Partners prep Riceford Creek for restoration © Rich Biske/TNC
The Nature Conservancy, Conservation Corps Minnesota (CCM) and the Root River Soil and Water Conservation District are working together to restore wildlife habitat and improve water quality. In a new twist on an old concept, crews are restoring bluff prairies and shoring up a quarter mile segment of Riceford Creek in Houston County by recycling natural materials.
CCM crews have already prepared approximately 1,300 feet of Riceford Creek for restoration and are starting to clear approximately 80 invasive cedar trees from nearby bluff prairies.
The trees, which have grown between 14 and 18 feet high, did not use to be atop the region’s hills. Today, they’re crowding and shading out native plants found in bluff prairies that provided great habitat for different species of wildlife including the state-threatened timber rattlesnake.
CCM crews will lay the trees end-to-end along a stretch of Riceford Creek and anchor them to the stream bank to help prevent erosion and reduce the amount of sediment and phosphorous entering the creek. Excess sediment and phosphorous can damage aquatic habitat and contribute to algae blooms. Riceford Creek flows into the South Fork of the Root River. The Root River is a tributary of the Mississippi River.
“The land is being returned to a more natural condition,” said Rich Biske, who oversees The Nature Conservancy’s work in Southeast Minnesota. “And using these trees to shore up a beautiful stream and help clean up our waters is a big bonus.”
“This is a great model for the Root River watershed,” said Richard Stemper, district technician for the Root River Soil and Water Conservation District.
The district identified willing landowners and applied to the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources for a Clean Water Fund grant that was made possible as a result of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. Funding for the project was also provided by the Mosaic Foundation.
“Water quality affects everyone and CCM is honored to be a part of the first stream bank revetment in this area,” said Drew Wilwert, who is leading the CCM crew that is clearing the cedars and stabilizing Riceford Creek. “Projects like these are important to prevent soil erosion and limit farm chemical run off. It has been a great learning experience working directly with the Conservancy and Root River Soil and Water Conservation District.”
CCM and the Root River Soil and Water Conservation District were key to the project, said Biske, who conceived of the effort to clear the bluff prairies of cedar and then use the material to restore the stream.
The Nature Conservancy and the Root River Soil and Water Conservation District have worked together for years to implement targeted conservation practices to help restore the Root River.
Likewise, Conservation Corps Minnesota has long helped the Conservancy keep its preserves in good natural condition by helping clear bush, remove invasive species and conduct prescribed burns.
“They’ve been great partners,” Biske said.
Winona State University researchers conducted a stream survey and assessment that helped determine where restoration would be most beneficial to reduce erosion and improve stability and will continue to monitor water quality to determine the project’s benefits.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.