The Nature Conservancy protected 1,082 acres in the Root River watershed in Fillmore County.
The property is now owned and managed by Minnesota DNR as Choice Wildlife Management Area. The property spans the bluffs along Vesta Creek, which flows into the Root River, a Mississippi River tributary. Vesta Creek is one of only a few streams in the state that is home to native brook trout and contains relatively few introduced brown trout, a good indicator of exceptional water quality and aquatic habitat. In all, more than five miles of cold-water trout stream meander through the property.
In addition to the stream and 210 acres of floodplain, the property also includes hardwood forest, oak savanna, oak-hickory woodland and bluff prairie. Its long, southwest-facing bluff prairie is ideal habitat for the state-threatened timber rattlesnake.
Choice WMA is the largest acquisition completed under the Conservancy’s Southeast Minnesota Protection and Restoration Program.
Funding for the property was provided by the Outdoor Heritage Fund, which was created under the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, through an appropriation by the Minnesota Legislature as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
Choice WMA is open to the public for hiking, photography and bird-watching. The Minnesota State Constitution requires property purchased with Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars to be open to the public taking of fish and game during the open season. Hunting, trapping and fishing is allowed on this property in accordance with DNR Wildlife Management Areas rules published in the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook.