Environmental Trifecta at Carlos Avery WMA

Protecting drinking water, enhancing the outdoor experience, and restoring a native grass

Outdoor enthusiasts know firsthand the value of Minnesota’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), which total 1.3 million acres of publicly-accessible prairies, wetlands, forests, and brush lands. But, all our state residents, aware or not, have a stake in these undeveloped lands. They are ideal freshwater filtering systems.

This is one reason why wild rice flourishing in Little Coon Lake, in Carlos Avery WMA, is such good news.

“Wild rice is an excellent restoration tool,” said Great River Greening ecologist, Wiley Buck, who managed the two-year restoration. “The dense stalks, sprouting in shallow clear water, maintain good water quality.”

Little Coon Lake had been covered in water lilies, outcompeting wild rice. But it was an ideal location to bring back the aquatic grass, said Wiley. “It is especially beneficial for a popular place like Carlos Avery because it also provides shelter, food, and nesting to a diverse array of waterfowl, migratory birds, muskrats, fish and aquatic invertebrates.”

Carlos Avery spans 24,000 acres, from Forest Lake to Stacy, largely made up of wetlands and small lakes. Its close proximity to the metro area ties it to high visitor numbers, and more: The WMA is part of the Anoka Sand Plain, which filters the aquifers that provide drinking water for the Twin Cities and east-central Minnesota.

Keeping the Anoka Sand Plain healthy has been a longtime focus of the Anoka Sand Plain Partnership, a coalition of 25 conservation stakeholders led by Great River Greening. It is a unique and vulnerable ecological region, characterized by thousands of shallow wetlands, two state Wild and Scenic Rivers, and a rich biodiversity. But, like a giant sponge filled with billions of gallons of water, its high water table and porous sandy soils make it vulnerable to contamination and pollution.

Said Wiley, “healthy land provides a host of water quality benefits – erosion control, flood control, ground water recharge and discharge, and water filtering. Great River Greening is leading the effort to improve water quality in our state by restoring the land through which it flows.”

Partners and Funders: MN DNR, Ramsey County Correctional Facility, Outdoor Heritage Fund, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Monarch Conservation Fund