Say 'Yes!' to fund Dakota County parks and natural areas

Spring Lake Park, a regional park in Dakota County and one of FMR's restoration sites, is home to many wild animals, like fisher, in need of habitat. (Photo by Josh More [CC]).
 

In the mood for a little good news? There's some impressive conservation planning happening on behalf of natural resources and open spaces in Dakota County.

And with some urging from community members, the county-drawn plans could lead to some exciting land protection and habitat restoration projects — thousands of acres worth! 

A solid plan

As we wrote this spring, Dakota County released its Draft Land Conservation Plan in early 2020. It fully examines the value of natural places, the success of the county’s land conservation efforts to date, and opportunities to protect and restore additional land throughout the county.

Dakota County invited public feedback on the plan, and many FMR Conservation Blog readers responded, urging the county to adopt the framework for the next generation of land protection efforts. (Thank you!)

Now, a new report outlines how such land conservation measures might be paid for.

Let's fund it 

Our partners at the Trust for Public Land drafted a feasibility analysis that explores how to fund the county's conservation plan to protect and restore natural areas, parks and greenways throughout the county. It presents several viable public options and analyzes their feasibility and economic costs and benefits. 

Land conservation efforts in Dakota County have given us some well-loved places – including many that FMR has partnered to protect and restore along the Mississippi River and important tributaries, such as Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area, the Vermillion River Aquatic Management Area and Spring Lake Park Reserve (home to fisher, pictured above). 

Protecting and restoring land provides many benefits — in addition to providing recreational opportunities and wildlife and pollinator habitat, they help protect the health of our waters and provides many social, ecological and economic returns for years to come.

Benefits for years to come 

Land protection and habitat restoration are important parts of the solution for many current and future issues. Protected and restored land will help maintain Dakota County's air and water quality, control flooding and mitigate the impact of our changing climate. Habitat restoration also helps control soil erosion and promote water and nutrient cycling. 

It's difficult to precisely quantify the economic value of such benefits, but the conservation plan points to a Midwestern case study as well as a comprehensive review of 300 international case studies confirming that the long-term value of such ecosystem services is "considerable."   

Dakota County has done a good job of protecting natural areas, but it's also one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. Natural areas are disappearing. We need to support this plan.

Dakota County commissioners will hear a presentation about the feasibility study on July 7th. 

How you can help

If you live in Dakota County and would like to help support this much-needed and exciting investment in natural areas, greenways and parks, please let me know! I (Betsy Daub, FMR Conservation Director) can be reached at bdaub@fmr.org and look forward to hearing from you. 

If you don't live in Dakota County, sign up to be a River Guardian and we'll be in touch about statewide or local river issues in your area!