The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Trust brought together 100 friends and partners on March 7 to help it celebrate and look to the future.
The Minnesota Valley Trust was created in August 2000 to mitigate the impact on the Refuge and its visitors of the new north-south runway at the International Airport. That runway sends hundreds of flights every day over the Bloomington units of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, a reality well-known to birders. Under federal law, the impact had to be mitigated.
Rather than simply transferring funds and calling that “mitigation,” the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Metropolitan Airports Commission and five supporting organizations (including Audubon Minnesota) decided to set up a new, nonprofit corporation to take in the settlement funds and manage the mitigation projects.
The new nonprofit (the Trust) was given $26.09 million and very clear mitigation marching orders, as prescribed by the USFWS, to:
- Acquire, restore and enhance 4,090 acres for the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Wetland Management District
- Construct an education and visitor center on the Rapids Lake Unit
- Construct other visitor access, environmental education and wildlife interpretive facilities
Mission accomplished! To-date, the Minnesota Valley Trust has:
- Acquired, restored and enhanced 4,734 acres and accepted donation of 173 acres, expanding the Refuge by 3,004 acres between Chaska and Henderson and creating 1,903 acres of Waterfowl Production Areas
- Constructed a 12,000 square foot Education and Visitor Center on the Rapids Lake Unit, which won a 2009 Federal Energy Award for its sustainable design
- Constructed trails, parking lots and other visitor facilities on the new lands.
Audubon has been a valued partner to the Minnesota Valley Trust and UFWS. As one of the five supporting organizations, Audubon Minnesota named Lois Norrgard to the Trust’s Board of Directors. Lois has served on the Board since 2000, attending monthly Board meetings and helping ensure the mitigation funds have been well-stewarded and the Trust’s mission achieved.
Many partners have provided financial support, leveraging the initial investment and making it possible for the Minnesota Valley Trust to continue its work to expand and support the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Significant support has come from conservation groups, the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Funds (Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources), Outdoor Heritage Fund (Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council) and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.