Bringing wild rice back to the Rum River

Cultivating a vital resource

looking at the rum riverThe dense, nutritious stalks of wild rice stabilize water quality and nourish and protect wildlife.

Great River Greening is working in collaboration with Minnesota DNR, Isanti County and private landowners to restore 100 acres of wild rice to the Rum River shoreline, backwaters and oxbows, and water bodies across the watershed.

“Nowhere is wild rice, which is actually a grass, as important a resource for wildlife as in Minnesota. The Rum River watershed was historically at the center of its range.” – Wiley Buck, staff ecologist

Wiley Buck, the staff ecologist reaching out to private landowners to partner in the restoration, said wild rice is under-utilized as a restoration tool. Its dense stalks, sprouting in shallow clear water, stabilize water quality and provide shelter, food and nesting to a diverse array of waterfowl, migratory birds, muskrats, fish and aquatic invertebrates.

Partnering with landowners is critical in this effort.

wild rice cropppedUnlike other wetland plants that propagate through both seed and vegetative dispersal, wild rice relies solely on heavy seeding. It can be out-competed by other emergent and wetland vegetation including water lilies and cattails. Seeding it several years in a row offers a greater chance for success, so Great River Greening is reaching out to landowners who will help with annual successive seedings for a given restoration.

Partnering with landowners is critical in this effort because knowing the history of vegetation in a waterbody is a tremendous guide to restoration.

Major funding for this project comes from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Fund, Minnesota DNR Shorelands Program, and National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, with additional funding from Connexus Energy.