The Chippewa Plains Important Bird Area is based upon and includes all of the Chippewa National Forest but also includes Lake Pekegama to the east, as well as portions of Blackduck State Forest to the northwest. Other state owned lands included in the IBA are Scenic and Schoolcraft State Parks; five Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) - Balsam Deer Island, Prairie Lake Deer yard, Bass Brook, Morph Meadow, and Mud Goose; and seven Scientific and Natural Areas (SNA) - Pennington Bog, Hole in the Bog Peatland, Lost 40, Ladies Tresses Swamp, Wabu Woods, Botany Bog and Chisholm Point Island. The Leech Lake Reservation which includes Leech Lake, Cass Lake and Lake Winnibigoshish are also part of the IBA. The western boundary of the IBA is about 12 east of Bemidji, while the eastern boundary is about 10 miles west of Grand Rapids. U.S. Hwy 2 connects those cities and bisects the IBA providing the best point of access.
The Chippewa Plains IBA is a vast area of large lakes (Winnibigoshish, Leech, Cass, and Pokegama), rivers and streams as well as large tracts of upland and lowland forests. The Mississippi River, which flows through the IBA, provides a large river ecosystem which is complemented by the smaller river systems throughout the IBA. This region is located in the eastern portion of the Chippewa Plains, Pine Moraines and Outwash Plains forest subsections. Topography does not vary much within the IBA, with approximately 150 ? 200 feet of variation throughout the region.
Upland forests include tree species such as red and white pine, aspen, oak, several maple types, birch, balsam fir and white spruce. Lowland forest areas include ash, black spruce, tamarack, white cedar, and willow. The lakes and rivers provide a wide variety of natural habitats including large wild rice beds important for many waterfowl species. Shallow wetlands and bogs also provide unique habitats for a variety of uncommon bird and plant species. There are extensive sedge meadow wetlands bordering both river segments and lakes within the IBA.
Lands within the IBA are an important economic resource through timber, fishing, hunting and wildlife watching. The region is rich in cultural history with the forest system also providing many types of recreation and tourism.
The Chippewa Plains IBA is a biologically diverse area due to the number and variety of lakes and wetlands, the presence of several important river systems, and the diversity of forest communities which vary in stand size and age. This area is rich with bird diversity as well, including species and habitats unique to only a few areas of Minnesota due in part to the large tracts of forest, large lakes and river corridors included in the IBA. This IBA is important for migrating waterfowl, with 160,000 Ring-necked Ducks and 30,000 Lesser Scaup recorded in 2011. Nesting waterbirds include Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, American White Pelicans, Common Terns and Minnesota?s only site for Caspian Terns.
MN-1a) Waterfowl The Chippewa Plains IBA is a very important and traditional waterfowl breeding and migration corridor. In October of 2011 Minnesota waterfowl biologists surveyed 160,000 Ring-necked Ducks on Drumbeater Lake alone1. Bowstring Lake also was surveyed in 2011 and held up to 30,000 Lesser Scaup1. Several refuge areas and waterfowl resting areas provide a place for waterfowl to rest and fuel up during migration. Leech Lake and Lake Winnibigoshish continue to be major stopovers for migrating waterfowl. Documented Trumpeter Swan nesting has occurred near the West Winnie Campground area near Lake Winnibigoshish as well as many other locations within the IBA3.
MN-1c) Waterbirds During a 1998 Common Loon migration study 1,599 loons were surveyed on October 21 at Lake Winnibigoshish. Large numbers of Common Loons were also seen on Leech Lake during October of that year but not surveyed1. Other waterbirds nesting within the boundaries of the Chippewa IBA include Ring-billed Gull (316 nests), Herring Gull (13 nests), Double-crested Cormorant (500 nests), American White Pelican (239 nests), Common Tern (149 nests), and Caspian Tern (37 nests). Leech Lake is the only known nesting location of Caspian Terns in Minnesota. The first documented account was in 2007 when 11 young were fledged2.
MN-1e) Bird Diversity This site has high species diversity due to habitat availability and large geographic size. There have been 244 bird species (Appendix 1) documented on the Chippewa Plains IBA, including 22 breeding warblers. Seventy nine species have been documented on the Bassbrook Wildlife Management Area near Grand Rapids. The area is important especially to forest interior species and also as a migratory location for many species. In addition the large percentage of lands in public ownership and the largely forested make it important to a suite of Minnesota species associated with Laurentian mixed forest. Sandhill Cranes have been documented as nesting in the IBA in small numbers.
MN-2a) Species of conservation concern (State listed species):
Threatened: Common Tern, Wilson?s Phalarope, Trumpeter Swan, Peregrine Falcon
Special Concern: Red- shouldered Hawk, Nelson?s Sparrow, Yellow Rail, American White Pelican
MN-2b) Species of conservation concern (non-listed species):
The Chippewa National Forest has habitats suitable for nesting Northern Goshawks. In 2011, 31 Northern Goshawk territories were surveyed, 15 of which were not occupied. Of the 16 territories that were occupied, 11 nests were successful, resulting in a 73% success rate for occupied nests4. Chippewa National Forest has one of the highest known Northern Goshawk breeding concentrations in Minnesota.
The Chippewa Plains IBA is a core breeding area for the once Threatened Bald Eagle. This region was instrumental in the recovery of this species in Minnesota. In the 1960?s the Chippewa National Forest had only 12 nesting pairs. The number of nesting pairs in the forest has since reached approximately 150 nesting pairs.
This site supports significant breeding or non-breeding densities of the following species that are recognized as being of conservation concern in Minnesota:American Bittern, American Woodcock, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Golden-winged Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Canada Warbler, Le Conte?s Sparrow
MN-3) Species assemblages of rare, threatened, or unique habitats:
Upland Deciduous Forest:
Invasive and non-native species are the ?new? threat to the area. Leech Lake and Lake Winnibigoshish are both considered infested waters, Leech Lake is infested with Eurasian watermilfoil, rusty crayfish, and curly leaf pondweed and Lake Winnibigoshish is infested with faucet snails. Other documented aquatic invasives within the Chippewa IBA include purple loosestrife and reed canary grass. Terrestrial invasives are also spreading rapidly along highways, forest roads as well as woods roads throughout the IBA and Chippewa National Forest. These species include garlic mustard, leafy spurge, spotted knapweed, common tansy, wild parsnip, Siberian Pea Shrub, white sweetclover, birdsfoot trefoil and oxeye daisy.
This IBA includes an entire National Forest as well as State Forest lands which include logging as a management practice. Though logging has the potential to negatively impact birds if done without proper planning and consideration, current management plans (USFS) that the effects on logging on birds into account to insure the threat to these populations remains low.