History: The county works with local governments and landowners to conserve and protect natural resources and wildlife habitat. In 2016, the board approved the Natural Resources Strategic Plan and the Hennepin County Conservation Easement Program (Resolution 16-0144R2), which together established a framework to pursue conservation easements and criteria for evaluating conservation easement opportunities. A conservation easement is a set of development restrictions a landowner voluntarily places on their property in order to preserve its conservation value. The landowner retains ownership of the land and continues to pay property taxes.
The Minnesota Land Trust (MLT) is a Minnesota non-profit organization that acquires, holds, manages, and enforces conservation easements in Minnesota. Currently, the county and MLT jointly hold three conservation easements pursuant to the terms of the Agreement A080788 (Resolutions 18-0049, 11-0226, and 08-0223). The board also approved adding a fourth conservation easement (Resolution 12-0478); however, that easement was not acquired, and funds were not disbursed for that acquisition.
The proposed easement property in Minnetrista (Minnetonka Headwaters-1) includes existing wetland, forest, and oak savanna habitats and is one of the largest remaining natural wetland parcels in the Six Mile Creek-Halsted Bay Subwatershed of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed. The landowner has worked with the county and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the past several years to improve the quality of wildlife habitat on this property. The placement of a conservation easement is a natural extension of this ongoing investment.
The proposed easement property in Independence (Lake Independence-1) adds 20 acres to an existing 48-acre easement and contributes to a contiguous 130 acres of protected natural areas. This property is connected to the Robina Lake Wildlife Management Area (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources), as well as hundreds of acres of high quality, but unprotected, habitat. It contains good quality forests, wetlands, and prairies, and provides an opportunity for ecological restoration of a 4-acre hayfield.
County environmental staff have determined that these properties meet the criteria set forth in the Conservation Easement Program. These projects were also reviewed by a Technical Advisory Committee of external partners who have agreed that they are worthy of protection. Both Minnetonka Headwaters-1 and Lake Independence-1 protect designated Ecologically Significant Areas, and Lake Independence-1 is also part of a designated Natural Resource Corridor.
Funds used to pay MLT for stewardship of the easements will come from the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund. Easements will be acquired using a grant from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, a part of the Clean Water and Land Legacy Amendment.
Current Request: This request seeks approval of Amendment 4 to A080788 with MLT to co-hold two conservation easements for properties in the cities of Minnetrista and Independence, increasing the amount not to exceed by $26,500 with a new total not to exceed of $114,500.
This request also seeks to reallocate the $21,500 for the costs associated with acquisition of a conservation easement in Greenfield that will not be completed.
Impact/Outcomes: The proposed easements will permanently protect ecologically significant natural areas in the cities of Minnetrista and Independence, which provide wildlife habitat, flood storage, water filtration, and groundwater recharge. In addition, the proposed easement in Independence provides an opportunity to restore 4 acres of habitat.