Hikers in the prairie after a thunderstorm near Strawberry Lake, North Dakota.
Hikers traverse a North Dakota prairie. © Richard Hamilton Smith

Stories in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota

Conservation Highlights: Year in Review

Every year, TNC supporters (like you!) play a crucial role in furthering our mission to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Thanks to you, 2019 was another great year for land and water conservation in our region! With your help, we’re continuing to advance our most important conservation priorities in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

From working to save the Dakota skipper to planting trees in a Minneapolis neighborhood to protecting habitat for brook trout, your support is making a big difference! Thank you for every acre you’ve helped us protect, every animal you’ve provided habitat for and every tree that you helped us plant.

Please take a moment to celebrate the lands, waters, plants and wildlife that you helped The Nature Conservancy protect!

2019 Stewardship Report

Because of supporters like you, we are making big wins happen for nature every day. See all of them in our 2019 Stewardship Report.




Aerial of the Crow Wing River between 2nd and 3rd Crow Wing Lakes.
The Mississippi River Headwaters This area includes the river from Lake Itasca to the metro and major tributaries and surrounding lands, about a quarter of Minnesota’s geography. © Richard Hamilton Smith

Grassroots Organizing

We introduced Our Mississippi Our Future, an issue campaign to protect and restore the headwaters area of the Mississippi River for wildlife, recreation, clean drinking water and future generations.    

Coldwater Streams Trees planted along Minnesota’s north shore provide important habitat, climate resilience and clean water benefits for Lake Superior.

Trees for Trout

More than half a million trees were planted in Minnesota's Northwoods, including along trout streams, helping us to create a diverse and climate-resilient forest. Learn more.

A young timber rattlesnake moves through a ground layer of dead sticks and leaves Monday, June 12, 2017 on the side of Rushford Bluff near Rushford, Minn.
The Timber Rattlesnake A state threatened species in Minnesota, the timber rattlesnake is found only in the bluff land areas of the Driftless Region.

Habitat in the Driftless

We protected nearly 900 acres in southeastern Minnesota, including blufftop prairie and habitat for brook trout, timber rattlesnakes and red-headed woodpeckers.

American Bison and calf (Bison bison) in the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and Niobrara Wilderness Area of north central Nebraska.
Wind Cave Bison Among the last remaining American bison without traces of cattle genes in their DNA, Wind Cave bison are important to maintaining genetic diversity in the species. © Mark Godfrey/The Nature Conservancy

Saving Our National Mammal

To protect the Wind Cave bison herd in South Dakota, The Nature Conservancy moved additional bison from the national park to TNC preserves in Kansas, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. Wind Cave bison have unique genes not found in other herds. Learn more.

Topeka Shiner This federally endangered minnow is dependent on prairie steams for habitat, which have been in gradual decline due to land conversion.

Expanding Minnow Habitat

We worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to expand the Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge and protected habitat for the endangered Topeka shiner.    

Davis Ranch Preserve near Wing, North Dakota in United States, North America.
Prairie Pothole Region Among the world’s least protected landscapes, the prairie pothole region is important for bird habitat, flood resilience and carbon sequestration. © Layne Kennedy

Protecting Prairie Potholes

We helped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protect grasslands and wetlands in the Prairie Pothole region in North Dakota.    

The Nature Conservancy's Bluebell Ranch in the Prairie Coteau region near Clear Lake, South Dakota.
Private Lands Critical to advancing conservation, private landowners are key players in securing healthy and resilient lands and waters. © ©2011 Richard Hamilton Smith

Conservation Easements

And we worked with South Dakota landowners to protect privately-owned grasslands.    

Dakota Skipper A federally threatened species in Minnesota and the Dakotas, the Dakota skipper is helping researchers answer important questions about prairie ecosystems.

Baby Butterflies

Researchers documented reproduction of the Dakota skipper at our Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie Preserve for the first time in decades. The Minnesota Zoo completed its efforts to reintroduce the butterfly to the preserve this past summer.

Webber-Camden This neighborhood in Minneapolis has seen historic underinvestment and lost much of its urban canopy to a destructive 2012 tornado.

Planting for Resilience

We worked with volunteers to plant 14 different species of trees around Camden Central Pond in Minneapolis. In the face of climate change, selecting a highly diverse mix of trees is recommended to help ensure more trees will survive warmer weather, pests and disease.

A mother Tule Elk leans down to nuzzle her calf as it returns from a stint of cavorting with other calves. Tomales Bay State Park, CA, 6/18/18
Elk Having previously disappeared from Minnesota due to settlement and overhunting, the state now has more than 100 animals that have returned. © Loren Merrill/TNC Photo Contest 2019

Helping People and Elk Thrive Together

We helped protect one of Minnesota's elk herds in collaboration with the state by establishing a food plot to keep elk from encroaching on lands in agricultural production. Watch the video.

Our Water Increasingly at risk of degradation due to changes in land use, we are working to protect our waters in Minnesota and the Dakotas. © ©2015 Richard Hamilton Smith

Our Water Campaign

And finally, we went public with The Nature Conservancy's Our Water campaign. We're seeking major gifts from individuals, companies and foundations who want to preserve Lake Superior, protect and restore the Mississippi, reduce the impact of agriculture on water quality and conserve prairie streams.    

Thank You!

Summer fun in a Minnesota Lake
Protecting Our Water We’re working hard to ensure everyone’s ability to splash, play and explore our lakes and rivers. © ©1996 Richard Hamilton Smith

Thanks for helping us make a splash this year! We couldn’t do this good work without you.  


Help protect the nature you love!