Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA (Scientific and Natural Area) in Fillmore County will receive further protection and the public will have additional land for recreation thanks to the purchase of an 80-acre parcel adjacent to the SNA.
Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA is renowned for its unique cave resources and the groundwater that flows through it. That groundwater stream emerges as Big Springs in nearby Forestville State Park and is the headwaters of Canfield Creek, a popular trout stream.
Gary Nelson, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife manager at Winona, said the parcel, which is currently used as crop land, was initially purchased by the DNR SNA program. It was then donated to the DNR Section of Wildlife to develop into a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) that will be open for public hunting and other recreation uses.
"The problem this acquisition should resolve is to stop the erosion from the crop land and the steep slopes nearby," Nelson explained. "That erosion flows into the SNA cave entrance as well as into three sink holes on the crop land and was impacting the stream."
Converting the new parcel into native grasses will address the erosion problem as well as provide nesting habitat for wildlife, Nelson said. "It's a good deal for both wildlife and trout," Nelson stated.
Bob Djupstrom, SNA Supervisor in St. Paul, said the cooperative arrangement between DNR Wildlife and the SNA program is an example of how the DNR often works internally to protect natural resources.
"In this case, the SNA program, as well as the Section of Wildlife at the local level, were very much interested in purchasing that 80 acres to help protect the cave and trout stream," Djupstrom noted. "However, in a time of limited funding, it was not ranked as a top statewide priority for the Section of Wildlife."
Since the SNA program had funding available through the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) program that it had accrued from private donations, it opted to use some of those credits to purchase the parcel and then donate it to the Section of Wildlife.
"Without the help of the SNA program, we would not have been able to acquire this important piece of land," Nelson said. "But through this arrangement, the SNA cave will be further protected, the trout stream will benefit, there will be more habitat for wildlife, and the public will have a little more land for outdoor recreation. It's a 'win' all the way around."