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Minneapolis's riverfront Above the Falls

View of downtown Mpls from the Lowry bridge

View from the Lowry Bridge in North and Northeast Minneapolis looking south towards downtown.

To celebrate our 25th year, each month in 2018 FMR staff will profile places along the metro Mississippi River that are near and dear to us, places that connect to FMR but that we also enjoy in our own downtime. By the end of our silver year, we'll have built a map of 25 special river places for you and yours to learn about, visit and enjoy.

This month: Minneapolis’s riverfront Above the Falls.

The Minneapolis riverfront north of St. Anthony Falls is an interesting juxtaposition of the natural, urban and industrial. Here you can enjoy bike and pedestrian trails, or rent a kayak to see a heron rookery, restored prairie, riverfront raingarden parks and sculptures, as well as industrial relics. You'll also want to visit often over the next decade to experience the changing riverfront, as more industrial sites are converted into public parklands.

February 12

If you build it, will they come? Investigating whether restored habitat means more wildlife.

A red fox ventures into an open, grassy area.

Bird surveys and wildlife cameras (one of which captured this red fox on film) have long provided a glimpse of how wildlife use our restoration sites. But recently we've been greatly expanding our monitoring to include amphibians, reptiles, pollinators and other insects.

Since the creation of our land conservation program over 20 years ago, FMR has protected, restored or enhanced over a thousand acres of prairie, forest, wetland and other types of wildlife and pollinator habitat in the metro area. But does increasing native habitat result in the return of native animals?

Learn about bird surveys, wildlife cams and our work with local high schools to find out. >>

February 9

Of snow and foresty mowers — a glimpse at our behind-the-scenes winter work

Forestry mower

One of the many types of forestry mowers used on FMR projects, often a bobcat or skidsteer with a modified front attachment.

You may think winter is the offseason for FMR’s outdoor work – a time when our ecologists are huddled inside for warmth, writing reports and grants, and pining for spring. But restoration work doesn’t stop because of snow. In fact, some tasks are specifically timed for the cold season, and set the stage for work throughout the year.

January 8

A shocking, long-awaited outing — The 2017 volunteer trout survey

“It’s been three years of cancellations with high water in the river and getting rained out," said volunteer Tom Ziegler with a smile. "They [FMR] dangle this carrot when we do the buckthorn removal across the road, that if we did that job, we would get to do this event.”

Well, 2017 was finally the year. >>

November 14

A big new prairie is on the way!

The farm field at the William H Houlton Conservation Area about to be turned into prairie

An aerial view of a prairie in progress. On the left: stubble left over from the fall soybean harvest. On the right: the half of the field worked up for broadcast seeding native prairie species.

It's not every day that FMR ecologists get to convert 180 acres of soybean and farm fields back to native prairie. Sure, we return park lawns and buckthorn thickets to prairie every year, but individual project sites rarely crack the 100-acre mark.

So we're especially excited about beginning the large-scale transformation at the William H. Houlton Conservation Area in Elk River. Check out some photos from the first steps of creating this much-needed pollinator and wildlife habitat at the confluence of the Elk and Mississippi rivers! 

November 13

Walk amongst the invaders (video)

Ever wonder what keeps FMR ecologists up at night? Buckthorn and crown vetch may have pretty glossy leaves or flowers, but for anyone who cares about wildlife, they're a serious threat to forest and prairie habitat in the metro river corridor.

Join FMR ecologist Alex Roth for a walk through our most common invasives: buckthorn, bush honeysuckle, garlic mustard, burdock, spotted knapweed and crown vetch. Along the way, you'll learn why they matter and how to identify and remove them in your own back yard. All in two minutes!

Thank you Tom Reiter and Will Stock for creating this wonderful video!

August 7

Get that beaver a Super Volunteer T-shirt!

Thank you, beaver!

FMR ecologists were surprised to find that many of the trees we'd planned to remove at a North Minneapolis riverfront restoration site were taken care of by an anonymous, furry volunteer. (Photo courtesy Mississippi State Extension office as we were unable to catch her or him in the act.)

With the second phase of native prairie restoration set to begin at Ole Olson Park along the North Minneapolis riverfront, FMR is grateful for the help of an unlikely partner.

June 12

Losing our cottonwoods: What’s at stake?

Installing cottonwood live stakes in the floodplain forest near Hastings

On a recent rainy October morning, volunteers from 3M helped FMR ecologists install over 300 cottonwood live stakes near the river in Hastings. Vital for wildlife and floodplain forests, cottonwoods have not been regenerating along the river. In 2013, FMR began a series of experimental plantings to help restore these imperiled icons. So far, live staking appears to be a promising method.

A key species of floodplain forests, Eastern Cottonwood trees aren't regenerating naturally in the floodplains. FMR ecologists and volunteers are using cottonwood cuttings or live stakes to re-establish a floodplain forest in Hastings.

November 7

Creating 'Prairie Park'

St. Paul Park refinery employees and community volunteers installed over 300 native plants at Prairie Park with FMR this summer. The planting was designed to especially benefit pollinators and serve as a demonstration prairie for homeowners interested in providing backyard habitat. Left to right: Eric Folsom, Todd Bjorgo, Dean Stockwell, Ben Joppa (FMR intern), Corb Hopkins, Kathy Schik. (Not pictured: Tom Bell.)

Two phrases not often used together are “prairie planting” and “oil refinery,” but many years ago employees at the St. Paul Park Refinery noticed a small patch of native prairie on company property and they've been taking care of it ever since. Recently, they worked with FMR to expand the natural area and also install a demonstration garden, hoping to inspire even more native plantings for pollinators.

September 12

Volunteers plant pollinator patches aplenty

An FMR Vermillion Stewards volunteer plants a pollinator patch.

Never unederestimate the power of a pollinator patch!

What can a small planting of milkweed and other natives really do for pollinators? More than you might think. 

Hastings Environmental Protectors and FMR teamed up to create three new pollinator patches, helping to provide much-needed habitat for a variety of insect and pollinating species in the Vermillion and Mississippi river watersheds.

 

August 8

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