Important Bird Areas

Camp Ripley-Pillsbury-Lake Alexander IBA

Minnesota

The Camp Ripley-Pillsbury-Lake Alexander IBA is located in central Minnesota approximately 100 miles northwest of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area and within Morrison, Cass and Crow Wing counties. The Mississippi, Crow Wing and Gull rivers are significant water features within the landscape. This IBA encompasses an area of 155,432 acres. Public land areas within this IBA include Camp Ripley Military Reservation, Crow Wing County lands (1,693 acres), Cass County lands (7,465 acres), Pillsbury State Forest, Crow Wing State Park, the eastern portion of Meadowbrook Wildlife Management Area, the Little Nokasippi River State Wildlife Management Area and Lake Alexander Woods Scientific & Natural Area. The Nature Conservancy and Minnesota Power & Light also own land within the boundaries of this IBA (Figure 1).

Camp Ripley Military Reservation:
The Camp Ripley portion of this IBA comprises 50,157 acres. The land ownership within Camp Ripley is state land under the administration of the Department of Military Affairs. Camp Ripley?s primary mission is troop training, but it has an award-winning Environmental Office. Upland deciduous forest, primarily oak and mature aspen with some planted pine, dominates the landscape covering 27,885 acres or 55 percent of the installation. The remainder of the area is divided between wetlands (8,223 acres or 16 percent) and dry open grass and brushlands (7,753 acres or 15 percent).

A program entitled ?Land Condition Trend Analysis? was implemented at Camp Ripley in 1990. This program is a natural resource data collection, analysis and reporting program used to monitor and evaluate changes in vegetation, wildlife and soil resources. Under this program, permanent study plots have been established throughout the various habitats of Camp Ripley. Songbird surveys have been conducted annually since 1991 (1). In 2004 Camp Ripley initiated an Army Compatible Use Buffer Zone Program to acquire conservation easements and some fee title lands from private landowners within a 3 mile corridor surrounding Camp Ripley. This project has conservation benefits and will attempt to limit intensive land development around the perimeter of Camp Ripley.

Pillsbury State Forest:
The Pillsbury State Forest portion of this IBA comprises 8,183 acres and is managed by the DNR Division of Forestry. The Pillsbury State Forest was the first state forest in Minnesota. Created initially with 990 acres of land donated by John Pillsbury, the forest has grown through purchase and donation to approximately 8,700 acres. The forest, in addition to providing wood products, also provides a wide variety of recreational opportunities such as biking, camping, hiking and horseback riding in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter. The diversity of forests and hilly terrain, dotted with small lakes and marshes, provides excellent habitat for a wide variety of bird species including the Red-shouldered Hawk.

Crow Wing State Park:
The Crow Wing State Park portion of this IBA currently is comprised of 2,268 acres (park ownership), but additions to the park along both the Mississippi and Crow Wing rivers are likely. The park is managed by the DNR Division of Parks primarily for recreation, with emphasis on cultural and resource protection. The park contains significant natural resources, including old growth red pine and floodplain forest stands, mixed hardwood forests and native prairies. The park also offers hiking trails, canoeing, fishing, camping and winter recreation. Crow Wing State Park is rich in cultural history and has many seasonal interpretive programs.

Meadowbrook Wildlife Management Area (WMA):
The Meadowbrook WMA portion of this IBA comprises 2,940 acres and is managed by the DNR Section of Wildlife. Meadowbrook WMA was created in 1979 for the purposes of forest wildlife management. The unit is primarily forested with aspen, oak, and northern hardwoods with scattered forested wetlands. The area is actively managed through timber sales. It is a large non-motorized WMA that features 12 miles of hunter walking trails providing excellent access for hunting of ruffed grouse, woodcock and deer.

Little Nokasippi River State Wildlife Management Area (WMA):
The Little Nokasippi River State WMA portion of this IBA comprises 145 acres and is managed by the DNR Section of Wildlife. This site includes a mixture of oak, aspen and jack pine along with areas of upland grass. The Little Nokasippi River runs through the southeast corner and provides important riparian habitat for a variety of birds.

