Agassiz Dunes is one of our most beautiful preserves, with old, gnarly bur oaks growing on high sand dunes that are carpeted with grama and bluestem grasses. Visitors can absorb the beauty of the dune area from spring through fall, and of special interest is a grand display of pasque flower in early spring.
Northwestern Minnesota, near Fertile
Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
The Minnesota Natural Heritage Program has identified approximately 74,000 acres of this landscape as ecologically significant. Our goal is to continue to preserve, manage and restore the Agassiz prairies by acquiring additional tracts, restoring grassland buffers, connecting core natural areas, and reducing the threat from exotic species. Cooperation with local citizens and land managers will provide opportunities for public education and field experience in this region.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The preserve was acquired by The Nature Conservancy in 1965 from four area farmers, thanks to contributions from individuals and the McKnight Foundation. Agassiz Dunes was designated a Scientific and Natural Area in 1981, and all the land now is leased to this program. Faculty and students from nearby universities are regular visitors to the site, including groups from University of Minnesota's Itasca Biological Station, which have explored the preserve annually since 1930.
Nearby, the City of Fertile owns 560 acres of sand dunes and is developing the area as an environmental learning center. Between the city land and the preserve is 240 acres of private land that the owner has registered with The Nature Conservancy. The registry agreement has dramatically improved the long-term prospects of this ecosystem.
Prescribed burns and aspen girdling and cutting are among the most important management techniques employed at the preserve. In addition, fencing and firebreaks have been constructed.