key corporate supporter of the Conservancy’s work on prairie restoration and stewardship across Minnesota. We are extremely grateful for their investment in our work.
“Our operations have a unique connection to the environment, and our customers count on us to produce energy responsibly, to reduce our impact and to conserve natural resources,” said Laura McCarten, Xcel Energy regional vice president. “We are proud to support the important work of The Nature Conservancy and River Bend Center to preserve and protect the natural environments we all value.”
River Bend Nature Center provides environmental education and outdoor classroom experiences for the Faribault School District, Scout programs, summer campers and the general public. The Nature Conservancy works with partners, like River Bend, in an effort to expand and maximize our conservation impact. This particular project focused on the removal of buckthorn and garlic mustard, two invasive weeds that crowd out native plants – like our delicate lilies. Thanks to our partnerships with Xcel and with River Bend Nature Center, the Conservancy has been far more effective in our efforts to protect our natural environments.