Lake Alexander Scientific and Natural Area (SNA):
The Lake Alexander SNA portion of this IBA comprises 1,971 acres and is managed by the DNR Division of Ecological Services. The SNA contains mature unfragmented forest that provides important habitat for forest songbirds and Red-shouldered Hawks. Bog bluegrass (Poa paludigena), a threatened Minnesota native species, is also found within the SNA.

Lake Alexander Preserve:
The Lake Alexander Preserve portion of this IBA comprises 1,674 acres and is managed by The Nature Conservancy. It is centered in an 180,000-acre mosaic of mixed oak forest, wetlands, ponds and stands of red and white pines. The unfragmented nature of this preserve provides important habitat to songbirds dependent on the forests interior and undisturbed nesting sites for the Red-shouldered Hawk. The Nature Conservancy?s central Minnesota field office is located on this parcel.

Minnesota Power & Light (MPL):
MPL is a public utility company that owns land along the Crow Wing and Gull rivers. These lands are associated with two hydroelectric dams, Pillager Dam and Sylvan Dam, operated under Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licenses. Some MPL lands are leased lots, but many large undeveloped tracts are open to public recreation, and some are being considered for incorporation into state public land units and WMAs.

Ornithological Summary

The Camp Ripley-Pillsbury-Lake Alexander IBA supports the greatest known concentration of nesting Red-shouldered Hawks (a state listed Special Concern Species) in the state. Habitat consists of relatively large blocks of upland deciduous and riparian forests. In addition, 228 species of birds have been documented at Camp Ripley (Appendix A) since monitoring started in 1991. This includes 28 documented species of warblers, including 12 known breeding season species, including one of the most northerly reports of the Hooded Warbler.

Other listed species found within this IBA include the Bald Eagle, Trumpeter Swan, Yellow Rail, and Louisiana Waterthrush.

Another important feature within this IBA is the 21 miles of the Mississippi River and 27 miles of major tributaries (Crow Wing and Gull Rivers), which provide important riparian corridors and migration pathways.

Conservation Issues

Agricultural intensification/expansion
The surrounding area continues to be cleared for agriculture, road and trail construction and the building of houses and cabins.

Cellular/wind towers/power lines
Cellular towers continue to be erected in this area and can be a hazard for migrating birds, along with numerous powerlines. DNR is working to keep new towers out of migratory corridors, and to keep tower heights low to avoid need for lighting and guy wires.

Construction/ impact of dike/ dam
Two hydropower dams occur along the Crow Wing River. They may require future repairs, and reservoir operation plans could change in the future.

Deforestation
Private lands continue to be cleared for agriculture, roads and residential development, which may result in the displacement of Red-shouldered Hawks and other forest species.

Disturbance to birds
Increasing development within this area contributes to the loss of critical habitat for birds by fragmentation and displacement of species. The military training within Camp Ripley may cause disturbance to birds, however, during the Bald Eagle?s nesting season buffer zones of 400 meters from the nests are enforced both on land and in the air. During the remainder of the year, there is a 200 meter buffer zone around the nests, offering protection during the critical nesting period.
Extraction industry
There is a significant sand and gravel mining industry along Highway 210 that bifurcates the Camp Ripley portion from the Pillsbury State Forest portion of the IBA. Strong economic growth in the area continues to fuel demand for sand and gravel. New pits are opened as old ones close, or are required closer to areas of demand.

Industrialization/urbanization
The private lands surrounding this IBA are sprawling with development due to tourism and the continued popularity of the Brainerd lakes area. The public land areas are relatively safe from development.

Ownership

The Camp Ripley-Pillsbury-Lake Alexander IBA is located in central Minnesota approximately 100 miles northwest of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area and within Morrison, Cass and Crow Wing counties. The Mississippi, Crow Wing and Gull rivers are significant water features within the landscape. This IBA encompasses an area of 155,432 acres. Public land areas within this IBA include Camp Ripley Military Reservation, Crow Wing County lands (1,693 acres), Cass County lands (7,465 acres), Pillsbury State Forest, Crow Wing State Park, the eastern portion of Meadowbrook Wildlife Management Area, the Little Nokasippi River State Wildlife Management Area and Lake Alexander Woods Scientific & Natural Area. The Nature Conservancy and Minnesota Power & Light also own land within the boundaries of this IBA