Landscape Planning and Land-Use Policy to Conserve Resources in Southeastern Minnesota

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CURA Reporter

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Document Type

Journal Article


Earth, Environmental and Geographical Sciences


Local, state, federal, and international organizations have made significant progress in recent decades to preserve open space and protect undeveloped land in Minnesota. In southeastern Minnesota's blufflands region, wetlands, tributaries to the Mississippi River, terraces, and upland sand dunes contribute to a complex landscape that provides critical habitat for rare, threatened, and endangered species. More than 95% of the land in southeastern Minnesota, however, is privately owned and therefore subject to local land-use policies and decisions. Bedrock geology also contributes to the uniqueness of southeastern Minnesota. The prevalence of karst in southeastern Minnesota has important implications for pollution control and conservation of natural resources in the area. Understanding southeastern Minnesota's karst topography and its influence on natural resources, therefore, is key to effective land management planning, including development of local land-use policies. This article summarizes a study of conservation of natural resources in Wabasha County, Minnesota. The first objective of this research was to evaluate the extent to which current land-use policy protects landscape functions and ecosystem services in a portion of the Upper Mississippi River basin in southeastern Minnesota. A second objective was to propose policy changes that might better protect the municipalities' landscape functions and ecosystem services in this region of karst topography. The long-term goal of this research is to help the DNR, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge, and other stakeholders to make planning decisions that protect the environmentally sensitive landscapes in the Upper Mississippi River watershed of southeastern Minnesota.