Environmental Review Toolkit
Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

rushing stream through natural area

Minnesota Department of Transportation

Bob Jacobson Restoration Site

Not until now have government agencies in Minnesota undertaken a wetland restoration effort as large as the Bob Jacobson Restoration Site in the state's Red River Valley. The 1,900 acres of restored areas--former croplands--will one day resemble what the land looked like before it was farmed.

Usually, state agencies develop wetland restoration projects by themselves. On this project, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) and the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) worked together from the very beginning. Since both agencies wanted to create a wetland bank, and since both needed wetland replacement credits to mitigate the impacts of ongoing road repair and reconstruction projects, it made sense to form a partnership. The resulting agreement specified Mn/DOT would fund the land purchase and handle the title searches and right-of-way issues. BWSR would manage the project, certify wetland replacement credits, and provide technical assistance on seeding plans and wetland restoration design.

The numbers are impressive. The Bob Jacobson project has restored approximately 750 acres of wetlands and 1,150 acres of native upland vegetation. More than 130 individual basins have been restored and range in size from 1/2 acre to 50 acres. To connect the scattered basins, contractors simply adjusted the elevation of the water flow on the rolling terrain. Water was then taken out of an existing upstream ditch system and routed through 2 miles of basins onto the project.

Another impressive feature: the first planting phase occurred on more than 600 acres--the largest single block of native planting ever done by a Minnesota state agency. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) donated seed for the restoration from a nearby native prairie which had never been plowed. By using seed harvested from this source, the resulting restorations will closely parallel the species composition that existed on the site before it was drained and filled for farming. Seventy-five different seeds were identified in the mix used, among them blazing star, fox sedge, and purple prairie clover.

The combination of routing the water through the restored wetlands and converting cropland to native prairie will help reduce runoff, sedimentation, and flooding. The restoration project will also create badly needed habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. It will even create conditions for a future greenway connecting DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) lands downstream of this site.

Eventually the Bob Jacobson site will be transferred to the DNR to become one of the state's Wildlife Management Areas. The site will link two existing federal waterfowl production areas and will form one contiguous public land complex more than 2,600 acres in size. Since both the USFWS and The Nature Conservancy have large management units near the Bob Jacobson project, they'll help DNR manage the site.

For more information, contact Sarma Straumanis, Sarma.straumanis@state.mn.us

This restoration was recently renamed in honor of Bob Jacobson (1958 - 2007), the Mn/DOT Botanist who played a key role in the vegetative restoration of this site.

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