Clean Water Critical Habitat

Protecting High Priority Critical Fish Habitat in North Central MN

The Clean Water and Critical Habitat Protection Program is focused on protecting high priority critical fish habitat and the surrounding watersheds in Minnesota’s North Central Lakes region by securing permanent conservation easements.  We are working with landowners to permanently protect approximately 400 acres through a ranking system that guides our selection process for purchasing conservation easements. Partial funding for this program is provided by a grant from the Outdoor Heritage Fund.

Fisheries research has shown that healthy watersheds with intact forests are fundamental to good fish habitat. If a lake’s watershed has less than 25% land disturbance and 75% or more of its landscape remains forested and permanently protected, the lake has a high probability of sustaining clean water and healthy lake ecosystem to support fish. 

 We are focusing our protection strategy on 38 Tullibee Refuge Lake and their watersheds.  Tullibee are the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” fish species due to their sensitivity to even slight changes in water temperature and oxygen levels.  A decrease in tullibee population can signal deterioration of the lake’s water quality.  Protecting lakes from excess nutrients such as phosphorus is critical to maintaining sufficient oxygen levels.  Forestland plays a key role in ensuring quality habitat, acting like a sponge to absorb and hold rainfall and reduce runoff to the surface waters of lakes and streams.  Tullibee is an important food source for lake trout, northern pike, muskie and walleye.  This program will also benefit habitat for many wildlife and water fowl species. 


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