Important Bird Areas

AHATS-Rice Creek IBA

Minnesota

This IBA is located in north-central Ramsey County. It consists of two parts:
The Ramsey County Open Space known as Rice Creek North, and the Arden Hills Army Training Site (AHATS). Rice Creek comprises 415 acres north of County Road I, east of I-35W, south of County Road J, and west of Lexington Avenue. It includes grassland (mostly non-native, but with good native remnants in several places), shrubland, oak woodlands, aspen stands, and Rice Creek with silver maples, box elders, sand bar willows and black willows.

AHATS This comprises 1,500 acres south of County Road I, east of I-35W and U.S. Highway 10, north of MN Highway 96, and west of Lexington Avenue. AHATS is maintained and used by the Minnesota National Guard. It represents about one-half of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP). The AHATS site lies east of the Army part of TCAAP; the Army section is about 774 acres. Of this, 113 acres has been given to Ramsey County Parks and Trails for recreational and open space use. Another 49 acres is designated the Vento Wildlife Corridor. The City of Arden Hills is considering the remaining 612 acres for development. TCAAP is former farmland purchased by the U.S. Army in 1941 for the production and testing of small arms ammunition and grenades. The southern part of TCAAP contains many buildings, paved roads and parking lots. AHATS contains varied habitats. Much of the northern, central and eastern parts consist of marsh, grassland, and woods that support sizeable populations of birds and other animals. Except for clay in the southeastern part, the soil is sand that was deposited at the retreat of the last glaciers.

Significant natural features:

Grasslands. Extensive grasslands cover much of Rice Creek North and central AHATS.

Wet prairie and prairie potholes exist on the furthest south and north parts of AHATS.

Marsden Lake and Marsh are located on the east side of AHATS.

Sunfish Lake. Located in the southeastern part of AHATS, this lake is mostly open water, with a small cattail marsh at its northeastern end.

Glacial Kames. These hills are located in the center of AHATS, north and south of the gravel pit.

The Gravel Pit. Dug into the northern kame, the pit is surrounded by steep sand walls. The bottom is covered by shallow water that has been pumped from underground and filtered (past practices resulted in contamination of ground water beneath TCAAP). This purified water is being returned through the gravel pit to the underground aquifer.

Woodlands. The most significant woodlands consist primarily of mature pin oak, burr oak, red oak, and white oak, and are located on the kames and on the east side of Marsden Lake. Stands of cottonwood, and box elder are located in various parts of the site. In some places, stands of spruce and pine have been planted.

Ornithological Summary

This site is important because it contains unique bird and other animal habitat in the Twin Cities urban setting. The TCAAP/AHATS is fenced off from the surrounding community. The varied habitat and large size of the site is quite different from the surrounding densely populated urban area. AHATS is maintained by the National Guard, and volunteers from St. Paul Audubon Society help with its maintenance.

This site satisfies Criterion MN-4b. It is a natural area of over 100 acres in an urban landscape supporting an 166 bird species (Appendix 1) and possesses important habitat for waterfowl, raptors, and passerines within an urban area. Situated in the center of a densely populated area, it offers a unique opportunity for many birders in the Twin Cities. Below is the site species list. Various observers cited in the references are responsible for drawing up this list (references 1 through 4). Long-term avian research and monitoring have gone on over the years.

Craig Andresen, the past president of the St. Paul Audubon Society, installed over 350 bluebird and other larger nest boxes on the site in the early 1990s. Since then, he has been monitoring nests for species and number of offspring. In the species list below, species for which breeding has been confirmed are marked with an asterisk.

In addition to species diversity, AHATS hosts species of special concern. Trumpeter Swans with their young have been observed repeatedly, and a small number of Forster?s Terns and Red-shouldered Hawks have been seen.

Ownership

Rice Creek North consists of 415 acres owned and managed at Ramsey County Open Space by Ramsey County Parks and Rec.

The Arden Hills Army Training Site (AHATS) comprises 1,500 acres is maintained and used by the Minnesota National Guard. It represents about one-half of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP). The AHATS site lies east of the Army part of TCAAP; the Army section is about 774 acres. Of this, 113 acres has been given to Ramsey County Parks and Trails for recreational and open space use. Another 49 acres is designated the Vento Wildlife Corridor. The City of Arden Hills is considering the remaining 612 acres for development.

Habitat

Grasslands. Extensive grasslands cover much of Rice Creek North and central AHATS.

Wet prairie and prairie potholes exist on the furthest south and north parts of AHATS.

Marsden Lake and Marsh are located on the east side of AHATS.

Sunfish Lake. Located in the southeastern part of AHATS, this lake is mostly open water, with a small cattail marsh at its northeastern end.

Glacial Kames. These hills are located in the center of AHATS, north and south of the gravel pit.

The Gravel Pit. Dug into the northern kame, the pit is surrounded by steep sand walls. The bottom is covered by shallow water that has been pumped from underground and filtered (past practices resulted in contamination of ground water beneath TCAAP). This purified water is being returned through the gravel pit to the underground aquifer.

Woodlands. The most significant woodlands consist primarily of mature pin oak, burr oak, red oak, and white oak, and are located on the kames and on the east side of Marsden Lake. Stands of cottonwood, and box elder are located in various parts of the site. In some places, stands of spruce and pine have been planted.

Land Use

Land management ? Currently, the 1500-acre AHATS site is maintained by the Minnesota National Guard. The Guard utilizes the site for training on open spaces. Designation of AHATS as an IBA will not affect Guard usage. Prescribed burns are used to enhance degraded prairie remnants and prairie replants. The burns have been conducted over the last 12 years. Some years, the U.S. Army, the Minnesota National Guard, and the DNR have provided funding for the burns. Craig Andresen has acquired some Minnesota DNR grants, and other years the prescribed burning has been done pro bono by Andresen and his firm. The Rice Creek North part of the site is maintained by Ramsey County. Recent maintenance has included burning of the grasslands.