The Lower Minnesota River Valley Important Bird Area (MRVIBA) includes, but is not limited to; Fort Snelling State Park, Minnesota River Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Black Dog Lake and the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area. The IBA incorporates the riparian corridor and adjacent river valley and upland communities along the Minnesota River from the Scott/Le Seuer county line to the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers at the eastern most part of Fort Snelling State Park. MRVIBA has numerous shallow flood plain lakes including Gun Club, Snelling, Long Meadow, Black Dog, Blue, Fisher, and Rice Lakes. There are also a number of streams, including Black Dog, Eagle, and Kennealey and Sand Creeks, Credit River, and numerous small streams.
Native plant communities found in this corridor include Aspen Forest, Oak Forest-mesic subtype, Oak Woodland-Brushland, Maple Basswood Forest, Dry Oak Savanna-sand/gravel subtype,Mesic Oak Savanna, Mesic Prairie, Dry Prairie-barrens subtype, Dry Prairie-sand/gravel subtype, Dry Hill Prairie, Low Land Hardwood Forest, Floodplain Forest-silver maple subtype, Wet Prairie, Wet Meadow, Black Ash Swamp, Emergent Marsh, Calcareous seepage Fen- prairie subtype, and Rock Outcrop.
The site supports an exceptional diversity of birds including over 260 species being documented within Minnesota Valley NWR and the State Park area. Over 100 of the species nest in the area. There are eight species of nesting warblers including species of concern such as the Prothonotary Warbler which is found in the extensive floodplain habitats of the Refuge and State Park. In addition, Cerulean Warblers have been noted in high-quality floodplain forest surrounding Kelly Lake in the Park and Acadian Flycatchers have also been found in widely-scattered locations in the Minnesota River Valley. Nesting Bell?s Vireos and Willow Flycatchers have been observed nesting near Black Dog Lake. Oak savanna habitat in both the Park and Refuge attracts Red-headed Woodpeckers and Lark Sparrows.
Power lines are found throughout the river corridor.
Many woodlands and savannas are being altered and eliminated as land use changes from agricultural to urban land uses such as housing, commercial and industrial development.
Drainage and storm water impacts are significant in the both the developed and rapidly developing parts of this site. Comprehensive storm water management and working with local communities is the most effective tool for addressing this issue.
Sand and gravel mining in common in this site and in adjacent natural areas. Ground water extraction from municipal wells, and on going increases in water usage threaten a wide range of ground water dependant plant and animal communities. Especially sensitive are calcareous fens and associated cold water streams which are important habitats for numerous avian species.
Feral and introduced species animals, as well as free roaming pets, have a major impact on ground nesting birds, small mammals, and larger wildlife including white tailed deer.
Invasive and non native plants are changing the quality and structure in all community types found in the area. The species which are currently having the greatest impact include Phalaris arundinacea (Reed Canary Grass), Pragmites australis (Giant Reed Grass), Potamogeton crispus (Curly Leaved Pondweed), (Eurasian Water Milfoil), Allaria petiolata Garlic Mustard, Rhamnus cathartica and R. frangula (European and Glossy Buckthorn), Ulmus pumila (Siberian Elm), Robinia pseudoacacia (Black Locust), Lonicera sp. (honeysuckle), Centaurea maculosa (Spotted Knappweed), Coornilla varia (Crown Vetch), Euphorbia esula (Leafy Spurge), Lythrum salicaria (Purple Lossestrife). Control of exotic and problematic species is done using prescribed fire, mechanical methods, herbicide applications, and release of biological control agents. West Nile Virus has the potential to impact avian populations, especially corvids.