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The Blufflands Landscape

Brownsville Minnesota - by Robert J. Hurt

Recognized as one of the great American treasures, the Mississippi River blufflands and its unique driftless features are one of the most scenic and culturally important regions in the United States.

Not only did the river and surrounding bluffs focus Native American culture and life, it provided the conduit by which early European explorers made their first significant foray into Middle America.

Peregrine chick, banded on the Howe family's protected property in Winona County.

Because of the unique geologic qualities of the region, the bluffs and valleys contains some of the state’s most significant biodiversity of plant communities and wildlife habitat. This biodiversity is critical to the State’s enduring legacy of high quality forests, rivers and prairies. The region is home to 183 species of state-listed rare plants and animals in the region, many of them concentrated in the 749 sites of biodiversity significance mapped in the region by the Minnesota Biological Survey (MBS).

Yet only 3% of the land in Southeastern Minnesota is protected from development.

This is why the work of the Minnesota Land Trust, with its focus on permanent land protection via private landowners, is so important to this landscape.

By focusing efforts on large contiguous forests, significant natural features, such as peregrine falcon aeries, scenic vistas, unique bluff plant and animal communities, and important historical and cultural sites, the Land Trust and its Blufflands Alliance partners have been responsible for the permanent protection of more than 14,000 acres during the past decade.

Although land protection efforts to date have been significant, there is much work to be done. The Mississippi River blufflands area is experiencing significant pressure from an expanding human population and industrial uses such as mining. Limited developable land in the valleys below the bluffs has forced residential and commercial development up onto the bluffs.

The Land Trust and its partners are racing against time to protect additional land that preserves the natural and scenic beauty of the Mississippi River blufflands.This is the same view enjoyed by the peregrine falcons, safe and protected in their bluffside nest overlooking the Mississippi. Their home is protected from development because of a conservation easement held by the Minnesota Land Trust.

Click here to visit the Blufflands Alliance website for more information.