Anoka Sand Plain

Characterized by thousands of shallow wetlands, miles of scenic rivers and streams, and the largest concentration of critically imperiled oak savanna in the Midwest, the Anoka Sand Plain is a unique and valuable ecological treasure located in east-central Minnesota. The sand plain provides:

  • Critical drinking water to the people of the Twin Cities and east-central Minnesota through its underground aquifer. Porous sandy soils make the resource vulnerable to contamination and pollution.
  • Unparalleled recreational opportunities for hunters, birdwatchers, hikers and the general public through a rich array of city and county parks, state wildlife management areas, scientific and natural areas, federal national wildlife refuges, and state-designated wild and scenic rivers.
  • Essential habitat for nearly 100 rare plants and animals – and thousands of common ones – on public and private lands and waters throughout the region.  

Our Program

As with all of our programs, success in achieving our stated conservation goals for the Anoka Sand Plain is contingent upon our ability to forge strong partnerships with local communities, land management agencies, and private individuals – and nowhere has that been more successful than in the sand plain.

In 2008, Great River Greening began the effort of bringing together a group of conservation stakeholders with a goal of elevating natural resource protection and restoration in the sand plain. The resultingAnoka Sand Plain Partnership has harnessed the collective expertise, resources and connections of its 20 members to make major strides advancing terrestrial and freshwater resource conservation in the region.

About the Anoka Sand Plain Partnership


Our three over-arching goals for the Anoka Sand Plain Program are:

  • To support land managers – government agencies, conservation organizations, private individuals – in the restoration and management of the region’s natural resources.
  • To provide the high quality terrestrial and aquatic habitat necessary to fully support the region’s wildlife and meet the recreational needs of those that use the area.
  • To build strong local and regional support for the natural treasures of the Anoka Sand Plain.

Accomplishments to date

  • Restoring over 3,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat on public and private lands.
  • Building and supporting the administration of the Anoka Sand Plain Partnership of over 20 active partner organizations, which has restored >4,000 acres of wildlife habitat across 15 sites since 2009..
  • Spearheading the raising of more than $2.5 million for restoration activities to date.
  • Publications: Protecting and Restoring the Anoka Sandplain Region.
  • Engaging nearly 500 volunteers restoration activities across 4 sites, collectively planting >2,000 oak saplings, collecting prairie seed and acorns, and assisting with invasive species control.

Current Projects 2013-2016

Wildlife Management Areas (WMA)
Anoka and Chisago counties: Carlos Avery WMA
Benton County: Sartell WMA
Morrison County: Ereaux WMA
Sherburne County: Sand Prairie WMA

Scientific and Natural Areas (SNA)
Isanti County: Twin Lakes SNA
Sherburne County: Rice Lake SNA

Morrison County: Belle Prairie County Park
Sherburne County: Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge


Program partners include a broad suite of local, state, and federal units of government and conservation organizations, including: Anoka Conservation District, Benton SWCD, Board of Water and Soil Resources, Isanti County Parks, Minnesota DNR, Minnesota Forest Resources Council, Minnesota Land Trust, Morrison County Parks, Morrison SWCD, National Wild Turkey Federation, Sherburne SWCD, Stearns SWCD, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the University of Minnesota’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve.

Major Funders

Funding to supportAnoka Sand Plain program activities has been provided by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund (as recommended by the Legislative and Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources), Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Fund (as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council), National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Xcel Energy Foundation.